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Programming Lingo

Some people take to computers like fish in water, while others find themselves scratching their heads, or worse yet, afraid to touch their machines for fear they'll mess something up. As always, the key to mastering the situation is to learn as much as you can.

Laymen's Terms

A good place to start in is on the subject of computer programs. You've heard of computer programs and you've heard of a job called computer programming, but you have no idea what these expressions mean. Here are some computer terms translated into laymen's terms that should help simplify things for you:

*Computer Program-A computer program is a group of instructions for your computer to execute. The instructions can have any focus. For instance, the program may tell your computer to add up a long column of sums, or the program may tell your computer to figure out the percentage of guests invited to your party who don't care for asparagus. Just as your washing machine manual tells you how to wash a load of clothing, a computer program tells your computer how to do something. The computer follows the instructions in the program to the letter and there is a meaningful result.

*Programming Language-In order to read that washing machine manual, you need the manual to be written in your own language: English. Your computer also speaks a language, in fact, several languages. The computer program will have to be in one of these languages in order for your computer to understand the instructions it is given. Here are some of the more well-known programming languages: Java, Perl, C++, C, Pascal, Basic, Cobol, and Fortran. These languages are variations on a theme and all impart similar concepts.

File Tags

*Compiler-The compiler translates characters a human can read into a computer language that your computer can read as executable commands. You might have come across files on your computer that end with the extension: EXE. This file "tag" stands for the word executable. That means the file has been translated from language that humans can read and has become legible to computers.

*Bugs-When a computer program doesn't work as it should, it is said to have "bugs." The problem may lie in the inability of the program to compile or become a computer-readable and executable set of instructions. Or the problem might be that the outcome or end product of the computer program is not what was meant to occur.

Most programs contain bugs when they are first created and the computer programmer may spend most of his time refining the programs he produces and ridding them of such bugs. This is called "debugging."


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