Archive for the ‘python’ Tag

Finally learning a new language

Having promised myself that I’d pick a new skill during the period of passivity occasioned by the pandemic, I eventually started a concerted effort to get a new programming language under my belt. Like a lot of people my age I started life with BASIC, in my case via a batch service when I was at school followed by typing programs in labriously on an Amstrad CPC-464 and hoping they were saved by the tape machine afterwards. I carried on with BASIC on an RM 380Z while at college – principally to produce fixture tables for our hockey team.

Once I moved into the world of work I picked up FORTRAN for my first job as a trainee actuary – principally used in the valuation of pension funds using a sophisticated underlying suite originally running on a Pr1me mainframe, subsequently replaced by an IBM 4341 and a rapid conversion to VS/Fortran under VM/CMS. At that point I changed jobs and REXX became my lingua franca and has remained so for the 35-plus subsequent years. Yes, I’m not really a programmer, just a dabbler. REXX has probably encouraged a certain laissez-faire attitude. It has no form of data typing (actually it’s dynamic), very freeform syntax, and not very many native instructions. It’s original purpose was a scripting language for IBM’s VM operating system, and for the purposes I’ve used it, it’s been more than adequate. My main use currently is to produce the (static) web pages that represent my list of amateur orchestras in the UK.

Consequently picking another language to learn has exposed my somewhat homespun approach until now. I’ve decided not to stray too far from what I know, and take on Python. I’ve started out by following the edX course “Computing in Python”, and it’s been an education! I did think of simply trying to understand how to replicate my REXX efforts into Python, but decided that it would make more sense to understand properly how Python works. Next week I’ll be looking at “Data Structures”…