Steve Jobs once stated that “Everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer… because it teaches you how to think.” While he may have been talking about America, the concept is still valid. If you want to improve your logic and problem solving then learning to program is a fantastic idea.
The need for well-rounded and capable employees is growing, so while you don’t necessarily need to become an expert, understanding the basics of computer coding will take you much further than you think – you’ll be amazed by how practical and straight-forward this foreign language actually is.

What is computer code?

In short, ‘code’ is a set of rules that tell a computer how to behave – but it is not quite as simple as that. The longer answer helps us understand the reason behind the code.

A computer can only understand two types of data (on and off) and as such, is made up of a series of on-and-off switches known as transistors. These establish a unique series of combinations for each command.

Binary code uses 1s and 0s to establish these on’s and off’s, grouping them into sets of eight digits for eight transistors (eg. 01001101). Modern computers, however, have millions and billions of transistors, which means for an incredibly large volume of potential combinations; too many for us to possibly comprehend or write down. This is where code comes in to make things much, much easier.

In essence, we type our (relatively) easy to write commands (code) into a program, which is then translated into binary code for the computer to understand. It goes a bit deeper than that and if you’d like to know more, a good place to start is reading this step-by-step process.

Top reasons to learn to code

Technology is becoming part of every role

No matter the industry, technology is rapidly becoming part of daily life in Australian workplaces. The ability to understand the processes that are supporting these business operations can be a great boost to your career.

Show your ability to learn

Much like learning a foreign language, employers look favourably upon those with programming skills as they show an ability to learn. Even if directly unrelated to the role the skills show your mental capacity and flexibility.

Improve your logic and reasoning

The ability to problem solve and provide rational solutions to issues can be of immense benefit to your daily life. Programming can enhance these skills as computers are logical and require you to think accordingly.

Increase your income stream

Even if you don’t take on a full-time position as a programmer you can pick up additional work on the side. There are plenty of freelance opportunities available and the flexibility allows you to work around study or other work.

Programming Code

The languages you need to be aware of

There are three basic languages used in everyday computer coding; HTML, CSS and Javascript. Each serves a different purpose and we think an easy way to understand this is to think of their functions in relations to a human being.

HTML: the ‘bones and organs’

HTML sets the general structure and is at the core of every web page. This is the starting point for any coder and thankfully, quite easy to learn. Standing for HyperText Markup Language, you’ll notice that this language ‘tags’ and differentiates sections of a web page. Just as you see on this one, there is a header, sub-headers, text, images etc. HTML tags these different elements, which you then can use other languages to format to your liking.

CSS: the ‘physical appearance, clothes and jewellery’

This is the styling you see on any web page; the colour of the text, the font, size and any other design elements. Standing for Cascading Style Sheets, these rules are written on a separate ‘style sheet’ with reference to the various HTML tags. In some instances, you may see the CSS rules written in the same sheet of HTML.

Javascript: the ‘personality, character and movement’

This is definitely the most complicated of the three, but you still need to be aware of its power. Rotating images, pop-up boxes, glowing products when your mouse hovers over the top; please thank Javascript. Basically, anything that moves or is the result of potential command – “if this happens, do this”.

Tutorials and best places to start learning

A great free resource to begin your understanding is the Code Academy.
For tutorials on HTML and CSS click here.
For tutorials on Javascript click here.

While these three languages are the most appropriate to begin your coding journey, there are other languages which you may come across. PHP, Perl, Ruby and Python are some examples.

Thankfully, it is not necessary to be an expert across all of these languages, unless you choose this as a profession. It is, however, extremely beneficial to understand the concept and basic elements; code has become a part of many jobs in sales and marketing and this will only continue to grow.

Understanding these languages will not only increase your own capabilities, but it will also ease any feelings of anxiety. Sheets that used to look like hieroglyphics, will suddenly appear as easily interpreted rules and structures.