What Is Coding and Why Should Kids Learn It?

In Brief, coding is the language that allows humans to communicate with computers and to teach the computer new skills. It’s the basis of technologies across a wide array of industries and devices. Those that can’t code only have access to the technology others provide them. But when you can code, technology is yours to invent and control. Kids that learn the skill early will understand it on a very deep level and will be uniquely positioned to benefit in the burgeoning information economy.

Humans use language to communicate. Whether we speak English, Spanish, German, Mandarin, French or any of the other roughly 6,500 languages alive in the world today, the end goal is the same. To share information and experiences with other people.

Computers share information as well. However, computers “speak” a language of 1s and 0s. On and off. The lowest level of language a computer understands is machine code, a purely numerical language. While it’s possible to write programs directly in machine code, the process is extremely challenging and highly prone to errors.

To make life easier, computer scientists have created higher-level computer languages that look more like human language. These act as an intermediary between people and machine code. When these languages are compiled, they are converted into the machine code computers prefer. The process of writing instructions for a computer in one of these assembly languages, and there are quite a lot of them, is called coding.

For a piece of technology, a instruction might be, “When the user presses button two, open a new window, and display the requested information.”

Coding isn’t done in English, of course. It’s written in a coding language. But the process is the same. We write code to tell computers how to do useful things. Without code, and people that know how to write it, computers would be very expensive paperweights.

Coding Drives the World

The software you use on your computer as well as the apps you use on your mobile devices, are all programs that someone had to code. Every bit of software and content you access on the internet is based in code. The very structure of the internet itself is founded in code.

In fact, every piece of technology that we interact with on a daily basis were written with code. Every database, across every industry, from medicine to law, education, government, and energy, were built by coders. It’s not an overstatement to say that today’s global economy, from stock and bond markets, investment banking, monetary funds, and nearly every single retail purchase are influenced both directly and indirectly by the work of smart, industrious, and dedicated coding professionals.