What’s it all about, this tech & coding stuff, aaaggghhh? Episode 1: Coding / Software / Hardware

Have you ever felt that;

  • Everybody seems to be talking about technology, latest tech products, trends in technology, the next big thing, coding, programming, coding languages etc. and  
  • Everybody seems to know what they’re talking about as well and
  • How do they know all this stuff and
  • Isn’t all this tech talk a bit confusing if not downright alien and scary.

I can relate to those feelings, as a Law graduate surrounded by Computer Science graduates in my first job, my introduction to technology was not the smoothest! It might’ve been easy to adopt the “technophobe” label and develop a can’t do / won’t do attitude back in the early 1990s, but not anymore. Technology is everywhere, there is no choice, it’s here to stay so it’s time to embrace it and come to terms with some of the new tech terminology and language that gets used in everyday conversation these days. As learning to code becomes more popular and widespread, I understand that some parents or non-tech savvy people may become disillusioned and feel excluded and therefore limited in how they can help their own children in developing technology skills. That’s not a nice feeling for any parent to experience and as a parent, I want to help.

So, let’s make this all a bit simpler and let’s sloooowwww down and explain things a little bit, in clear, understandable language.

Think of this as a kind of beginner’s guide for anyone who might not understand the difference between Hardware & Software & Coding and for anyone who wants some help demystifying the sometimes unintelligible lingo!

What is Coding?

A very simple way to describe coding is the typing of orders / instructions / directions for what you want machines, screens or devices etc. to do!

These instructions are usually referred to as “commands or lines of code”! Behind every single tiny dot that appears on any screen that you look at, is at least one line of code. If you think of every dot on every screen in the world, you’ll start to realise that that’s a lot of code! Then think of the code that is also used to control all of the machines and devices in the world and all of those in outer space too. Then there’s all of the code that manages all of the information (aka Data) being stored and used in the world. So yes, code is this all powerful thing that’s powering the technology in the world and in outer space too!

Code is the language that machines and devices can understand. Code translates how we speak as humans into languages that machines and devices can interpret.

Just like in human language, there is more than one coding language. Some machines and devices work in one or more languages, others in other languages. There are various different coding languages which are used for many different things. Some of the most popular programming languages include; Java, Python, JavaScript, CSS and HTML.

Coding is little more than using “commands /  lines of code” to tell Apps, games, websites etc what to do or how to display information and much more.

Software / Hardware?

When lots of code is written in a program, that code that makes up the program then fulfils a function and it’s referred to as “Software”. You could think of Software as all of the “invisible tech stuff”; you can’t see it but without which nothing would happen!

The term “software” refers to the code and associated programs and other operating information used by a computer.

An Operating System (OS) is specific Software that manages computer “Hardware” and / or other Software. Operating Systems provide common services for computer programs for example Linux and Windows are operating systems. Ok, that last bit was a bit confusing, so maybe go back and read it again, take your time! So Software / Code you don’t see in everyday life, but it’s there, it fact it’s everywhere!

“Hardware” is on the other hand exactly that, it’s hard, you can see it and if you threw it at someone it’d hurt; like your phone, laptop, TV screen, fridge! Without coding it would be impossible to create the computer software which we rely on in our everyday lives.

Why do we care about coding as a skill?

Learning to code is empowering, coders can create new technology or improve existing technology. When kids learn to code they feel like magicians or super heroes – they can make the computers and machines do what they want them to do. Not only that, but through learning how to code, people develop a whole load of other skills, sometimes without even realising it. Problem solving, logic, computational thinking, organisation, project management, analysis – all these skills and more are developed when a  person learns how to code. But also, let’s be honest, it’s not always easy, so it’s great that coding also helps young people develop skills in dealing with; frustration, set-backs and the occasional failure.

Learning how to code helps to provide better career opportunities as it  develops a better understanding of how computers and technology work. Not all beginner coders will want to pursue careers as coders, developers or engineers. But all of them will be able to speak the common language of technology and will have a better appreciation of what can be achieved through technology.

Having a basic experience of being creative with technology and producing your own App, website, game or anything you want, at least once, is something that CoderDojo would like all kids and young people around the world to enjoy.

Coming next week;

Episode 2: APPS / Websites / Mobility / Games / New Emerging Technology

Mary Moloney, CEO CoderDojo Foundation

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