INDEX BY: Edition / Title
Beginning programming for Dummies
By Wallace Wang
Published in 2001 by Hungry Minds Inc.
398 pp plus CDROM ISBN 0764508350 £19.99

Beginning programming for Dummies

Having never read a book from the extremely successful ‘for Dummies’ series, I was unsure of the delights that lay beneath the garish cover of ‘Beginning programming for Dummies’.

From page one I felt at ease with the relaxed, chatty style of the book. The approach is a pleasant change to the many ‘self-help’ programming books previously read, some of which feature language that is so dry they leave you reaching for a drink after a few pages.

The book is clearly laid out with an introductory section for each chapter that eases you unsuspectingly into the concepts you are about to learn. However, it is not until chapter 5 that the author introduces the programming language (BASIC) and shareware package (Liberty BASIC) that is used to guide the beginner through the concepts of computer programming.

The CD bundled with the book features various shareware packages that may be useful to the beginner. Within minutes, I had successfully installed Liberty BASIC on a Windows 98 machine. Thirty seconds later I was transported back to an era where disco belts; Rubik’s Cubes and Spandau Ballet were all the rage. I am of course referring to the early 1980s, a time were computers bore the name of the British Broadcasting Company, and a time when I first learnt the BASIC programming language. Each code example is clearly printed, with a ‘blow-by-blow’ explanation of what each line of code achieves, a useful aid to learning programming from the bottom up.

Overall I feel the book clearly defines concepts of computer programming, from the basics to Object Orientating Programming (OOP) and other complex data sorting techniques. Good advice is dispensed throughout, although the book does not answer all questions that may spring to mind. This may be all that can be expected from a ‘beginners guide’, as an amateur programmer I found that I learnt a great deal from the book, filling in gaps in my own knowledge.

My only criticism of the book is that it appears to dedicate too much space for dispensing advice on the ‘Ten Cool Programming Careers’ you may wish to plump for after its reading. Not by any stretch of the imagination could a career be secured in any of the jobs listed at anything other than a junior level, without much greater in-depth study, These pages could have been better utilised for a more in-depth explanation of the various Web programming languages that are loosely detailed in the book. The addition of useful and reusable code examples for web programming may also justify their inclusion in the book.

In conclusion, it is a concise book that could be an extremely useful aid to learning programming concepts for the first time. I would recommend it for both beginners and amateur programmers and tentatively for Year 12 and 13 pupils as a prelude to Visual Basic for Applications. Be aware however that not all techniques examined and detailed for Liberty BASIC can be implemented in any other programming language without considerable further study.

Tim Brown
Student Teacher
Liverpool John Moores University