Computer Question: Coders wanted

The Vernon PC Users' Club looks at computer code and what you can do with it

Several pretty high profile people have in recent months been promoting the need for more people to learn to code or program computer devices. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckermann, Michael Bloomberg and others inside and outside of the high tech industry cite the growing need for programmers to develop operating and application software for the thousands of new products and services that will continue to be introduced that have a computer involved in some way in their operation.

I can’t picture the Mayor of New York becoming a nerd any time soon, but there is no denying there is a rapidly growing need for competent coders. As Gates points out, learning to program a computer is not like learning how to build a rocket to go to Mars. It’s akin to learning a new language, but not just building up a vocabulary, because with any computer language you must also learn a set of strict syntactical and grammatical rules.

When digital computers first were built, the only way to program them was in their own binary language written as a bunch of zeroes and ones. As one could imagine, this was very tedious and error-prone. Soon assembler languages were developed to permit code using mnemonics to designate various operations like add, subtract and compare and alphanumerical labels (not binary) to identify operands. Then along came compilers where commands were more English language-like and designed specifically for engineering or business applications.

Now by simply entering “Add this to that and send to there” into the compiler along with other similarly structured commands, the computer would do all the deciphering. Higher level languages have evolved over time to accommodate commands to instruct a computer to perform any task it is physically capable of doing, which in today’s world means many that communicate with other computers and networks thereof and ultimately to other human beings. So if making computers do stuff appeals to you, take a coding course!

The Vernon PC Users’ Club meets on the second Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. at the Schubert Centre. For information, please contact Betty at 250-542-7034 or Olive at 250-542-8490.