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  1. #1
    SitePoint Evangelist Fergal's Avatar
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    Arrow Preparation for learning PHP - easiest programming language for a beginner to learn?

    I've been trying to learn PHP recently and have come to a bit of a roadblock. Although I have some knowledge of HTML & CSS I'm new to programming and I don't understand the basic terms such as arguments, operators, etc.

    I feel that if I could learn a basic programming language that it is really easy for beginners to get the hang of, that it would give me an overall understanding of programming and hence make it a lot easier to learn PHP.

    Is that a logical approach?

    If so which programming language would be the easiest for a non-programmer to learn? I've been thinking of maybe JavaScript, SQL or Python - but I have no knowledge of any of those languages and have no preference at this time.

    Thanks for your help!
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  2. #2
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    javascript isn't really a programming language, as it applies only to web pages

    sql most certainly is not a programming language

    stick with php, is my advice
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  3. #3
    SitePoint Evangelist Fergal's Avatar
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    Thanks for the advice r937, BTW I've previously purchased your "Simply SQL" book from here in ebook format, but I haven't read it (sorry). Edit The reason I bought it was because I thought it would be a help for when I got into the MySQL part of PHP & MySQL.

    Any other suggestions or opinions would be most welcome.
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    PHP is a great language to learn.

    When I started learning programing languages, I Googled "programing languages" and I liked C++ because it was reportedly more "powerful". It's actually a difficult language, but once you learn it, almost every other language you'll encounter will more than likely have something familiar to you. But, really, PHP is a good place to start, especially if you're in web development.

    Some alternatives would be ASP, Classic or .NET. I always found this hard to get to get my head around. This language is mostly used in the same place as PHP.

    Java, not JavaScript - there's a huge difference. A lot of people start here.

    C, somewhat different than C++, easier to learn.

    Really, just try and learn any object oriented program and you'll be well on your way.

    (Object oriented is the way the language is formed. It holds data in objects. Think tables.)

    Hope this helps.

  5. #5
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    PHP isn't a programming language, it is a scripting language. However, it will introduce you to some basic constructs common across all programming languages such as logical comparisons, operators, loops, objects, and most importantly, algorithm development. You may do things differently in various languages, but there are some commonalities and PHP will allow you to learn them pretty easily.

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    What books have you read or bought already on PHP? If you've not bought any yet, Kevin Yank's "Build Your Own Database Driven Website Using PHP & MySQL 4th Edition" (Build*Your*Own Database*Driven*Web*Site Using*PHP*&*MySQL, 4th Edition - SitePoint Books) is a good book to start with. There is also a course by the author of the above book at Learnable (https://learnable.com/courses/php-my...r-beginners-13).
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  7. #7
    Barefoot on the Moon! silver trophy Force Flow's Avatar
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    PHP will teach you some poor programming habits because it's more forgiving than other languages.

    C#, Java, and C++ are all good starting points.

    I may recommend Java for the sake that many other languages employ similar syntax and structure, and until you determine which type of programming you enjoy most (websites, web apps, applications, etc), Java can accommodate development in all these areas.

    If you are going to start in Java, I'd recommend the latest edition of "Java - An Introduction to Computer Science & Programming" by Walter Savatch.

    But, if you already have an interest in only websites and web site development, then PHP will probably be the quickest way to reach your goal.
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    PHP Guru lampcms.com's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by r937 View Post
    javascript isn't really a programming language, as it applies only to web pages

    sql most certainly is not a programming language

    stick with php, is my advice
    This is completely untrue. First of all JavaScript is a real programming language, a really good one too.

    Second, it's not only in web page. Many new databases now use JavaScript for the "Map/Reduce" instructions. Also there is now a strong server-side JavaScript movement with node.js

    Saying that JavaScript is not a real programming language is showing alot of ignorance.
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  9. #9
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    I would recommend Java because there are many more similarities with it and PHP then c or c++. If your interested in ASP.NET then c,c++,c# would probably be the better route.
    The only code I hate more than my own is everyone else's.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by lampcms.com View Post
    Saying that JavaScript is not a real programming language is showing alot of ignorance.
    thank you for setting me straight

    calling me ignorant, however, shows a complete lack of class on your part

    it's a good thing our paths don't cross too often, because you're rude

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  11. #11
    Barefoot on the Moon! silver trophy Force Flow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lampcms.com View Post
    This is completely untrue. First of all JavaScript is a real programming language, a really good one too.

