Computers only understand machine instructions encoded in 0’s and 1’s. When computers first started, there was no easy way around this. People had to encode what they wanted the computer to do in 0’s and 1’s manually, in the form of punch cards (punch = 1, no punch = 0). Therefore, the first computer programs were a stack of punch cards rather than code stored on a computer.
A typical anecdotal disaster associated with this form of encoding a computer program was that people would stumble and drop the stack of punch cards, which meant they would have to re-write (re-order more precisely) the program again.
How it is now
Technology has come a long way from that. Nowadays, you can write code with a Syntax that feels close to normal languages. Then there is a set of tools that take that so-called high-level code and convert it into the 0’s and 1’s the computer understands. The most important of these tools is the interpreter for interpreted languages and the compiler for compiled languages.
What is Python programming?
Python is the one of the most popular languages today, best known for its versatility allowing it to be very useful for analysing data. The creators focused on making a language that is easy to learn and user friendly. For this reason, Python is also a very common first programming language to learn for many. Furthermore, the easily understandable syntax allows for quick, compact, and readable implementation of scripts or programs, in comparison with other programming languages.
Python is code written according to a specific Syntax. But if you write that code on a piece of paper or draw it in the sand, is it still Python? Probably yes, because people can still understand it. What if there were no humans? I know, this starts to sound too philosophical like the Tree falling in the forest question. The point is that the code is only half of what makes up a programming language. The other half is the software that can understand that code and convert it into 0’s and 1’s. These are called interpreters and compilers.
Interpreters vs. Compilers
The difference between the two is that Interpreters convert code into 01’s line by line and execute it directly, while compilers take all your code, convert it to 01’s all at once and give you an executable file you can then run.
- Examples of Compiled languages are C, C++, and Java(mostly).
The trade-off typically is the following: Interpreted languages are easier to code and faster to develop, but the resulting program is less performant and stable. Compiled languages are slower and more cumbersome to code and work with since they require a more complicated process to get them to run, but they result in faster and stabler programs. Which one you choose depends on what type of application you want to develop and if its speed is critical or not.
The Tools of the Python Programmer
Coding is not only about writing lines of code. Depending on your situation, there is a strong gradient in the number of tools and technologies you have to interact with (are you writing a Hello World script, or are you creating a scalable platform for millions of users hosted on the cloud?).
Luckily at the start, there are not that many. You need a:
- Python interpreter
- package manager
- Integrated Development Environment (IDE)
What can Python be used for?
Python is an Object-oriented (based around data), high-level (easier for humans to understand) programming language, which is used in many organizations. Google, Netflix, Spotify and many more use this language to develop their products. Over the years the language has evolved to be the industry standard for Data Science, Data Analytics, and Data Engineering, with numerous community driven packages assisting in this regard.
Python can be applied in many areas and some of them are:
- AI and Machine Learning
- Data Analytics
- Data visualization
- Programming applications
- Web Development
So, if you want to use Python and develop your first small projects, start with one simple idea (designed for beginners) from our list here:
- Build a guessing game
- Design a text-based adventure game
- Develop a simple Python calculator
- Build an alarm clock
These projects can help you develop your knowledge and challenge your abilities with the programming language.
But what about if you’re just starting out with the language and want to become a Python developer? In that case check out our 6 weeks part-time course
that will bring you to an advanced level in the shortest possible time.