Computers are everywhere these days.  Even basic programming knowledge can be a very valuable skill.  Programming also makes a great hobby.  Here are a few different options for beginners to gain experience:

TI-83/TI-84 Calculator (TI-BASIC)

If you are in middle school or high school then you probably have access to one of these.  TI graphing calculators come with an interpreter for the "TI-BASIC" programming language.  This is a modified version of "BASIC", which was designed to be an entry-level language and first showed up in the mid 60's.  The great thing about learning to program on a graphing calculator is that it fits in your pocket.  Once you get hooked you will be at it non stop.  Just don't use your new programming skills to cheat on your math test!




Python is a scripting language that is run through an interpreter you install on your computer.  While it is a little more advanced than BASIC, it will remain useful as your skills progress.  Python is a favorite among many programmers because there are modules already written to do just about anything.  Want to pull data off websites?  No problem, just use "BeautifulSoup."  Once you are familiar with the syntax of python, anything you need to do is likely just a Google search away.

Normally I wouldn't want to advertise other websites in my articles, but Code Academy appears very valuable and worth mentioning.  This website is an interactive tutorial that teaches you "Java Script."  Java Script is one of the primary languages used for making dynamic web sites and other enhanced web content.  Needless to say it is something good to know.  Code Academy offers a step by step guide that rewards the user along the way.  Another advantage is that you don't have to worry about installing new software on your computer, or getting access to specialized hardware.  Everything is right there on the website, allowing you to get started quickly.




HTML is the back-bone of most websites, and is normally considered a "markup language" rather than  a true programming language.  That being said, it is still a good way to get familiar with the coding process.  The only tools you need are a computer with a text editor (ex: "Notepad") and a web browser.  There are plenty of beginners tutorials to HTML, so just find one and start practicing.  It can be fun and very rewarding to build your own website.  Good web-designers are often in high demand, and HTML is the way to start!




Once you know how to program in one language, the others become easier and easier to learn.  Eventually, you will be able to pick up new languages as needed depending on the job!  Programming often takes patience, but don't give up!  The feeling you get when a program just works is priceless.  Programming is  a skill that will stay with you for the rest of your life and will only get more valuable with time.