    Second, it's not only in web page. Many new databases now use JavaScript for the "Map/Reduce" instructions. Also there is now a strong server-side JavaScript movement with node.js

    Saying that JavaScript is not a real programming language is showing alot of ignorance.
    Note that JavaScript requires a fully-fledged application, such as a browser, in order to run. No other languages have this requirement.

    C++, Java and .Net require virtual machines or framework platforms to run, but they do not require other applications for support, unlike with JavaScript.

    So, until you can remove JavaScript's dependency on other applications in order to run, it's technically not a fully-fledged programming language.

    Granted, PHP is also considered a scripting language, but it runs on the server side, rather than the client side. JavaScript is on the client side only.
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  12. #12
    SitePoint Evangelist Fergal's Avatar
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    Thanks very much everyone for your great advice. My main objective is to learn PHP, so that I can first understand how web applications work - for example I own a couple of forums and I want to understand the forum software so that I can better manage and update my sites. Once I have achieved that, I would like to be able to create web applications of my own.

    I've been going through Larry Ullman's PHP for the Web book. The book is great and I believe suitable for beginners because it is focused on PHP only, with just the last 2 chapters delving into MySQL. I thought I was doing well until I got to the chapter on using conditionals "else if" etc, chapter 6. I'm familiar with HTML but no other programming and I am struggling to understand the concepts of conditionals, particularly nesting them.

    I also own a copy of Kevin Yank's ebook, but I thought it would be easier to learn from a book that just covers PHP before a book that covers both PHP and MySQL.

    My plan at the moment is to start the Larry Ullman book again. If I'm still struggling I will probably take a stab at learning Python. Perhaps I'm wrong but I spent some time looking at Python resources on the web last night and IMO they appear to be more geared towards complete beginners. I get the impression that PHP books and tutorials seem to assume more tech knowledge on behalf of the reader.
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    My advice: Pascal. It was pretty much created for the sole purpose of learning programming... It uses verbose names on EVERYTHING, with easier to understand grammar -- letting you learn how things work BEFORE you dive into the world of C Syntax (php is a C syntax language) with it's needlessly cryptic names, operators and grammatical constructs.

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    pascal, ha ha ha ha ha – what a fossil! pascal is just about worthless in this day and age. Learning pascal will make you a fully qualified software archeologist.
    The only code I hate more than my own is everyone else's.

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    Quote Originally Posted by oddz View Post
    pascal, ha ha ha ha ha – what a fossil! pascal is just about worthless in this day and age. Learning pascal will make you a fully qualified software archeologist.
    Wow, No offense, but that's a really ignorant viewpoint as there's PLENTY of modern software out there written entirely in Pascal. You may even have used one without realizing it!

    Avant? (the IE wrapping browser?) Asus Power4Gear? ThinkSQL? Pixel? GBXEmu? FLStudio? PC Tools Spyware Doctor? Inno Setup? CambridgeCAD? MSI Afterburner? MediaMonkey? PE Explorer? MyCORSA? AVS? BitZapper? IMGBurn? Daring Apprentice? Space Rangers 2?

    ... and that's the little stuff... How about Partition Magic? MagicISO? CloneCD? IcoFX? Spybot Search & Destroy? ADAWARE?!? WINRAR?!?

    How about this one: SKYPE?!?

    All those software packages? Written in Delphi... or Lazarus+FPC when there's a cross-platform version. Modern Object Pascal being used to build modern applications... Quite often for multiple platforms at once!

    It goes back to something I've been saying for years, the only thing holding Pascal back was a lack of a decent cross platform compiler. Delphi was a good start to keeping Pascal modern by tossing Visual programming on top of it, but FPC+Lazarus takes that cross platform. There's really little you can do in C or C++ that a modern Pascal compiler like Delphi or FPC can't do.

    More "mainstream" languages could learn a LOT from Pascal -- It has strict typecasting so you'll actually learn how to use values properly (before being unleashed on the "i'm an idiot, what's typecasting?" of PHP), Object pascal dialects have one of the best models for learning objects (and unlike PHP since you have POINTERS it's actually USEFUL as objects). It's a very verbose language making it's syntax naturally clear to users (Unlike say... C or worse, Ruby -- which are needlessly cryptic)... It's not case sensitive, it requires forward declaration of variables meaning you don't have to worry about typo's ever making it past the compiler. All in all it is one of the most sensible languages ever developed. (along with Modula 2 or even better Oberon) .

