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The Resources I Used to Learn Python

Last week I explained why I decided to go with Python as my first programming language. Today I want to talk about the resources I used to get started.

Before jumping into code I wanted to get a general picture of what computer science and programming was about. I had some ideas, but I figured it would be a good idea to cross check them. After researching a bit online I found the Wikiversity website, which proved to be very valuable. The website is part of the Wikimedia foundation (the guys behind Wikipedia), and it aims to provide free learning materials and courses.

The course I used there was the Introduction to Computer Science one. After going thought it you should have a good understanding of how computers work, what are algorithms, how to solve problems using computation and so on.

After that I purchased a book called Head First Programming. It aims to teach you the basics of programming while you solve practical problems and tasks. The language used is Python, so it will help you get started with that as well. Costs around $30.

Another very useful book I started reading in parallel was How To Think Like A Computer Scientist. It also uses Python along the way, but it’s open source, so you can read it straight from its website (or even download the PDF).

Once I finished those two books I could already create some basic programs in Python, and I was having a lot of fun doing it. Then I figured it was time to take on something more advanced, and I started looking for online courses from universities.

I came across the MIT Open Courseware program, and decided to follow the Introduction to Computer Science and Programming course. They have all the video lectures, slides and test materials available and completely free.

This course is probably the best introduction to computer science you’ll find anywhere online or offline. You need to understand the basics of programming and have a solid math background to follow it, but if you manage to watch all the lessons you’ll definitely be on the right track to become a real programmer. I was so impressed with the course that I decided to donate money to the MIT Open Courseware program (my name is on their website!).

And that is pretty much all I used to learn Python and programming initially. After that it was just a matter of practicing a lot, coding games, small programs and the like.

Next week I’ll talk about moving from Python to C, and about other books and resources I am using these days. Stay tuned.

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