What is Coding? It's One Thing to Me, Another to You.

boy at computer coding

What is coding?

Coding is telling a computer what to do through step-by-step commands. These commands form a set of instructions for the computer to execute and attain a specific outcome.

Coding is the foundation of the apps on your phone, the video games you enjoy, websites, robots, and much more. They’re all made with code, through the act of coding.

In fact, computers were made to run off the code you provide. Without code, computers would sit, unresponsive. You might not think so, but computers aren’t smart. It’s the code that is smart. Computers are obedient, and follow your code to be brought to life.

Why does the definition of coding matter?

Well, you might first want to have your child explore the question of "is coding for me?" before diving into why coding matters. But either way, the reasons below can make believers out of the non-believers, and can more than validate that those who know they want to learn to code are headed in the right direction. 

It matters because people are talking about it

You heard someone talking about "code," or read something about it two times yesterday, four times today, and eight times tomorrow. A little exaggerated, but those who are in education or follow STEM can probably say they hear about coding at least once per day. We talk about coding camps multiple times per day. Wouldn't it be nice to be a part of the conversation?

Take this example, and think back to the day before you knew what something like Facebook was. You probably heard a few things about it, maybe had a couple of friends that were using it, but you really didn’t know what this "magical" social network was...until you created an account.

It was then that you were able to define Facebook because you started to use it. Now, can you say you’re a Facebook expert? If not, you can definitely say you know you're way around.

I'm in no way comparing the value and impact of coding to that of Facebook, but you get the point. Forming a definition of coding in your mind is the first step towards deciding whether or not it is something you'd like to pursue. (Here are other programming definitions and coding terms you should know.)

It matters because people define coding differently

It’s important to know what coding is because–since it is a hot topic–you'll find that most everyone will be referring to it differently.

It’s not a bad thing, and more or less we are all talking about the same thing. But without having your own opinion of what coding is, listening to what person A says about coding mixed with person B’s remarks, shaped by person C’s feelings, it can all get a bit cloudy.

It matters because not enough people know what coding is

On the flip side, for as many people as there are who are talking about coding, there still aren't nearly enough people who care to know what it is.

There will be a shortage of qualified individuals to fill computing jobs in the near future. Specifically, there will be 1 million unfilled computing jobs by 2020.

So, it’s important to know what coding is so you can, if you want, step in and fill those positions. Why on earth would you ever want to do such a thing? Because computer science is a top-paying college degree, and computer programming jobs are growing at 2X the national average. (Thanks to code.org for the stats.)

It matters because many schools don’t teach coding

You need to take it upon yourself to learn what coding is because unfortunately, it isn’t something taught in most schools. In fact, it is said that only one in ten schools teaches coding. That’s not nearly enough, and leaves you with a much greater chance of being in a school that doesn’t teach it, than one that does.

It matters because coding is fun

Back to Facebook. Think about being the only one who didn’t know what it was and how to use it. Not a good feeling right? I’m not saying to learn coding because everyone is doing it, but I’m saying think about how many more doors of opportunity that will be open if you did know how to code; how many more conversations in which you can participate.

Knowing how to code allows you to communicate with a computer. That’s absolutely awesome. That computer can take your imaginative ideas and turn them into something bigger and brighter than what you could have created through other means. It’s another way to express your creativity with the rest of the world.

Now you are the one creating the app that everyone uses, or creating the video game everyone plays. That’s the power of code and why it’s important you know it.

A photo of Ryan

Ryan manages blog content at iD Tech, starting with the company in 2008. He earned his MBA from Santa Clara University after obtaining his Bachelor’s degree from Arizona State. Connect on LinkedIn!

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