With the advancement of digital technologies, the word programming arrives to the conversation wheels with a meaning that is already old, but that is being discussed more and more nowadays. The word is no longer just about the planning you do for the vacations or the direction you give to the money left over at the end of the month, but it goes far, far beyond that.
The programming we are talking about here makes direct reference to the smartfone, tablet, notebook, or any other electronic device that you are using right now to read this text. That’s because without the programming in its current sense, you wouldn’t be able to communicate easily with any of these technologies.
So, you must have realized by now that programming has a very complex meaning when connected to the technological world. But don’t worry, because in this text we will explain you exactly what programming is, what it is for and how it has become increasingly fundamental for the advancement of digital technologies.
The Programming Concept
In general, programming is a process of writing, testing and maintaining computer programs. These programs, in turn, are composed of sets of instructions determined by the programmer that describe tasks to be performed by the machine and serve various purposes.
The advent of programming is directly linked to the history of computers. The first programmer was a woman named Ada Lovelace, who wrote a code to enable the use of Charles Babbage’s analytical machine, a robust machine, difficult to communicate, considered the precursor of today’s electronic computers.
A century later, computers became easier and easier to use and programming gained more and more space in the creation of these technologies. But to truly understand what it is all about, it is important to know two fundamental elements that make up all modern computers, which are hardware and software.
Hardware, software and programming
A computer is made up of physical components, such as the external part of your cell phone, the CPU of a PC, the memory, the mouse, in short… the means by which the electrical signals can be converted into data, information.
These components are called hardware and their binary language, which is the machine language, is composed only of bits, which are zeros and ones. The bits represent the absence or presence of electrical signals. Now, imagine using your cell phone having to interpret binary information: if all you saw on the screen was an infinite sequence of zeros and ones, cell phones wouldn’t be practical at all, would they? That’s why the software exists.
Software is the means by which machine language can be compiled or interpreted, through codes created in an intermediate language, for languages we know, such as, English and also for images, colors, numbers… finally, a series of data that can be assimilated more easily by human beings.
This language is nothing more than a standardized method that allows you to communicate specific instructions to a computer. There are hundreds of variations and all of them allow the programmer to define what data the computer should act on, how to store and transmit this data and what actions to take under various circumstances.
There are two types of language for the programmer: compiled and interpreted. You will understand each of them better in the topic “Source code” below.
Source code is the set of words and commands written in an orderly, logical manner, which contains instructions in a given programming language.
As we said, there are two types of language when programming: compiled and interpreted.
Compiling a programming language is nothing more than transforming the source code into something that makes sense for the machine, that is, transforming what the programmer has written into machine language.
In the process of interpretation, the source code is transformed into an intermediate language that, in turn, will be interpreted by the virtual machine during the execution of the program.
A programmer’s skills
Now that you have understood what programming is, how to define your language and the meaning of source code, it is also important to know that far beyond a simple writing process, programming involves a mixture of other cognitive skills, such as logical reasoning, mathematical skills, the ability to abstract and deal with different types of data.
When you begin to study programming, the first thing you learn is to create basic algorithms, which are like recipes, so that from a step by step, a task can be executed. And this algorithm is developed from trials and errors based on the result you want to get and how you can achieve it.
An example of this is when you ask a person to go to such a bakery, you will need to know where they are to pass the proper instructions, like: walk straight to such street (and you will need to know the name of the street) turn right (and you will need to have notions of direction) and so on.
With this, you will be using basic logic to create an instruction map, just as programmers begin to exercise logic to get to computer software, since they are instructing the machine to get to a result.
Programming and advancement of Digital Technologies
As said at the very beginning of the text, programming had its beginning over a century ago, starting from Ada Lovelace’s ideas with Babbage’s robust computer. Until the period of the Second World War, the hardware still had a much greater protagonism in the studies and research of these technologies than the software, which are the object of creation of programming.
But after World War II, and especially when computers began to gain use beyond the warlike, like the first personal computers and, a few decades later, with the creation of smartphones, electronic devices have requested more and more attention to software, which must be so updated when the hardware so that the technology has visibility and meets the demands, increasingly demanding market.
Besides personal use, nowadays programming has great importance also in fundamental areas of society, such as medicine, where many medical devices use remote and real-time monitoring, made possible by programming, in engineering, mechanical industry, automotive and architecture, where several software used for the creation of projects were developed by programmers, among other areas.
The future of programming
As we have seen so far, the new and more complex meaning of the word “Programming” has acquired an increasingly high relevance in recent decades and, thanks to the advent of Industry 4.0, which is the technological context in which we are inserted, this scenario tends to be permanent and require programmers increasingly trained to act in a number of different areas focused on programming in the coming years.
Programming can thus be seen as a fundamental profession in the future, and it is precisely for this reason that several countries have been striving to start teaching programming at an earlier age for children, to develop logical reasoning skills, abstraction, among others, and also to meet the growing demands of the profession.