One of my most favourite roles at PC User magazine was developing the in-house apps for the monthly cover disc. Not the stuff that was often unflatteringly called ‘shovelware’, but the PC User-branded apps – everything from the PerfectPC system builder app to various RockPod and TVRip video conversion tools, UserBench benchmarks and the UserOS operating systems.
It was all fun and incredibly interesting because you never did the same thing twice – it also helped me perfect my time management and learn what could be achieved in a given amount of time.
The one thing I regret not ever doing in PC User magazine was a learning to code series, but now I can assuage my disappointment, thanks to my new masterclass series in APC magazine on learning to code.
Learning to code is one of the best things you can do in your tech career, for it teaches you far more than just coding – it teaches methodology, persistence, problem solving and a bucketload of other skills you just can’t get without ‘doing’.
I’ve built this new series around the Java language – now, that noise in the background will likely be the sneers and sniggers of experienced coders who think I’ve fallen out of my tree. Everyone has their preference and I’m certainly not saying Java is perfect, but here’s why I chose it.
1. It’s cross-platform. Java is a ‘code once, run everywhere’ language than runs on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. You’re not locked into one platform so, it’s a great teaching tool for a magazine not wanting to exclude anyone on the basis of computing platform. You can write code on a Windows computer, load it into a Mac OS X computer and it will run.
2. It’s the backbone of Android. If you want to learn mobile app development, you need to learn either Java or Objective-C – Objective-C is the language of Apple iOS apps while Java is the basis for all Android apps. Picking Java gives you the basis of writing apps for over a billion smartphones and tablets, which isn’t a bad reason either.
3. It’s a full-function language. I’ve put that quite clumsily, but Java is a language you can have fun with and do serious work at the same time. If you’re into data mining or ‘big data’, Apache Hadoop is about as big as they come, yet it’s majority-written in Java. But it only takes a couple of lines of code to create your first ‘hello world’ app too. It shares plenty of similarities with C++ so that if you learn Java, it’s not a space-jump to figure out C++.
The first episode of this series has just appeared in the November 2014 issue of APC magazine. Each month, I’ll be biting off Java into bite-sized chunks, providing you with example code and explaining important coding concepts from variables to if-else conditional statements, to loops, methods, classes and creating graphical user interface (GUI)-based apps.
If you’ve never coded before, or you’ve had a go in the past and decided it was all too hard, give my new masterclass a go.
Learning to code is a great skill to have that you can always take with you from job to job. It certainly did me no harm at PC User…