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metallicsoul92

Thinking like a programmer

16 posts in this topic

Hey guys, i have been programming for the last year and a half, I am fluent in c++ and I am almost fluent in Java. However, the problem isn't learning the syntax for these languages, its learning to think like a programmer. Does anybody have anything they can recommend me doing to start thinking like a programmer?
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I am not sure how someone cannot think like a programmer after becoming fluent in a programming language. I guess you could try looking at things and thinking how you could program how they would work. Like if you see something swinging think about the algorithm you would use to make something do that. Or if you see a math equation think about how you program that to work out. If you are into game development, think about how you could create something you see and what kind of methods you would use. Other than that I think it is something that would just come to you with the more time you spend programming. I can't help but think like a programmer all the time and sometimes it is annoying. The reason I say annoying is because if I see something and get an idea, I cannot stop thinking about it till I get it down on code.
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There's no one way to think as a programmer. One good thing to do is familiarize yourself with the different [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programming_paradigm"]programming paradigms[/url] like [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Object-oriented_programming"]object oriented[/url] and [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procedural_programming"]procedural programming[/url].
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Solve lots of problems, think about how to solve lots of different types of problems. Read lots of stuff about programming. Be good at math and understanding mathematical languages. Write programs and read programs. Never stop learning.
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Think, program, rethink how to improve you programed, program again to improve, rethink again, an endless loop and you will grow endlessly.
During that endless loop, reading some kind of good books on design patterns and refactoring may help you too.
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[quote name='wicked357' timestamp='1300840888' post='4789343']
I am not sure how someone cannot think like a programmer after becoming fluent in a programming language. I guess you could try looking at things and thinking how you could program how they would work. Like if you see something swinging think about the algorithm you would use to make something do that. Or if you see a math equation think about how you program that to work out. If you are into game development, think about how you could create something you see and what kind of methods you would use. Other than that I think it is something that would just come to you with the more time you spend programming. I can't help but think like a programmer all the time and sometimes it is annoying. The reason I say annoying is because if I see something and get an idea, I cannot stop thinking about it till I get it down on code.
[/quote]


im talking about how to go about doing something. I wanna write a game:
so i first think ok the game needs :
graphics,
sound,
physics,
user input
etc.

after that its a blur, on how to do go about putting everything together
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I tend to think one thing a lot of formal methods of teaching technical skills (the programming aspects of CS or engineering in large part) lacks is any instruction in creativity/design thinking. I am myself educated as a computer engineer, and there's something we tend to say from time to time and that is that one "thinks like an engineer" or doesn't. Perhaps its something that isn't really teachable, I don't know. I think the same basic way of thinking applies to programming. This is not to say you can't be a good programmer without this, but it works through a different mechanism.

A lot of people, including myself, describe thinking "like an engineer" or "like a programmer" as being able to sort of "feel" a problem and visualize its parts as well as possible solutions instead of the mathematical approach they tend to teach which is very paper-oriented and manual -- focused largely on canonical forms for things and "rules" rather than organic and creative design and problem solving. Its a peculiar ability, to be able to sense the scope and details of a project as if it were a physical object with parts which can be removed and moved around. Honestly, I don't think it is related to the knowledge of any language or method in any direct way. This is also why I tend to think that design based technical fields are not so mathematical and structured as many believe or would teach you -- rather there is plenty of room for creativity and organic development though it manifests differently than painting a picture or writing a book. Sorry for rambling, just my quick $0.02
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[quote name='metallicsoul92' timestamp='1300856908' post='4789406']
im talking about how to go about doing something. I wanna write a game:
[...]

after that its a blur, on how to do go about putting everything together
[/quote]
Unfortunately, that is something you'll really only get a good handle on through experience. Choose an approachable game idea -- if this is your first game I would recommend something reasonably simple such as Pong or Tetris -- and set about trying to make it. Make sure you create a complete game, including the actual gameplay, menus, high-scores, pause screens, etc. Along the way you'll be forced to come up with ways to approach putting the whole thing together, and can ask for help or feedback on the areas that you can't figure out or where your own solutions seem sub-optimal.

Learn by doing. Hope that helps! [img]http://public.gamedev.net/public/style_emoticons/default/smile.gif[/img]
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As others have stated, make programs. But start small. Tinker as much as you can.
Thinking as an engineer comes with practice, but sometimes I feel it's really a gift. I've seem so many people totally puzzled and stunned when facing a simple logical problem. I had no problems with that, because I played Lego and built stuff since I was 5...

So just make stuff and you should be fine.
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[quote name='szecs' timestamp='1300866459' post='4789436']
because I played Lego and built stuff since I was 5...
[/quote]

Heh, me too. :)
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There is no single way to think like a programmer. A lot of it depends on the type of person you are.

There is also no single way to program or solve a programming problem. Anytime someone says this is the "right" way to do something, you should be secptical, because right is all in the eyes of the beholder. The same goes with the "best language" arguments.

The question you should be asking yourself is; "If someone gives me a problem to solve in code, can I?"
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My "thinking like a programmer" has evolved over my time spent programming. The more diverse project, problems and tools I'm exposed to the better I seem to get at it. Start writing code, and finishing projects. Finishing projects is important because unfinished projects are often indicative of problems you aren't comfortable with or tools you aren't aware of yet.
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I find it helps to do everything in powers of two.

For example my lunch today was a double cheeseburger with 128 french fries and 1 liter of cola. Then I brushed my teeth using 512 strokes, smoked 4 cigarettes, and was ready to code for several hours.

:D
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I think the first step towards thinking like a programmer is, after waking up every morning, immediately start questioning why you woke up. The next step would probably be to start crying and hitting the whiskey.



(A more serious answer might be: Most programmers think like programmers. Instead of being like everyone else, learn to NOT think like you're trapped in your specific problem domain. This is how you develop unique ideas).
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