Keele University - Study online

Why programming is important

Posted on: March 15, 2022
Programmer sat in front of a computer with two screens

Computer programmers are responsible for the smooth running of every device you use, website you visit, and app that you download. The digital landscape is created and moulded by data structures and scripting languages in which programmers are fluent.

Programming is also an increasingly important and desirable skill set because breakthroughs in machine learning and artificial intelligence have led to automation which improves many everyday processes. Computers use language processors called compilers that convert the command lines written in high-level languages like Python or Java into the zeros and ones of binary. Creating algorithms which computers can read and learn from helps them to identify certain patterns. Computers can now “see” by using image classification, and the more a computer learns about the details of what it’s looking for, the more accurate the results become.

One of the more extraordinary stories around the use of AI in this way is that of BakeryScan, a computer that can identify the hundreds of bakery items available in Japanese bakeries simply by scanning them at the till. It’s a project that took five years to implement by Brain Co. but the technology has now been used to identify cancer cells in the human body with a 98% success rate. This is a useful example of how an innovative approach to something fairly mundane can result in a technology which can easily be repurposed to do something remarkable.

What are programming languages?

Programming languages are used to write lines of code that create a set of instructions which computers can then convert and read. Coders use programming languages in software development and software engineering to solve complex problems. 

There are many different programming languages that can be used for various types of projects depending on requirements. Some of the most popular are described below:

Python

Python programming is widely used and is regarded as a language that’s easy to learn. This is due to its simple syntax, the fact that it offers a large selection of standard libraries and toolkits, and it offers integration with other popular programming languages such as C and C++. Many coders say that Python is the most intuitive of programming languages, which is why it wins out over new languages. Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are some brands that use Python for AI.

Javascript

This is one of the core languages that built the world wide web more commonly referred to as the internet. The other languages used in web development are CSS and HTML. In a survey carried out in the final quarter of 2021, JavaScript was named the most popular programming language in the world with more than 16.4 million users. Although Python was the second most popular by a wide margin, it has seen 25% growth in users in one year alone. The boom in data science and machine learning has contributed to Python’s popularity.

MATLAB

MATLAB is designed to operate principally on whole matrices and arrays. Other programming languages predominantly work with numbers one at a time. An abbreviation of “matrix laboratory”, MATLAB was first created as a matrix programming language. It is primarily used in engineering problems. The MATLAB and Simulink user community allows coders to share their work and collaborate. One of the most exciting possibilities that MATLAB could facilitate is the use of AI to revolutionise the semiconductor industry.

SQL

SQL stands for Structured Query Language and is a domain-specific language that lets a computer communicate with a relational database used for storing, sorting, and retrieving data. Huge amounts of data requires huge processing power. Something like IBM Db2 Big SQL supports this as a massively parallel processing (MPP) SQL-on-Hadoop engine. SQL is used on everything from government websites to ecommerce sites to filter and segment user data.

Ruby

Within the same category of interpreted languages as Python, Ruby is used on websites such as Airbnb, Kickstarter, Twitter, Shopify, and Github. Ruby tends to be used when there is more than one equally good way of doing the same thing. Rails is also a Ruby framework that is much in demand with start-ups. Just like Python, Ruby is a dynamic, object-oriented programming language. Python is often the preferred language when there is only one route to solving the problem.

HTML

HTML is known as a markup language used to structure web pages. HTML builds the structure of your content, for example, creating paragraphs, bullet points, headers, hyperlinks, and images. The different elements of a page can be manipulated to create the most intuitive and helpful user experience. This is sometimes referred to as content design and requires input from writers, designers, and programmers.

CSS

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is a rule-based language that describes the presentation of a document written in a markup language like HTML, SVG or XML. Whereas HTML is more about the architecture of the page, CSS creates the style of the page. Debugging in CSS can be slightly more complex than in other languages as it is not a scripting language so something like DevTools in Chrome can be used to inspect elements.

C, C++, and C#

C# is a general-purpose programming language originally designed by Anders Hejlsberg when he was at Microsoft. It became international standard in 2002. It is part of the C programming language family which is used to programme the open-source operating system Linux. C++ is an extension of C and similarly has quite a complex syntax meaning that it’s probably not the best choice for learning programming. C is an older programming language that offered a foundation for the likes of Python, Ruby, and PHP.

Is programming a good career?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted 21% growth in software programming jobs from 2018 to 2028. In the UK, London was named the digital capital of Europe in July 2021, thanks to the UK being the base for 100 tech unicorns (businesses valued at more than $1 billion) at the time, 60 of which were located in London. By the end of the year, this number had reached 116 and data showed that start-ups had a record-breaking year raising £26 billion, double the previous year’s figures. Cambridge is the leading regional tech city in the UK, followed by Manchester.

Be part of the exciting growth in this sector with an MSc Computer Science with Data Analytics. Find out how to learn and progress with this 100% online master’s from Keele University.

Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework – Also Top 5 in the UK (THE ranking broad based universities)
97% of research ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally important’ (latest Research Excellence Framework)
Top 3 in UK for business and administrative courses (PTES 2019)
96% Graduate Employability (HESA - Destination of Leavers from Higher Education 2017)

Quick Links