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February 5, 2019

Why Everyone Should Learn the Basics of Code

Written by

Matthew Biggins

University of Notre Dame 16'

Coding can seem complex and unapproachable, but it doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to be an engineer at Facebook or programming autonomous vehicles to benefit from learning the basics.

“If you know how to read you can learn how to code.” - Codecademy

Coding is just another language

At its most basic, coding is just another language like Spanish or French. Where French allows you to speak with people from France, learning a computer language allows you to speak with computers. We use these languages (computer or foreign) in order to accomplish something. Maybe we want to get around a foreign city or learn about a street food vendor’s life. Both are objectives speaking a foreign language empowers us to do. Similarly, computer languages allow us to create websites or automate parts of our lives. In both cases, we don’t have to have mastery of a language to use it or appreciate what it can do.

But learning languages is more important than that. They can fundamentally change the way we think. And even affect our ability to save money.

Learning to code is no exception. It provides a completely new way to think about the world and how we approach decision making. As one example, programming forces you to break problems down into simple, clear steps. This type of thinking is equally applicable in social media marketing, philosophy, or construction. These benefits from learning to code will have a direct impact on your career.

Yep, the technology that makes all those possible relies on coding languages. And when something affects everything we do and is going to create the biggest change in our lifetimes, it may be worth knowing a little bit about how it works.

Buying a book?

Paying for groceries at the store?

Receiving unwanted mail at your house? 


One practical example to get you started

Social media. It’s one of the most contentious topics today. Did Russia influence your voting? Are you more lonely now then you were before social media? Does that one product keep following you across the web?

Let’s look at that last one. It’s a bit weird right? You searched for “best travel backpack” on Google and clicked on the first link. A top 10 list. You do research for the next 2 hours before deciding which one to buy. You open up Amazon and order it. Done. Or are you?

Well, Google doesn’t know you ordered that backpack, only Amazon does. As far as Google is concerned, you’re still looking. So now when you go on YouTube, you get backpack ads from some kickstarter product. When you read the latest article on your go-to news site, you get served backpack ads. Finally, as you scroll through Instagram in bed at night, once again you see them: more backpacks.

iXperience Cape Point excursion

iXperience excursion in Cape Point, Cape Town

This mysterious obsession with backpacks is all made possible through cookies. These are packets of code that follow you around as you browse the internet. Some stay put on their own page. Some come along for the ride. They basically document what you are watching or reading and use that to recommend ads you might like. And that’s just on the surface. But even understanding this little bit gives context to that backpack following you around. It becomes less creepy, because you understand it. 

And with about an hour more research, you can learn how to stop cookies from following you. That’s powerful. But it’s just the first step in taking back more control over your life. This is only one example. Learning the basics of code and how programming works will create many similar practical benefits in your everyday life.

Here are good places to start learning these fundamentals.

YouTube channel: Crash Course

iXperience Full Stack Coding Bootcamp

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