Programming is a term that’s usually associated with computers. But in the modern world we have a whole host of devices from our cars, to our domestic appliances, that are controlled by electronics. That means that at some point their functions need to be programmed.
This has led to a growing demand for the skills needed to program, not just the high level languages used in computers, but the lower level code used on embedded chips.
What is Programming?
Put simply, programming involves creating a set of instructions to be interpreted by a machine. The resulting code is usually compiled into a form that the machine’s processor can understand. Many of the current generation of programmers will have been introduced to it through languages like BASIC on home computers.
There is still some demand for legacy languages like COBOL which continue to underpin many older business systems. A lot of the techniques needed to create good code such as structuring and documenting are common to all languages so a good grounding in programming techniques can prepare you to work with a variety of systems.
Programming Processor Chips
Programming a chip to carry out robotics functions is slightly different in that, rather than programming the device directly, the code is created on a computer and then transferred to the device. This is usually done using C or some variant of it.
Off-the-shelf processor development kits like those from Arduino are a good way of learning the basics. These are supplied with components to allow you to build simple circuits. The language used is based on C and kits come with a series of projects which allow you to learn whilst creating programs to control lights or make music for example. You can buy an Arduino starter kit here and they work with Windows, Mac and Linux systems so it doesn’t matter what type of computer you have. If you’re keen to learn how to program, these kits are a great introduction.
Whatever your interest, whether it’s coding for processor chips or writing computer applications, programming is an interesting and fulfilling activity. It can be frustrating at times and requires patience as you may need to spend a lot of time tracking down errors, but when you see something that you’ve created there’s a major sense of achievement.
Demand for programming skills shows no signs of going away, so as a career choice it’s attractive. It is an ever changing world though so you may need to retrain at times in the course of a career. But whether you want to work as a programmer or simply pursue it as a hobby there are plenty of opportunities.