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What language to start out with?

 
Greenhorn
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My kid is in high school and has expressed some interest in programming. It has fallen to me to find out what language for him to learn first.

Umm... What the kid wants to do... Maybe web design, coding. Making two-dimensional games. Hobby stuff. What The Dad wants him to do... Have a basic language to start with if he ends up going in this direction for a career.

He has done some coding stuff at Khan Academy's programming courses. If I understand correctly, what he has done is programming within a program. He has not completed everything available on Khan. Webucator has self-paced courses. Are these quality places?

Again, what language is a good one to start out with? Where else can languages be learned?
 
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Welcome to the Ranch!

The ideal "first" programming language depends on the times. Mine was Fortran, which isn't seen much anymore. Many grew up on Turbo Pascal. Then Microsoft came out with Visual Basic. These days it's probably Python.

I'm discounting the "toy" languages like Logo, the various drag-and-drop GUI "languages" and even Smalltalk (which is a good learning language, but never became one of the top-tier players). Just looking at the stuff that has show mass appeal.

They're not necessarily the most popular languages in use, but they have a fairly simple syntax which makes them easier for those who don't think in mathematical notation to read. Java's not that complex a language, but Python doesn't need all those semicolons and funny curly brackets and parentheses. Although Ganesha help you if you indent things improperly!

One thing that has become much more complex since the last millenium, however, is that it's rarely sufficient simply to learn the grammar and syntax of a programming language any more. Object-Oriented programming platforms typically come with an immense set of support classes, some vendor-supplied, some from third parties. Learning them isn't something you do so much as you start doing and keep doing. There's always something new or something to do a task you've never tried before.

As far as learning resources go, most popular languages have more options than I can count. Free online training, Commercial courseware, Books in both "dead tree" and ebook formats. Online interactive tutorials.

Typically, the official site for a programming language will offer suggestions. For example, go to http://python.org and click on "Get Started - Start with uur Beginners Guide".
 
Marshal
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Welcome to the Ranch

I shall move you to a different forum, since there is nothing “meaningless” about your question. This forum is for frivolity. I would suggest you look around forr somebody nearby who is willing to teach your son, and ask them for suggestions. One of the most popular beginning languages is Python; it is quicker to write than Java┬« or the languages with names beginning C, even though it ihasn't got somee of the safety features of Java┬«/C#. What's more, there are lots of resources available free of charge.
But finding somebody who knows how to program is probably the most useful thing.
 
J Hardesty
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Thanks, guys. I'll be checking back for any additional answers.
 
J Hardesty
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Anyone care to take a peek at the Webucator syllabus for Intro to Python 3? I came across them from a homeschooling angle though they seem to market to businesses, so the "4-day course" is probably 4 full workdays. This clearly would not teach the full language. But this with the other 2 classes and a book. Hmmm.

I wandered over here from Permies where somebody suggested O'Riely's books for languages. Maybe this one?  Learning Python, 5th Edition Fifth Edition by Mark Lutz. This student is reading well into college-level in the comprehension of prose. He is still a kid though.
 
J Hardesty
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And I stumbled on w3schools.com. A free language learning site? What do ya'll think of them?

I fully understand that free will not get him certified. This is just a potential beginning place for him.
 
Campbell Ritchie
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Don't try running before you can walk. It is much more useful to learn programming and do it well than to get a cert. Once somebody is competent, only then should they think about learning for a cert.
 
J Hardesty
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Is there something that needs to be downloaded to his computer in which to play with code? He has windows 10. We're wondering if coding needs to not be in an operating system? I am far from computer literate, so I hope my use of language is making my query clear.
 
J Hardesty
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Campbell Ritchie wrote:Don't try running before you can walk. It is much more useful to learn programming and do it well than to get a cert. Once somebody is competent, only then should they think about learning for a cert.



I was trying to affirm that much more learning would be needed.

Google is my friend. This may be the official site for Python. If ya'll approve, I'll send him there for the Uhhh, beginner's guide, program?
 
J Hardesty
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Tim Holloway wrote:Welcome to the Ranch!
Typically, the official site for a programming language will offer suggestions. For example, go to http://python.org and click on "Get Started - Start with uur Beginners Guide".



Ahem. Well, I just skimmed right over that. Thank you!
 
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Java is awesome if you have a good tutor. The downside is that it will take a while before one can make something nice with a good interface and working buttons that do something.

Just suggesting something out of the box. For gaming, although not too popular, Godot is a very nice and simple game engine with a code language similar to python. It has its own language called GD script.
you can have a very basic game with just 20 to 30 lines of code.

Hope that helps
 
Tim Holloway
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O'Reilly is an ancient and honorable name in tech publishing, buying a "dead tree" copy of their book entitles you to the ebook version (last I knew) and they don't have copy protection on their ebooks so you can freely install them on whatever reader you own, sleep sound in the assurance that if O'Reilly should ever go the way of Books-a-Million (or Barnes & Noble perhaps someday) that your library won't evaporate overnight (ask the people who bought ebooks from Microsoft). I don't know if these days they have the best intro books, but then I haven't looked lately either.

Manning Publications I think has some good offerings in the getting started category and tend to be easy reading. There are other fine tech publishers like Apress as well, but I'm not up to date on their offerings.

I use w3schools a lot myself since it's also a good quick reference guide to things like HTML and CSS.

On the whole, stay away from languages with "Microsoft" and/or ".Net" in their names. Windows appears to be in a decline (definitely is, if recent OS updates are an indication). These languages are not always available on non-Windows OS's, and when they are, the implementation on other things than Windows (such as Mono for Linux) are not well-supported and probably won't have all the features that the actual Windows versions do.

I do recommend Python because it's available for almost all OS's, comes pre-installed with Linux (parts of the OS boot manager are in Python) and it's professionally used by many while still having a simple syntax. I use it for stuff that doesn't need Java.

Years of poverty and the current mindset of people in general about paying money for stuff make me reluctant to say much about commercial products, especially since there is so much stuff for free, but The Learning Company (The Great Courses) has a video course on Python and I've found it to be generally approvable by my nitpicky standards. They tend to offer courses with list prices of $450 on sale for $55, with options to go even lower if you get just the audio, download versus physical media and stuff like that. Courses also come with a guide book, as a physical document when you buy media and as a downloadable PDF.  And if you don't want to learn Python from them, they have a course on ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics that actually teaches ancient Egyptian vocabulary and grammar to the point where you can pretty well walk up to any tomb or monument and read it off. Bob Bryer, the instructor, in addition to being a fun guy holds the distinction of recovering the lost art of mummy making 1700 years (more or less) after the Egyptians gave it up. The one topic no one's every found any ancient writing on.
 
Marshal
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I'd suggest your kid registers here and asks a lot of questions along the way. I got a lot of knowledge from here simply by seeing things floating around and using them as an indication what I need to study/research/learn.

When starting out, you normally don't know where to start and what you need to learn, so forums (like coderanch) do help, in addition to that moderators watch the content, so one can get a better sense which posts along with content are of a better quality. Books are great, but not always can draw you a clear picture, a lot books what I came across at the beginning gave an understanding about individual pieces of a puzzle (which is also very important), but forums like this (and especially this), helped to get a practical understanding of how to paint canvas, think of this learning as "how to use skyscraper tools applied to a kennel size problems".

Another important aspect might be, that forums like this have a mixture of academia strength as well as industry - so really students can get a better grasp what's expected on both sides and how to enable both parts of the knowledge to work together.
 
J Hardesty
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Yes, registration here is part of the plan. Thanks
 
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