Why I Code

The language of our 21st century

Coding. Imagine a man in his 20’s wearing distinct round frame glasses who sits in front of four intimidating monitors with a lot of green text on a black background in a dark room — like the stereotypical coding scene right out of The Social Network. And that geek, who types faster than the fastest typist ever born, is probably some variation of Mr. Gates, Jobs, or Zuckerberg; or perhaps a morphed version of all of those technology icons.

This very activity which seems so far fetched and beyond our abilities is sidelined for other more “prevalent” topics, such as liberal arts and mathematics; yet coding is ubiquitous in the 21st century. Society wrongfully considers coding as the court language among the tech-savvy nobility. Society exclusively designates a coder as a person who seems to have settled in this fully enlightened state of the information era, and is prepared to ascend into the computer Nirvana. Society disregards coding as complicated, without the slightest reconsideration. However, I am a rebuttal to these beliefs. I am no prodigy. I am no “genius kid.” Yet I found myself to be a programmer.

And I love coding.

I, a child thrust into this computer oriented world, was pulled not towards music, but towards the computer. At the time, computer games almost controlled my mind as I endlessly consumed virtual “sprites” and explosion animations from Call of Duty. I knew little about the making of these explosions, nor did I care. In fact, it took me several years before I actually understood the difference between producing apps and consuming games.

The catalyst, like all commonly known sources of inspiration, was my father. While watching a documentary on Silicon Valley with me at the age of seven, he turned to me and asked, “What if you could make your own computer games like the ones you constantly play?” And with this question, he sent me off to a never-ending journey to search for more computer enlightenment.

But in the beginning, I hated coding. The influx of class names, the overbearing amount of variables, and even the restrictive syntax rules were far too complex for me to comprehend. However, the call to code pushed me; that call to “make your own computer games” resonated in my young mind. Yet I couldn’t decipher the sea of semicolons and curly braces within the textbooks that my dad bought; my lack of understanding drove me to frustration and anger. I complained about the computer’s stupidity and how inflexible it was to accept any instructions. The concept of the array, the jargon of “primitives”, and the logic of the control flow seemed so anfractuous. What’s the difference between a “strong” variable and a “weak” variable? What’s the difference between a Double and a Float? Auto-layout? Instance variables? Exceptions? When I seek help, why do Q&A sites regard me as so much more inferior than I actually am?

I continuously complained about the complexity of coding, but I never gave up. Eight years ago, I dreaded touching a code editor, but now, I finally understand the flaw that prevented me from truly excelling in my passion. In the random discussions I have with people on the street or with Uber drivers, they all complain of how much they want to “make apps,” and their common excuse is how different coding is from “everything else.” Like these other people, I was once so encapsulated in the voices of others telling me how hard coding is — how coding was a completely different field. Except unlike them, I now understand that coding is no more complex than learning another language. Perhaps learning Spanish or Chinese is also difficult, but we never look at learning these languages as impossible as we do with learning how to code. After all, learning how to code is to learn the language of the computer.

But why is it important to even consider programming? Why learn a new language if you can’t talk to anyone with it? Why do I even care about coding even to this day? So let me ask you: why do people read newspapers? Its because current issues impact us, just as the omnipresent code impacts us as well. The big-brother “Skynet” from the movie series, Terminator, perfectly describes the degree to which we rely on technology, and thus, coding. Any book I study from, any calculator I calculate expressions on, or even any piece of clothing I wear is a product of our computerized society. That fundamental understanding gave me further insight into my world and how every computer in this world came to be. I started to appreciate the overbearing complexity that computers encompass, just as knowledge of Latin gives people insight in English, math gives society understanding of economics, and history gives others hints on not only the past and the present, but also the future.

Nevertheless, my reason for coding is not solely for further enlightenment. I had the knowledge of coding, but why did I continue? I have achieved a greater understanding of technology’s roots, but why is it my addiction? It’s because of the satisfaction of being able to make something truly extraordinary, easily. In fact, the only barriers from me and a potential product are my intelligence and a good idea. I don’t even need to repeatedly spend money on prototypes, a resource that I don’t regularly have — especially because I’m still a child. I wanted to benefit society with my newfound coding skills; so I did.

Back in 2013, I released my first debut app, ASCVD Risk Prevention Suite. Its subject and purpose were to help doctors calculate the risk of heart disease in patients. However, this one moment during my app’s pregnancy allowed me to experience the “high” that existing coders share — the high that I found myself hooked on.

It was around three in the morning, when I was trying to make my four day deadline for the release. The programmer’s worst nightmare, a bug, lingered in my code and was driving me absolutely insane. I gripped my scalp, disappointed, frustrated, and close to becoming a murderer. I grumbled and threw pencils around the room to make my anger tangible. I was certain that I was never going to be able to release this app in time.

Suddenly, a lightbulb exploded in my brain. That flash of ideas illuminated my face and I jumped. My fingers began to fly, searching for the bit of code that popped up in my head.

And so, I saw the solution.

I quickly filled in that void in my code. The unclarity in my instructions which confused my computer was patched with one line of code. And of course, that one line of code, that latch that Pandora was never able to find on her box, perfectly silenced the wails of my compiler. It was perfect.

That moment. To find the perfect solution to a flagrant problem. To see that green, comforting checkmark on the screen flicker. To make my product, or I should say, my baby, whole again.

That is my addiction.

But my greatest satisfaction of coding is more profound and much more significant. After fixing that bug, I released my app that morning at around five in the morning. All my hard work payed off; in three weeks, my app had over 10,000 downloads, racked up over 50 reviews averaging five stars, and hit the top charts of the Appstore’s medical category. However my satisfaction didn’t only come from the popularity of my app; it came from the knowledge that doctors and entire cardiology departments were using it as a point-of-care tool to improve patient welfare and to make smart clinical decisions. With coding, I have created something which has directly impacted the world. All with the stroke of the keyboard. All by myself.

Programming is no more than a separate set of languages to communicate not with people, but with computers. Programming is an activity no harder than making a sentence by selecting a simple subject and adding a predicate to the end of it. Programming is the most prevalent language on this Earth. Yet that thrill of problem solving-that adrenaline of making something big. That paternal satisfaction of fathering a great innovation is so powerful, it makes me want more.

Think again before saying that coding isn’t for you.

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