Learn to Code by Solving Problems: A Python Programming Primer
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We use computers to accomplish tasks and to solve problems. For example, perhaps you’ve used a word processor to write an essay or letter. Perhaps you’ve used a spreadsheet program to organize your finances. Perhaps you’ve used an image editor to touch up a picture. It’s hard to imagine doing these things these days without a computer. We get a lot of mileage out of our word processors and spreadsheet programs and image editors.
Those programs are written as general-purpose tools to accomplish a wide variety of tasks. Ultimately, though, they’re programs written by others, not by us. What do we do when an off-the-shelf program doesn’t quite do what we need?
In this book, our goal is to learn how to take control of our computer by going beyond what can be done by an end user using preexisting programs. We’re going to write our own programs. We won’t write a word processor or a spreadsheet or an image editor. Those are huge tasks that, fortunately, people have already done. Rather, we’re going to learn how to write small programs to solve problems that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to solve. I want to help you learn to communicate instructions to a computer; these instructions will tell the computer how to carry out your plan for solving a problem.
To give instructions to a computer, we write code in a programming language. A programming language specifies the rules for the code we write and dictates what the computer does in response to that code.
We’re going to learn to program in the Python programming language. That’s a concrete skill that you’ll take away from this book, one that you can put on your résumé. More than Python, though, you’ll learn the type of thinking required to solve problems using a computer. Programming languages come and go. The way that we solve problems does not. I hope that this book helps you on your way from end user to programmer and that you have fun exploring what’s possible.
Who This Book Is For
This book is for anyone who wants to learn how to write computer programs to solve problems. I have three particular types of people in mind.
First, you may have heard about the Python programming language and want to learn how to write code in Python. I’ll explain in the next section why Python is a great choice as a first programming language to learn. You’ll learn a lot about Python in this book, and you’ll be in a position to read more advanced books on Python if that’s your next step.
Second, if you haven’t heard of Python or just want to learn what programming is all about, don’t worry: this book is for you, too! This book will teach you how to think about programming. Programmers have particular ways of breaking down problems into manageable pieces and expressing solutions to those pieces in code. At this level, it doesn’t matter what programming language is being used, because the way that programmers think is not tied to a particular language.
Finally, you may be interested in learning some other programming language such as C++, Java, Go, or Rust. Much of what you learn as a byproduct of learning Python will be useful when you study those other programming languages. Plus, Python is certainly worth learning in its own right. Let’s turn to why next.