Original question from Quora:

Coding: I want to learn to code, where should I start in order to have a good backup plan for the future?

JavaScript? CS5? I don’t know anything about these such as pro’s and con’s but I want to be able to contribute to something good like Khan Academy or something along those lines!

My Answer:

I’ve been working professionally the last decade, but I learned when I was maybe 12 or 13 years old. Back then HTML was just HTML. Web apps didn’t exist, and AOL was on version 2.5 I believe. It was a different world.

I learned by picking up Teach Yourself C in 21 days. It was a huge book and I plowed through it. However, that wasn’t the most important way I learned.

The real way I learned to write code is by building things. I wanted to create games, so I learned enough C to be able to create my own version of Pong. Then I worked on Tetris. Eventually I built my own very small version of Final Fantasy.

What I didn’t realize I was doing is I was practicing and getting better and learning important things along the way.

When I got to college, I taught myself how to build web apps using PHP and MySQL. Somewhere in there I learned JavaScript too. The thing is, I didn’t take classes and nobody held my hand.

I only really learned the stuff by building things I wanted to exist.

Years later I know Java, C, C++, Objective-C, Swift, JavaScript, ActionScript, PHP, Ruby, Python, Scala, Kotlin, and more because when you build enough things you learn that the language doesn’t matter.

A language is like a hammer or a screwdriver. It’s a tool. A capable builder can use many tools.

So, don’t worry about learning a particular language. Start with what you want to be able to build. If it’s web apps, pick up PHP and Javascript, if it’s mobile apps learn Java or Swift or C#, if it’s games learn C.

Then just go out and build things. Lots of things. Every day be writing code until you are able to build anything you want to build. It will take years.

Truthfully, the best developers I know aren’t the ones going to code school and taking classes. It’s the builders. People who will stay up til all hours of the night just to build some thing they need to exist. That is what makes a great software developer.

If you are a builder, you’ll learn whatever language and skills you need to be relevant. So, go out and build.

-Brian

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