A regret that has haunted my adult life off and on is not majoring in computer science when I was a college student ( a longer time ago than I care to admit). I took my first computer programming class when I was in middle school and loved it, but as a college kid, the word “hard” followed by “work” was not in my vocabulary. If an endeavor did not come instantly and naturally easy to me, and stay easy, then I’d conclude it was not for me. In other words, I was lazy. A computer science degree required calculus, a class which I tried for two weeks in my sophomore year, then promptly dropped because it scared me so much. And that was the end of any formal pursuit of a technical career. Nevertheless, as the years went by and I found myself drawn to using various available software tools to manage data at my workplaces, I started to feel like there was a frustrated techie stuffed inside the average Joe Office Guy I’d become.
Sometime last summer (2013), I ran across some articles about the explosion in the need for programmers, especially for web development, and a corresponding rise in the availability of free online resources to learn programming. Suddenly that old youthful enthusiasm for telling computers what to do sprang back up. Through these articles, I found Code Academy and promptly jumped right in to their Web Fundamentals and Python tracks. It’s great for beginners because the lessons, writing the code and running it are all self-contained on the site. The user doesn’t even need to install Python on their PC. It’s also a good way to figure out if coding is really for you, without too much sweat. If you come away from a Codeacademy course excited and wanting more, as I did, then great! If you come away “meh”, then at least you haven’t wasted too much time.
Thanks to Code Academy, I was able to develop my very first app: a little program that calculates a runner’s pace and average miles per hour, and stores a run history in a database. Of course it will never compete with Runtastic (the app I use on my mobile phone to track my running), but at least it allows me to show off the fact that I learned something.