The true power of programming languages is in their libraries

A few snippets taken from this insider’s view of what it is to be a coder in the industry.

“The true measure of a language isn’t how it uses semicolons; it’s the standard library of each language. A language is software for making software. The standard library is a set of pre-made software that you can reuse and reapply.  Take Python, which is “batteries included,” meaning that it comes with tons of preexisting code, organized into “modules,” that you can reuse. Its standard library has functions that let you copy Web pages or replace words in a document.  I am made of code, and I have a standard library of functions of my own. Sliders and buttons and timers can get wired up to anything on the page, because the page and every object on it is code, too.”

“What does that mean, to process text? Well, you might have a string of text (The Quick Brown Fox) and save it in a variable called my_string. So now you can call standard methods on that string. You can say my_string.lower(), and it will make all the words lowercase, producing “the quick brown fox.”  Truly understanding a language’s standard library is one of the ways one becomes proficient in that language. Typically you just visit Web pages or read a book.  But the standard library is only the beginning. For many languages—and Python is exemplary—there’s an enormous library of prewritten modules available for nearly instantaneous download, using “package manager” software. A module (or library, or package) is code that is intended to extend a language’s capabilities.”

“A coder needs to be able to quickly examine and identify which giant, complex library is the one that’s the most recently and actively updated and the best match for his or her current needs. A coder needs to be a good listener.”

Paul Ford (2015) What is code? Bloomberg.


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