Monday 8 September 2014

The Beauty of Code

Recently it has become quite trendy to argue that learning how to write computer code is an important part of a broad education. I understand the aspiration, but the reality is that learning to write in a computing language is quite demanding and on the whole is only worth it if there is a substantial problem you need to solve. 

I used to write C code to solve problems in image and data analysis and for Monte Carlo simulations. I developed my own programming style, influenced largely by the Numerical Recipes books. 

When you have a problem to solve and you solve it by writing code it can be a very satisfying experience. The focused concentration required to balance the logical constraints of the computing language (essentially mathematical logic) and the needs of the problem counts for me as an example of really creative work. 

One of the best essays I have ever read on writing computer code has just been published by Vikram Chandra on The Paris Review (HERE). It is an extract from his book Geek Sublime.

This essay does not pre-suppose that you have programmed anything, yet somehow communicates something of the flavour of the activity.

Image copyright M.G. Reed 2014