Programming is the art of telling a computer what to do. To understand how this works, we will need to, in more detail, break down what a computer is and how it works.

What is a computer?

Riddle me this. Which of the two is smarter?

Laptop in dark background
A laptop
Cute baby
A baby

The answer might surprise you (Blogger initiation complete with this statement). The baby is eons smarter than the computer. Without a human to tell it what to do, a computer is nothing but a piece of metal/plastic. Computers do not know what to do, we tell them what to do. This is why programmers exist.

Just what exactly counts as being a computer? The shorter answer to this is: an electronic device that accepts input, processes it, and returns the output. Let’s dissect that definition to further clarify what this means. Examples of computers are Calculators, ATMs, laptops, mobile phones, Microwaves, etc. Basically, anything that fits this definition of an electronic device that accepts input, processes it and returns the output is technically a computer.

Electronic device

A computer being an electronic device means it relies on electricity to function. In reality, that is actually all it is, a bunch of electrical signals that end up being understood as stuff. More on this when we discuss how it works.

Input

Input refers to anything that is entered by an external party. This could be your pin when you go to the ATM or the keys you have pressed on a controller when playing a game. To accept inputs, computers rely on devices called input devices. The term itself sounds fancy but it basically refers to things such as keyboards, microphones, and mice.

I am certain that if you are reading this, you have used at least one of them to access this article. By extension, you already know what it is like to enter something into a computer. Without our input, computers cannot know what to do.

Output

Output refers to anything that the computer returns to the user. This could be your balance when you check for it at the ATM or your high score in a game. Computers can output information to users using output devices such as screens and speakers.

What is a program?

A program or computer program is a set of instructions that can be executed by a computer o perform a specific task. Think of Netflix allowing you to watch your favorite shows; that’s a program. Or better yet, if we extend this analogy to our lives as human beings, imagine telling a friend to pass you the salt at dinner. Your request to them would be the instructions. They would need to understand you to pass the salt, that’s the processing part and the task they will perform is passing you the salt. We go over more concrete examples in our virtual classes. Feel free to sign up if you’d prefer actually being taught directly with a small group of others like you.

Hardware vs Software

Put simply, hardware is all the stuff we can see and touch, like the computer, keyboard, controller, and mouse. Software, on the other hand, is everything that you cannot touch. Examples of software are games, apps, and websites.

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