Why Java as the First Language May Not Be For You

Why Java as the First Language May Not Be For You

I am no longer keeping Week # due to the increased time commitments for other activities. I will try to update the blog at least weekly regardless though.

If you look at Stanford’s introductory computer programming course called CS 106A Programming Methodology, the language used there is Java. It’s not just Stanford though – many institutions use Java as the language for introductory computer programming course. After all, Java is still one of most popular languages in programming, and despite some security risks, it is a great language that teaches fundamental concepts as well as complicated syntax. In addition, it is actually applicable, so it’s not like you are spending time learning about BASIC in 2013 only to find out that most people don’t use it anymore.


Image is credited to Hidden Discoveries.

So, why am I saying Java may not be the first language for you?

Before I go onto that, let me further give another evidence of Java being dominant in programming. Current AP Computer Science exam for high school students tests Java – so again, there you have it. Java’s everywhere. I’m not saying C or C++ isn’t, but Java is often seen as the programming language for beginners regardless of the age.

Now, my argument is not for people in educational setting. Regardless of your textbook or institution, if you are learning Java under the guidance of a teacher/professor, there is no reason not to learn Java first. It will be difficult, but at least you will know how fast/slow you will go and have to do interesting and challenging projects to build your skills.

My focus is in people with ZERO programming background.

Let me say this in advance though: you CAN learn Java without programming background, and I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t. If you are capable of doing so, you should. But, for many people, Java is a daunting language. Even seeing public void main and other syntax can/will confuse people. I’m not saying they should go to C or C++ here, but rather, simpler choices than Java.

In my opinion, people should first review HTML and CSS to get better feel for how coding works. HTML and CSS are not really “programming” languages, but getting used to typing (), {}, and [] takes sometime to get used to, and HTML and CSS are just easy to approach. And, there are definitely commercial markets for these two skills regardless of where you may end up, so it’s a good place to start.

Once people have mastered HTML and CSS, they can return to Java, and in my opinion, this will be much better than just jumping straight into Java. Of course, there still remains some steep learning curve, such as trying to use Eclipse IDE, but overall, they will at least be familiar with text editor like Notepad++ for Windows or Sublime Text 2 for Mac. I must note that my suggestion for this isn’t to say web design skills lead to better programming, but simply, just the experience of typing like programmers/coders do. The mindset for web design and programmers is far from being similar, and I certainly do not plan to get into that at the moment.

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