What is the purpose of programming?

What is the purpose of programming? Chapter 1

Welcome to our first lecture! Today, we are going to understand why we use computers, and what exactly is the purpose of programming.

The very essence of computers and programming is data. We do three things with it:

  1. Storing
  2. Moving
  3. Processing

That’s it. Everything that happens in a software program boils down to these three things.

A computer performs computations much faster than a human does. When I say faster, I mean it. The device you’re reading this on can perform over a billion computations, per second. Imagine how our brain would perform if it could process at that speed.

How is everything about data?

It might not be clear yet how everything is about data, so let’s take a look at your screen, for example. It makes sense that the content you’re reading is data, sure. But what about everything else on the screen?

If you look closely enough on your screen, you see pixels. There are millions of these tiny pixels on your screen alone. Each pixel lights up with a certain color value (yep, that’s data). That color value is set by the program you are currently on. In this case, it’s probably your browser.

As you learn more, you will be able to translate almost anything that is happening to data being stored, moved, and processed.

Now, what about programming?

A computer without programs is just a box of electronics. It doesn’t do anything else than power on and off. To be able to run or display anything, you need a program that is understood by the electronics inside your computer. That program is the operating system (OS).

The OS is a massive piece of software that does more things than you can possibly imagine, but it’s still a program. So this means that it’s a big chunk of code. We will dive deeper into operating systems in another chapter.

Now that we’ve established that you need programming to create the OS, which allows your computer to run or display anything, the same applies to any software you want to run. Whether it’s a browser, a document viewer, a video game, a video player, or anything else, it’s all the same.

The purpose of programming then boils down to building anything on a computer. Thus, your job as a software engineer is to create such programs, edit them, make them work together, and much more.

Next: Chapter 2 – What’s inside of my computer?

If you want to start from the beginning of the series, go to chapter 0.

By Radu

Software Engineer and Computational Scientist graduated from the Technical University of Munich. Worked at Shopify, DRW and Ubisoft.

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