Learning Computer Programming for the First Time

To fill a need: Many people learn programming with no intention of becoming a full-time, professional programmer. They just want a program that solves a particular problem, but they can’t find a program that does it, so they write the program themselves. A psychologist who specialized in dream interpretation used his knowledge and a program known as ToolBook to create and sell DreamScape, a program that interprets the meaning of dreams, as shown in Figure 1-2. Whatever your interests, you can write a program to solve a specific problem that others may find useful as well.

For a new or second career: With computers taking over the world, you’re never unemployed for long if you know how to program a computer. Companies are always looking to create new programs, but you also find a growing market for programmers who can maintain and modify the millions of existing programs that do everything from storing hotel reservations to transferring bank deposits electronically.

If you know how to program a computer, you’re in a much better position to earn a lot of money and live wherever you want. You may still want to keep your current job, but programming gives you a new way to expand and share your knowledge.

A group of alternative health-care practitioners, for example, wrote IBIS, a program that provides information for treating a variety of ailments by using acupuncture, massage, diet, and homeopathy (see Figure 1-3). They wrote IBIS by using a program known as MetaCard. As an intellectual challenge: Many people find the sheer complexity of computers as fascinating as studying a mathematical puzzle.

Not surprisingly, computers tend to attract people of above-average intelligence who enjoy programming a computer to pry into the thought processes of their own minds. To help turn a computer into a thinking tool, one programmer created the Axon Idea Processor (see Figure 1-4) by using Prolog, a popular programming language used for researching artificial intelligence.

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The goal was to create a program to help people manipulate ideas, concepts, and facts so that they can devise a variety of possible solutions while better understanding their own way of thinking in the process. If using a computer normally seems boring, try writing your own program to help you use your brain more effectively

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