I love Windows 95. Do you?

Learning to Code: My Story

In the early days of personal computing, almost everybody with a home computer knew how to program. As time passed, computers were released which did not require any sort of programming to use, such as the Apple Macintosh. My story begins later, around 2005. I was using my father’s PC from 1997, running Windows 95. While the system had been on the Internet in the past, it had not been since 2003, and I had no Web experience. Instead, I explored what was already on the hard drive.

Chapter I: HTML

One program on the computer was Sonique, an ancient MP3 player. It’s README was a webpage, which I loaded in Internet Explorer (version 5.5).

The HTML readme in Internet Explorer
The HTML readme in Internet Explorer

Featured prominently on the toolbar in this version of IE is an Edit button. Clicking it revealed the source for the page in Notepad.

The source HTML
The source HTML

I saved my own copy of the page, and I was started. I changed words in between the markup, and observed the changes. I copy and pasted the different tags, and even changed the fonts and colors. Later on, I created my own reference of the different tags, but I eventually learned them by heart.

Chapter II: C

A few years later, April 26, 2008, I found an old copy of Borland C++ 4.51, a C Compiler and IDE from 1994 (it’s so old, the save icon isn’t a floppy disk). Like HTML, it wasn’t too hard for me to learn the basics of C, but I had one advantedge here: documentation. I had an entire reference full of the details of each function I could use, as well as an example for most of the functions. The documentation had many “See Also” links to bring me to related functions, which became very helpful. I ended up writing more and more advanced programs over time.

An early example of my code
An early example of my code
The example I used to write the above code
The example I used to write the above code

Conclusion

Learning to code can be a daunting task. My advice is to start with different code examples and make minor changes, acquainting yourself with how the language works. Errors are normal; mistakes help you learn. You should continue with small examples until (ideally) you know what each line of code does. Eventually, you should be able to combine different code examples into one piece, writing the glue code yourself. Never use other people’s code without understanding it, as this will likely lead to bugs over time. As you practice coding, your confidence should improve. Just remember, anybody can learn to code. You just need to put in a bit of effort.

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