    The errors not making it past the compiler is a BIG feature when learning, because it will train you to not make those mistakes in the first place as opposed to C where the compiler is very permissive or PHP where things "fail silently" IF THEY FAIL AT ALL. (ooh look, typo you'd never notice just became a new variable)

    Pascal remains the choice of people who would prefer not to have mistakes even make it past the compiler in the first place. Which is probably why for all it's faults, Skype is probably the most stable VOIP application out there.

    ... and Pascal was created by Professor Wirth so you can spend more time learning how to do things instead of wasting time learning all the little cryptic language constructs so common in the various C/AT&T Syntax families.

    Pascal is alive and well... and gaining more users all the time -- hell, Delphi XE2 just launched 3 days ago; FPC's most recent release was in May -- and FPC supports OSX, Haiku, and several ARM platforms including the Nintendo DS and GBA... many commercial DS and GBA games are in fact written in Pascal!

    Worthless you say? I think not.

    Besides, any compiler that can compile itself...

  16. #16
    SitePoint Evangelist Fergal's Avatar
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    Thanks for the suggestion deathshadow60, I'm going to try sticking with PHP for a little while longer and if that doesn't work for me I will look for another more straight forward language to start off with.

    I met with a computer programmer friend yesterday evening and he gave me some great pointers on PHP which were very helpful. I was surprised at how a few minutes of his time made something that appeared really complex in a book, suddenly quite understandable.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Proudirish.com View Post
    I met with a computer programmer friend yesterday evening and he gave me some great pointers on PHP which were very helpful. I was surprised at how a few minutes of his time made something that appeared really complex in a book, suddenly quite understandable.
    You often have to remember that a lot of the books on shelves are decade out of date rot -- Often written for profit instead of education. (funny thing is, the closer you get to a actual schoolbook, the more true that statement is).

    It also doesn't help that a lot of the books are written by die hard coders who don't know how to step back from the geekery, and use things like simile's, or even just plain English to explain things.

    See Objects in PHP -- it's not bad enough it's a incomplete/half-assed job of shoe-horning them into the language, you get a PHP coder trying to explain how it works and your brain will start to shut down.... makes C++ coders sound sane.

  18. #18
    Keeper of the SFL StarLion's Avatar
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    My advice: Dont learn a language.
    Learn to Program.

    Any programming (scripting, whatever) language is just the skin on the logic of your program.

    Programming is 99% theory and 1% syntax.

    If you can look at a problem, and expand it into the pseudocode steps of how to tackle it, then you have learnt how to code. After that, you're just converting your plan into whatever language you choose to enact it.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Force Flow View Post
    Note that JavaScript requires a fully-fledged application, such as a browser, in order to run. No other languages have this requirement.

    C++, Java and .Net require virtual machines or framework platforms to run, but they do not require other applications for support, unlike with JavaScript.

    So, until you can remove JavaScript's dependency on other applications in order to run, it's technically not a fully-fledged programming language.

    Granted, PHP is also considered a scripting language, but it runs on the server side, rather than the client side. JavaScript is on the client side only.
    Node.js would like to have a word with you. Also, Javascript is merely a dialect of EMCA Script, and its cousin Actionscript most certainly runs with no more outside support than what you find in Java. So no, you are dead wrong, Javascript is most certainly a full fledged programming language.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Morris View Post
    Node.js would like to have a word with you. Also, Javascript is merely a dialect of EMCA Script, and its cousin Actionscript most certainly runs with no more outside support than what you find in Java. So no, you are dead wrong, Javascript is most certainly a full fledged programming language.
    Either that, or you have to consider all interpreted languages to not be "real" programming languages -- ROM BASIC, PERL, PHP, RUBY, JAVA, .NET (for all the talk of VM's, they're interpreted). They all require some other piece of software to sit on top of the system changing the code (or bytecode) into native code instead of running directly as native executables.

    Kind of like the XML nudniks who run around calling their bloated formatting "machine readable" -- are the integers stored in 8,16,32 or 64 bit binary? Are the floats in 16, 32 or 80 bit IEEE 754 format? Are the strings stored leading length limited or null terminated? IF the answer is no, then it's NOT machine readable, and requires a PARSER to turn it into something that's machine readable. The ONLY reason to use XML is to be HUMAN Readable. (which is the real laugh of people minifying XML)

    Basically, the same type of logic disconnect... in that way javascript is no more or less of a real language as any other interpreted language.

