Background

This page represents the middle of the book. The pages before it cover whatís new and hot about computers. The pages after it cover the eternal truths.

10 years from now, the stuff in the first half of the book will be considered "obsolete". The stuff in the second half of the book will be considered "still true".

This page is your introduction to eternity.

Why program?

We begin our look at eternal truths by studying programming. Of the 8 sections that make up this book, the section on programming is the longest: 251 pages! Itís the bookís deepest and most thorough adventure. Itís the adventure that does the most to expand your mind and turn you into a brilliant thinker. Hereís where your careerís long-term growth gets its biggest boost.

Hereís where you learn the secret of computer life! You learn how to take a computer ó which is just a hunk of metal and plastic ó and teach it new skills, by feeding it programs. Your teaching and programs turn the computer into a thinking organism. If you teach the computer well, you can make it become as smart as you and even imitate your personality. You become the computerís God, capable of making the computer do anything you wish. Ah, the power!

Folks who read just the first half of this book are at the mercy of Microsoft and other money-grubbing companies: whenever those unfortunate folks want to make the computer do something, they must buy a program that teaches the computer how. If computer stores donít carry a program for that particular task ó or if the programís price is unaffordable ó those folks are out of luck.

But once you learn how to program, youíre lucky! You can make the computer do anything you want! All you need is the patience and perseverance to finish writing your program. And if you ever get stuck, phone me anytime at 617-666-2666 for free help.

When you finish writing your program, you can sell it to the idiots whoíve read just the first half of the book ó and youíre on your way to turning yourself into the next Microsoft.

Itís easy

Programming the computer can be easy. Youíll write your own programs just a few minutes from now, when you reach page 332! As you read farther, youíll learn how to write programs that are more sophisticated.

Computer languages

To program a computer, you put your fingers on the computerís keyboard and type commands. You type the commands in English.

The computer understands just part of English; it understands just a few words and phrases. The words and phrases the computer understands are called the computerís language.

Most computers understand a language called BASIC. It consists of words such as PRINT, INPUT, IF, and THEN.

To begin, Iíll explain how to program the computer by using those BASIC words. Afterwards, Iíll explain how to use different computer languages instead.

For example, Iíll explain how to program the computer by using a language called C. In C, you must say "printf" instead of "PRINT", and you must say "scanf" instead of "INPUT".

Notice that C appeals to dirty minds who like to say "f" words! Another reason why programmers use C is that programs written in C run faster and consume less RAM than if written in BASIC.

But letís start with BASIC, which is pleasantly human, easy, and tasteful.

Why learn so many languages?

Programmers love to argue about which language is best. BASIC is easy to learn. C runs quickly and consumes less RAM. DBASE includes extra words that help manipulate databases. PASCAL lets you organize your thinking better. LOGO fascinates kids by showing turtles move across the computerís screen. FORTRAN handles complex numbers used by engineers. COBOL handles the giant accounting tasks faced by big banks, insurance companies, and the IRS. Thousands of other languages have been invented, too!

Each language continually improves by stealing words from other languages ó just as we English speakers stole the word "restaurant" from the French, and the French stole the word "weekend" from us.

Because of the mutual stealing, computer languages are becoming more alike. But each language still retains its own "inspired lunacy", its own weird words that other languages havenít copied yet.

This book turns you into a complete expert by teaching you how to program in many languages, so you become multilingual!

Learning a new language affects your way of thinking. For example, most Americans think cockroaches are disgusting; but when a German housewife sees a cockroach, she just giggles, because she thinks of the German word for "cockroach", which is "küchenschabe", which means "kitchen scraper", "a cute little thing that sweeps the kitchen". Yes, even the ugliest problems look cute when you know how to express your thoughts multilingually!

Each language adds new words to your vocabulary so you gain new ways to express your problems, solutions, and thoughts about them. When you face a tough programming problem and try to reduce it to words the computer understands, youíll think more clearly if youíre multilingual and mastered enough vocabulary to turn the vague problem into precise words quickly.

An expert programmer can boil complex hassles down to a series of simple concepts. To do that, you need on the tip of your tongue the words defining those simple concepts. The more computer languages you study, the more words youíll learn, so you can quickly verbalize the crux of each computer problem and solve it.