Larry Wall: Computer Programming in 5 Minutes

Video Transcript

Well I can I can certainly try. Computer programming is really a lot like writing a recipe.  If you’ve read a recipe you know what what the structure of a recipe is.  It’s got some things up at the top that are the your ingredients and below that the directions for how to deal with those ingredients.

Well it’s very similar thing happens in a computer program. You have you list out the various things that you’re going to be dealing with typically and then you have some instructions that say what to do with those ingredients. So if you can understand a recipe and follow it in in your kitchen then you could program on that level but you can take it a lot farther than that.

You know many of you I’m sure have seen the the Iron Chef show.   I love to watch that especially if they are given strange ingredients and I’m not sure I would like trout ice cream either.  But one of the things that happens there if you if you follow along is that the Iron Chef or whoever the chef is doesn’t actually do all the work.  They have what are called sous chefs that they farm out subdivide the jobs to and they’ll do the kind of busy work and programming is kind of like that.

You are the the head chef but there are bits and pieces of the computer out there that will do things for you. Now it’s not quite like iron chef because iron chef you have some fairly intelligent sous chefs who know how to boil an egg or or chop up a fish, but your computer tends to be more like a bunch of really efficient robots.  Unfortunately they’re very stupid robots and very literal-minded.  So you have to at some level you know tell them exactly what to do.  Yet once you’ve told them that you can just point to the robot and it’ll do the same thing over and over and over again and do it exactly the same. Computers like that that’s how they are valuable.  It’s sort of take over all the boring bits of our thinking and then you can kind of take it beyond that.

Instead of just thinking of yourself as the chef that’s in control. Sometimes you want to program more like you’re thinking about how the food actually goes through the process and maybe even take it up a notch.  Say here’s a factory that produces some food item Twinkies or whatever and you have raw ingredients coming in it’s.  Assuming you think Twinkies or food you have raw ingredients coming in and they go on various conveyor belts and get chopped up in various ways and they get recombined.   There’s this flow of the materials through the factory and eventually comes back out with a some sort of a product that we consider to be food.

So there’s programming languages that work like that too that are more about you just talk about how the data runs around in the in the program.  For instance your Excel spreadsheet you’re putting data into little cells and you have other cells that say well just take take make a little conveyor belt of these cells and add them up in this cell.  You’re really doing programming even if you think you’re just writing Excel macros.  So that’s like a little little Factory on your on your desktop they’re now going beyond that!

There’s various ways that you can get into you know sort of more highfalutin concepts that you would learn if you were taking a computer science degree. So the whole idea of programming on this level is you’re saying one thing some abstract thing and that controls a bunch of other things.  So the next step that happens is that instead of just thinking about data as the pieces of things you’re working with you know as strings, decks, phone numbers whatever.  You start thinking about those those bits of recipe and those recipes can also be considered data and can be sent around on the conveyor belt in your factory.  So it’s like little little conveyor that you might have in your cafe you put put little things up there that order things up.  So when you start talking about actions and abstracting them.

That you can start talking about doing them multiple times and looping and this action may do this action.  Which might come back and do the thing and you get a recursive sort of fractal pattern and so this this is these are the basis of the more mathematical views of programming.  But you know you don’t have to do all that at the beginning you can just start off with a simple recipe ID and add things on as you go and learn as you go and then you’ll do fine!



If you want to make money out of programming, you don’t have to got the traditional route and sit at a desk coding for hours.  There’s a whole world of opportunities for those who can code in all sorts of areas.  If you look online you’ll find more and more ways that programming can help or even completely pay the bills.

There’s a lot of demand for small companies and businesses for ad-hoc programming skills which can be quite lucrative. For every Microsoft and IBM there are thousands of smaller companies who need these skills for support and development. There’s a whole industry for example of VPNs, proxy and security services who always need network support and programmers. The company referenced in this post about How to change country on Netflix account is a prime example.

Another area which regularly recruits is the booming ecommerce and online retailing sector. Smaller companies and websites often can’t afford full time staff but are happy to engage on a project basis. This means you can get a simple job producing some code for a single company producing a product like an application to access rotating proxies or similar and then get follow on work supporting and upgrading.

The Economics of Digital Profits

It’s over nearly three decades since I completed my economics degree, but I often wonder how much more interesting the subject would be now. Sure we’ve had global crashes, recessions and all sorts of financial scandals, but to some extent we’ve always had events like these throughout the last century.

There’s little doubt that if you follow economics you’ll see how uncertain a science it really is. Pick up a copy of the economist from any given time and you’ll see articles about how well an economy is doing. I can remember reading about the powerhouses of Brazil and Turkey from only a few years ago. Incredible stories of economic success and huge growth rates have almost inevitably been replaced with currency crashes, inflation and corruption scandals.

These tales of economic boom and bust are almost inevitable most underdeveloped countries almost inevitably experience this sort of growth. It’s not really these situations that I find most interesting in the world of economics – it’s somethign much newer and unique.

It’s called the digital economy and in many aspects has the potential to change the economics of the world. There is little doubt that those countries in the forefront of the global digital economy have a distinct advantage and there’s huge potential to add significantly to their GDP. However one of the advantages that the developed world has is the ability to incorporate these ‘new economic sectors’ into the taxation system.

Take for example the millions of people who now make some or all of their living online. Through websites, blogs or even video channels many people are making very decent incomes. Unfortunately for governments this income can be difficult to monitor and track and hence more difficult to tax than traditional employment. many countries already struggle with gathering taxes from their citizens, even a relatively successful economy like Turkey has huge issues in collecting tax revenue. It is largely cited that collecting taxes (or not) played a large part in the demise of the Greek economy too.

Can these countries successfully collect revenues based on income from YouTube or Amazon or from online casino sites? It’s much more difficult to collect and the more citizens that move to these income models the more important that this will become. One of the problems is that the methods of making money in the digital economy are extensive and varied which obviously means that the source of the income changes too.

For example, in the US there’s a huge market for people buying and selling online via a myriad of different sites. These are often little more than buying and selling without the needs of stocks, manufacturing and business premises. yet the numbers involved may be actually much larger. In the ‘streetwear’ market there’s lots of individuals making huge amounts of money buying goods online. One such market is for branded sneakers, which are released in limited numbers by companies like Supreme, Nike and Adidas. Individuals attempt to buy these and then resell at huge multiples.

This is possible because of the scarcity of these releases yet people develop systems to purchase these in bulk. They use software programs called ‘bots’ and location hiding devices servers called proxies to make multiple purchases. You can read all about these sort of systems in this article which explains the whole system and what are proxies for bots, and how you make money from them. Remember there are literally millions of people doing similar things all across the globe and making huge incomes.

In the US, UK and other developed countries there has been some effort to incorporate these people into the taxation system but it’s not easy. It relies heavily on self assessment methods in most places and can be very difficult to trace income if it’s not declared. Much of this income doesn’t even have to end up in a traditional bank account either. I know many internet entrepreneurs who deal primarily in digital currencies like Bitcoin and transfer through various electronic payment processors on the periphery of the traditional banking systems.

It’s easy to find negatives in the ‘digital economy’ however it’s important to realize that for many people it’s become increasingly important. What’s more in the ‘less developed’ countries it offers a potential for individuals to escape poverty and set up online businesses which are much easier to set up than traditional bricks and mortar ones.

The world is changing in many ways due to the internet, it’s important that economics keeps pace. Both to maximize the opportunities and to adapt to them.

John Heather
Blogger and technology journalist who writes on a variety of subjects all over the web. He also covers the world where technology and entertainment overlap, read this article about the Netflix and copyright blocks.