What Is Programming? - Definition & Introduction for Beginning Programmers

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  • 0:05 What is Programming?
  • 1:01 Making Pancakes - An Example
  • 1:50 Programming Pancakes -…
  • 2:34 Programming Pancakes -…
  • 3:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lee Webber

Lee holds a master's degree in Information Systems Management. He has taught college-level computer classes.

This lesson will give a quick but thorough overview of what programming is, what we need to know to program, and the contents of our programming toolbox.


Computers are intended to help people solve problems, from weaving cloth, to doing complex calculations for the Army during WWII, to helping man fly to the moon and back. They are an amazingly useful tool.

But, they're also as dumb as a pile of rocks. By themselves, they only take up space. Friends of mine have referred to them as 'boat anchors' or 'door stops.' By themselves, they are just expensive collections of metal, plastic, and silicon. If that's all they are, how do they do all of the things they do?

The answer is programming. Somewhere, a programmer wrote a program (or a bunch of programs) to tell the computer what to do. As a programmer, your job is to take a problem, break it down into a series of steps, and describe those steps to the computer so it can arrive at a solution to the problem.

Making Pancakes: An Example

Let's look at making pancakes. (And, who doesn't like pancakes?)

I get up on a Saturday morning and decide to go to the Pancake House for pancakes. I go in, get seated, and the server comes up with coffee and takes my order. I ask for pancakes, he writes down my order, and disappears into the kitchen. I sip my coffee a bit, and after a couple of minutes, the server appears with pancakes!

Now, let's say I decide to have my computerized robot make pancakes for me at home. I go down to the kitchen and say, 'Robot, I'd like some pancakes, please!' Nothing happens. So, I say, 'Robot, make pancakes, please!' Nothing.

Finally, Robot says, 'Boss, I don't know how to make pancakes!' I knew I'd forgotten something!

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