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What is coding?

This article describes what coding is, and offers a video to find out about how programming languages work.

Known as the language of computers, coding is often described as ‘telling your computer what to do’, but it’s not quite so simple.

What is coding?

Think about writing code like this. The language computers speak in binary code – a mathematical language of ones and zeros. You don’t speak binary, and the machine can’t come close to understanding human languages, so you need to design a translator that can act as an intermediary.

Code is a form of writing that is easy to learn and interpret for humans, and even though it isn’t binary, the computer can still understand it.

Translating commands into a computer

Imagine you are building an elevator shaft with a group of engineers. You’re on the bottom of the shaft, they are at the top, and you need to communicate to finish the project.

All you have to communicate with the engineers is a flashlight. One flash for yes, two for no. It will take a while but, eventually, the elevator shaft will be built. The true purpose of code is to translate your commands into the language that the computer understands.

Try this exercise

With your mouse, right-click on any blank portion of this page and choose View Source. A new window displaying characters and words will appear.

Don’t worry if this looks pretty technical and foreign – these characters and words are the HTML programming code, and each element within that code is known as an HTML tag. This enables you to look ‘behind the scenes’ of almost any page on the internet.

When you code, typically the languages are still tied to human constructs of language, but the code is usually picked up and read by programs within the computer, adding another layer of translation into the mix.

Watch the video below to find out about how programming languages work.

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Software Development Fundamentals: Programming Languages and HTML

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