[Editor’s Note: Beware, this article contains Monty Python jokes!]
We’ve all heard the advice: college will equip us with the tools we need to succeed, and higher education will be the steed that will carry us across the foggy plains of employment towards our dream. Instead, we discover to our dismay that our magnificent horse is merely a man walking behind us, clanking two coconuts together. Worse, we find a self-taught software developer stride by, the bright banners of his million-dollar startup waving in his trail. Turns out that while we wasted our time haggling for gourds (read: diminishing job vacancies and measly salaries), he has taught himself three programming languages, leaving us wishing we did the same.
Well, it’s never too late. You’re never too old nor too young to start learning how to program. Where to start? We suggest starting with Python, whose namesake — if you haven’t guessed already — is inspired by the British comedy group Monty Python. So what should you expect from a computer programming language named after a group that makes fun of just about everything? Well, there’s a glaring clue somewhere but we’ll give you five compelling reasons why Python should be your first foray into programming.
5 Reasons You Should Learn Python First:
Let’s face it. Learning a programming language doesn’t sound as exciting as a breakdance competition on an aircraft carrier. Luckily, Python was designed with the newcomer in mind. Python reads like kindergarten math and is easy on the layman’s eye. The use of white space and common expressions has eliminated the need for tedious variable declarations and unattractive curly brackets. Python also requires less code to complete basic tasks, making it an economical language to learn. Python code is often 3-5 times shorter than Java, and 5-10 times shorter than C++. But while Python is easy to learn in itself, we all know the peril of studying alone and unprepared. Homer Simpson did that in college and look where it got him. Fortunately, the Python community has amassed an ample collection of resources to keep you safe and productive.
2. Your Stepping Stone
Specifically, a working knowledge of Python can be a solid foundation because Python’s methodologies can be used in a broad range of applications. For example, Python’s inherent organization and architecture can act as your Rosetta Stone when trying to decipher more cryptic programming languages. Here’s a brief comparison of Python with two other languages: Ruby and PHP. Ruby has a similar structure to Python while PHP has a very different syntax.
A “for” loop on a list [Python]:
An “each” call with a block on an array [Ruby]:
A “while” loop in Python:
A “while” loop in PHP:
Without prior programming experience, anyone can easily detect the similarities and differences between Python’s syntax and those of other languages. Either way, a basic understanding of Python makes jumping into Ruby a breeze, while deciphering a PHP code becomes an easier task. Once you learn the Zen of Python you can use it to help you succeed in crafting code in any language.
3. How About Some Raspberry Pi?
Making programming fun is no easy task, whether your students are beginners, seasoned veterans, or children. Heck, even the most enthusiastic teachers struggle to get anyone excited about writing code. But miracles do happen once in a while: bridging the gap between abstract computing and real world applications is now as easy as Pi.
Raspberry Pi is a card-sized, inexpensive microcomputer that is being used for a surprising range of exciting do-it-yourself stuff such as robots, remote-controlled cars, and video game consoles. With Python as its main programming language, the Raspberry Pi is being used even by kids to build radios, cameras, arcade machines, and pet feeders! With Raspberry Pi mania on the uptrend, there are countless DIY projects, tutorials, and books to choose from online. These will help you branch out from your “hello world” starter programs to something you can truly be proud of. While you won’t be constructing a mini Voltron anytime soon, the sense of satisfaction you’ll get from completing one of these DIY projects will motivate you to push yourself further than automating an ASCII tic-tac-toe game.
4. Money Money Money
If designing a talking skull that sings random tweets from Gary Busey using Python and Raspberry Pi isn’t a big enough incentive, then how about the prospect of having a much fatter wallet? Companies such as Google, Yahoo!, Disney, Nokia, and IBM all use Python. In fact, among programming languages, Python had the largest year-on-year job demand growth — at 19% — as of March 2013. Notably, the overall hiring demand for IT professionals dipped year over year by 5% as of January 2014, except for Python programmers which increased by 8.7%. In New York, Python developers ranked #8 of the most in-demand tech workers, making an average of $106k/year. On the other side of the Atlantic, Python programmers also enjoy a strongly rising demand for their skills as shown by the following graph.
5. It Works Online Too
Web development is still a booming economic prospect for programmers. With Python’s vast capabilities, you too can have a piece of the action. Django — the popular open source web application framework written in Python — is the foundation of such sites as Pinterest, The New York Times, The Guardian, Bit Bucket, and Instagram. Django is a complete framework that takes the complexity out of web development while still giving you control over as much as you want. As an open-source framework, all the information you need to get started can be found at DjangoProject.com.
Python is the only scripting language you’ll need to begin designing your own websites and applications. What’s true with Python is true with Django. Web development with Django is well documented, has a large support community, and takes less time and code. With Django, great ideas can crystalize faster as their development requires less developers and less scripting hours on the keyboard. This will give you more time to enhance your concepts and turn them into professional-grade products. Then again, Django isn’t the only rapid development framework built for Python programmers. There are plenty of light weight and full stacked options that you can explore.
Get Started with Python Today!
So why Python? It’s easy to learn and will provide you with the building blocks you need to branch out into other languages. Using a peripheral device such as Raspberry Pi will help you realize how Python and programming can be used in a fun and exciting way. Lastly, with web development tools such as Django, Python can have you on your way to that lucrative position that you always believed your ideas warranted. If you are keen on learning this in-demand programming language, check out some Python courses today.Footnotes