    Now to wait for some nimrod to chime in with the "those aren't programming languages, they're scripting" nonsense. After thirty five years of programming, I can say with a good degree of certainty that PHP and Javascript qualify as INTERPRETED programming languages. Anyone telling you otherwise is running their mouth about stuff they don't comprehend!

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Morris View Post
    Node.js would like to have a word with you. Also, Javascript is merely a dialect of EMCA Script, and its cousin Actionscript most certainly runs with no more outside support than what you find in Java. So no, you are dead wrong, Javascript is most certainly a full fledged programming language.
    Ding Ding. We have a winner.

    However, I wouldn't suggest learning javascript first. PHP 5.3 is probably the easiest jumping in point to the enterprise world. It is a relevant language to get fast results and caters to design patterns you will find in the enterprise b/c of namespaces and somewhat decent object model.

  22. #22
    Barefoot on the Moon! silver trophy Force Flow's Avatar
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    JavaScript is a different animal...much more so than most other languages. Hence the differing opinions on what to exactly consider it.

    I haven't run into node.js before. It's certainly an interesting concept and appears to address the interesting issue of scaling resources. But--it's not a ready-to-install application like apache or tomcat.

    Yes, technically when you get down to it, most languages either fall into the scripting languages category, interpreted languages category, or the compiled languages category. But that doesn't mean all languages strictly fall into one category or another, as the way they are designed, the attributes they have, and the platforms they run on can make it unclear as to what it is.

    So yes, javascript can be an interpreted language. And yes, it can also be a scripting language. It has elements of both depending upon where it's being used and what it's being used for.
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  23. #23
    Theoretical Physics Student bronze trophy Jake Arkinstall's Avatar
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    All this debate on what makes a programming language is rather entertaining.

    However, it's not to the point. Learning to program is like learning to fix. If you want to fix cars, I wouldn't recommend learning to fix wheelbarrows. Sure, fixing wheelbarrows might have similar tools, and you still use those tools in a similar way (A spanner still goes anticlockwise to undo a bolt) but their overall use is different.

    Of course, the better you are at fixing cars, the better your chances at fixing a wheelbarrow. Someone who's good at DIY will probably pick up motorcycle maintenance faster than someone who isn't.

    If you want to be able to develop websites, learn PHP first. It's well documented and will get you a good start into the programming world. Come up with problems and then find as many solutions as you can. Explore it. Then explore. Then learn Javascript. I suggest PHP before Javascript because many people who do it the other way around take longer to grasp what PHP is actually doing behind the scenes.

    Then move onto whatever floats your boat, I suppose.

    Off Topic:

    Unless of course you want to program for ships. Then floating your boat should be the top priority.
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by iackay View Post
    Ding Ding. We have a winner.

    However, I wouldn't suggest learning javascript first. PHP 5.3 is probably the easiest jumping in point to the enterprise world. It is a relevant language to get fast results and caters to design patterns you will find in the enterprise b/c of namespaces and somewhat decent object model.
    I wouldn't recommend Javascript as a first language because of it uses prototypical inheritance instead of classical inheritance. That is, the way object oriented programming works in javascript can throw you for a real curve ball. Scope is also very tricky in all dialects of EMCA. While these are advanced issues, they are front and center in javascript whereas in PHP they are less pronounced - and PHP uses classical inheritance like most languages.

    Another reason not to take on the javascript bear first is how intimately tied it is to the DOM model. You can't readily learn javascript until you have a concrete grasp of HTML and CSS.

    That said, when the time comes to pick it up it won't be too hard. As with PHP it's a member of the Algol family of languages (C and it's variants and Java also fall in this family). This means the basic syntax of code and control structures remains unchanged between languages for the most part (PHP being the odd man out by using the '\', '->' and '::' operators where other languages use the '.' operator.

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    SitePoint Evangelist Fergal's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone for your replies and suggestions.

    Thanks for the tip deathshadow60, when buying books I always check the publication date. I agree that you can't learn everything from a book, I intend to learn from a book and by actually playing round with the code.

    Quote Originally Posted by StarLion View Post
    My advice: Dont learn a language.
    Learn to Program....
    Thanks StarLion, would you have any suggestions as to how I could go about doing that?
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