Welcome to Edlitera's Introduction to Programming with Python. My name is Ciprian and I'll be your guide on your journey to learn programming.
Before we get started, I want to talk a bit about the goals for this article series. First of all, no prior knowledge of programming or any sort of math is required to understand these articles. I will introduce you to fundamental programming concepts, such as variables, data types, functions, loops, conditionals, etc. You can think of these as the basic building blocks that you'll use in any program you'll ever write. These are also present in all other programming languages out there, so learning Python will make it a lot easier to pick up any other programming language you might be interested in.
Secondly, we will build a foundational understanding of the programming itself. This means that not only will you learn good theoretical concepts, applicable to most other programming languages out there, but you will also get real-life skills that you can put to use immediately.
And thirdly, I will prepare you to explore more advanced topics that require programming, such as data science, web development etc.
To get the most out of this article series, my first recommendation is that you read the articles slowly and patiently. In this day and age, we are used to skimming through large texts, which diminishes our ability to understand new concepts. Don't be frustrated if things don't make sense at first and certainly don't let that discourage you. Should this happen, simply take a break and come back to the article with a fresh and rested mind. Sometimes reading ahead or re-reading past articles will further help you grasp more complicated concepts. And if you still have questions, or if you find some of my explanations confusing, drop me a line.
There are a lot of programming languages out there, but in my opinion, Python is the most readable and most fun to learn and use. It was first released in 1991 by Guido von Rossum, who was later awarded the title of Benevolent Dictator for Life by the Python community, which basically means that he has a lot to say in how the programming language itself evolves. As any good dictator would do, Guido von Rossum eventually stepped down from this position in July 2018.
The Python programming language is not named after the reptile, but after Monty Python, a British comedy group. As I already mentioned, it is a very fun and readable programming language. It reads like English and for the most part does not have any complicated syntax - semicolons, curly brackets etc. - that make some other programming languages a little harder to pick up as a beginner. If you want to know how crazy syntax can get, check out this program written in a programming language called Brainf*ck (an actual programming language, believe it or not), which apparently prints 'Hello world' on the screen:
Thankfully, the code we will be studying and learning about looks nothing like this, I promise. In fact, here's the Python version of the same program above:
Going back to the reasons why I think Python is an excellent language to learn, I should also mention that Python is a powerful, general purpose programming language, meaning it can be used to solve a variety of problems, such as creating websites, building games, writing automated scripts, and more recently doing data science and writing machine learning algorithms.
It has a large community and this is key in any programming language because a large community creates a lot of open source packages. Don't worry too much right now about the concept of packages, we'll revisit this later, but they are basically bundles of code that people have written and shared with the community, which is great because you have access to a lot of functionality that is already created and you don't have to write code for it.
Another huge advantage of the Python programming language is that it is typically installed by default on a lot of computers, so it is widely distributed and widely available.
And last, but not least, Python is used by many, many companies, both small and large, in the United States and abroad. In fact, according to some statistics published by the programming site stackoverflow.com, as of 2018, Python was the fastest growing major programming language in the world, primarily driven by its adoption in the data science and machine learning world, but also because it is very suitable for web development. This, in my view, makes it an excellent choice for a programming language to start with because it gives you access to a growing job market in many exciting fields.
In the next article, we will begin to explore in more detail what programming is and what it entails.