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11/8/2015
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10 Top Programming Languages For Learning To Code

Everyone wants to learn how to code, but what is the best entry point? Here are 10 top ways to check "programming" off your skills life-list.
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(Image: OpenClipartVectors via Pixabay)

(Image: OpenClipartVectors via Pixabay)

It seems that everyone wants to learn how to write computer code these days. No matter what field or profession a person works in, the ability to make a computer (or mobile device) dance to your tune seems part of the basic skill set. The question is, how does a person take the first step toward gaining those skills?

Once upon a time the path was simple: BASIC was where most people started before moving into Fortran or COBOL (depending on whether they were heading toward scientific or business programming). Now, though, there are far more options and rather less clarity.

If you want to know how to get started (or give advice to others), then you have a number of options. Choosing the best means looking at what you ultimately want to do, what you like to do now, and how you best learn new skills.

[See 10 Fascinating Facts About Apple's Swift Programming Language.]

Do you like to see things move at your command? Do you want to handle physical-world input and output? Is there a database at the center of your application dreams? Do you live your life on the Web? Depending on how you answer each of these, there could be a different "best" language for your foray into application development. The nice thing is that, once you've taken the first step, the second step is much easier regardless of the direction it takes you.

Did you use one of these languages to learn programming? Would you recommend one of these to someone who came to you for advice? I'd love to know the answer -- and to know about any good options I might have missed. I'll look forward to seeing you in the comments -- no advanced programming necessary!

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and ... View Full Bio

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pdembry950
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pdembry950,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/9/2015 | 2:16:44 PM
Re: Top 10 Programming Languages
I did my time with IBM assembler and I still have my yellow card. But did you use punch cards? I still recall the smell of the warm oil of the punch card machines. I had a trick to minimize punch card typing, especially for PL/1. I created a shorthand of common keywords, submitted my deck to file, then wrote a short program to do find/replace of my keywords, submitted that deck and the file was updated. Saved hours and many wasted cards. So did drawing a diagonal line across the top of my deck with a thick black marker so that if/when I dropped it, I could quickly get it back in order.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
11/9/2015 | 2:02:13 PM
Re: Top 10 Programming Languages
@pdembry950, as someone old enough who actually wrote Assembler for an IBM mainframe in college, I'm not sure I'd visit that on my worst enemy. How much hardware stuff you need to know certainly varies with what application you are writing, but for most part hardware has been abstracted from the o/s itself. And unless you are writing some embedded system, like a weapons system for B2 bomber, the characteristics of CPUs, disk drives, screen I/O, etc are really irrelevant in learning to program.

The only exception to this is when trying to optimize performance and those systems (like Windows) where o/s does a horrible job of managing memory. If you don't understand memory leaks on Win, you are in big trouble as developer. Thankfully I've always developed on IBM mainframes and midranges where o/s manages that stuff well.

As developer. you do need to understand certain characteristics of hardware. Like disk I/O being slow compared to memory. The latency of networks. How cache is used by o/s. But to actually write code which moves data between registers in a CPU adds very little insight to an ordinary business programmer.

I will admit these new multi threaded cores are changing the game. To write thread safe code, you do need to at least understand what you are dealing with, how that works. But even that has a layer of abstraction, you don't actually code the use of the CPU core unless you are writing the compiler/interpreter for the programming language the end developer is using.
BertrandW414
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BertrandW414,
User Rank: Strategist
11/9/2015 | 1:57:47 PM
MATLAB but not R
If MATLAB made the list then I would have expected R to have, too, or at least earned an "honorable mention" by being commneted on in the MATLAB mini-write-up. Hey, R is free, too!
pdembry950
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pdembry950,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/9/2015 | 12:07:54 PM
Re: Top 10 Programming Languages
Shell or C++ will not lead to an in depth knowledge of hardware. Assembler is the way to truly understand what you are telling the hw to do (you could also dig deeper and write firmware). IMO the lack of h/w-s/w interaction understanding is a big reason why so many products are less efficient than they could be. When CPUs were ever-faster (and power hungrier), you could simply pour more hw into the system to make it faster. Now that power consumption is important, understanding the most efficient way to write s/w is vital. "Make it work" vs "Make it work efficiently" are two different paths. The second requires more thought.

Granted it is not easy or time-effcient to write large sytems completely in assembler but knowing what your C++ code is doing to the hw is important.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
11/9/2015 | 11:32:14 AM
Re: Top 10 Programming Languages
A business cannot operate without IT at an efficient level. MIS, ERP and CRM, etc., are the systems that enable business efficiency. I wonder if basic programming skills are important for a professional to transfer for instance, from a CFO to a CEO role.
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
11/9/2015 | 9:45:30 AM
Quite Different From the Old Days
First language I learned, BASIC followed by COBOL, Pascal, Fortran, APL,  RPG and lastly PowerBuilder.  I wonder if these 10 posted here will still be around in another 20 or 30 years. 
biggsy
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biggsy,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/9/2015 | 6:52:31 AM
Top 10 Programming Languages
All the suggestions make perfect sense.  My only caveat has to do with your description of C++ leading to an in depth knowledge of the OS and the hardware......and there's the rub.  I'd suggest that learning about the OS and the hardware probably needs parallel learning of something like the UNIX command line and shell scripting (or the equivalent in your OS of choice).  Perhaps shell scripting would be "language eleven".
Somedude8
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Somedude8,
User Rank: Ninja
11/8/2015 | 5:40:20 PM
And JavaScript
Though it might be an odd choice to start programming with, JavaScript just won't go away. Trust me, I have been praying for that since the 90s. It seems like more and more of our world runs on JavaScript, a startling amount by passing around JSON to and fro.

And it has the true hallmark of a mature language. No, not clear syntax and such. Its that sensation that you really can't *do* anything without calling 17 frameworks first.
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