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Home Articles C not Tech
 
C Opportunites for not yet Techies

C is probably the most common language used in commercial computer careers programming today. Its object-oriented mutation, C++, is coming on strong. Visual Basic has Microsoft’s official endorsement. Java is officially hot hot hot. But C is still there behind the scenes, plugging away. A basic foundation for modern computing.

Although developed around 25 years ago, it is the language most programmers with computer jobs want to learn. Most commercial software is written in either C or C++

In the Neolithic age of computers, about 1972, the Bell Laboratories wanted a new operating system.

Since Bill Gates had not yet invented Windows, they were struggling along with an operating system written in assembler language. Because of the limited raw computing power of those machines, the high level programming languages of that time were not efficient enough to provide an operating system.

Remember, assembler language is barely one step up from the strings of 0000s and 1111s that is machine language, the actual bits of data that the computer processes. Assembler uses very low-level, short and cryptic commands. It is a nightmare to maintain and even worse to update.

Bell wisely wanted to get aware from using assembler language as an operating system, but at that time there was no high level programming language that could cope with it. So, being techies – even though at that time being a techie was NOT in or cool or a sure ticket to wealth -- they developed a brand new high level language.

The actual inventors were Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie (well known as K&R). Supposedly they developed but threw away two prior attempts, A and B.

C was the keeper.

As a high level programming language, it is easy to maintain and upgrade, yet it runs almost as efficiently as assembler language. A program could run nearly 10 times as quickly as an equivalent COBOL program. In those primitive pre-Pentium III days, that was important. It rapidly replaced Pascal in popularity, and even today is challenged only somewhat by Visual Basic.

(By the way, the operating system that it was used to write as a result of this project has become rather important and well known in its own right – Unix. But that’s another story.)

It is considered somewhat "cryptic," because it uses relatively few words, but many letters and operators. It has only 32 keyword commands, compared to COBOL which has over a hundred. It does have more operators than almost any other programming language.

Just think of it this way – it concentrates on verbs instead of nouns.

To use it you need a computer program called a compiler. The compiler takes the program which you wrote and can understand, and turns it into the actual 000s and 111s, which the computer understands. Visual C is one of the most popular compiler programs.

It is not the easiest or fastest language to learn, but if you are an aspiring programmer, it deserves your serious attention and consideration. Most professional programmers know more than one language, and it is usually one of those. Even if you get hired to program Visual Basic or Java, chances are good you’ll be expected to be at least familiar with it.

It is taught to computer science students in college, but unless you’re really attracted to getting a degree, you want to find a more money and time efficient route to learn it for your new computer career.

You can find classes in just about any junior college, technical school or computer school. There are many online classes. Some people learn it from books or CD-ROMs. It is not a language you are going to master in "24 hours" or even "21 days," although I like the Sams Teach Yourself Books.

No matter how you choose to learn it plan on investing in reference books and a compiler program. Plan on spending a set number of hours every weeknight evening, or weekend, or whenever your personal schedule allows.

After you’ve learned the basics, network with programmers, both online and offline. Find your local users group and attend their meetings. Visit C web sites, subscribe to email listserves and participate in discussion groups on this computer career.

Copyright 2000 by Info Ring Press Computer Careers

   All Rights Reserved.

C for Not yet Techies

Info Ring Press

Richard Stooker
PO Box 2828
3432 Louisiana Ave
St. Louis, MO 63111
(314) 664-1329
Fax: (208) 330-9073

rick@inforingpress.com


 
 
 
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