12 . 02 . 15

4 Reasons to Learn JavaScript as Your First Programming Language

Daniel Botta

12:46 PM

JavaScript, which is not to be confused with the programming language Java was created in 1995. At the time is was known as Mocha. Shortly after, the creators walked away from the name and began calling it LiveScript. Finally, in December of 1995 the programming language landed the name JavaScript. The language wasn’t the most popular at the time so it seemed they chose the name JavaScript to help market the language because of the very popular Java. In 2005 JavaScript finally became more popular. This encouraged more developers to contribute. Now JavaScript has so many awesome and helpful 3rd party libraries make the language even better. It has become the language of the web and rarely will you find web pages that don’t use it.

Enough about the history, let’s talk about the language. JavaScript is a scripting language that is run within a web browser. It offers a variety of solutions to help make web pages less like static information and more like interactive applications. There are tons of 3rd party libraries now that are such vital pieces in JavaScript Development. To name a few, jQuery, Angular.js, Backbone.js, and many more. Not only has JavaScript evolved on the client side, but a Google developer named Ryan Dahl created a way to run JavaScript on the server side using Google’s super-fast V8 engine. This is technology is called Node.js and is very popular because it uses JavaScript’s non-blocking model to help create very fast web applications.

Before I go into why you should learn JavaScript, here are a few examples of what it can be used for.

Manipulating HTML

Creating Web Applications

Animations

Video Games

Creating Web Servers

Interacting with APIs

And Much More!

So here are my four reasons why I think JavaScript should be your first programming language:

JavaScript is easy to use and to learn.

Unlike any other language, JavaScript runs within a web browser. Conveniently, anyone who has a computer these days, has a web browser. With a simple text editor and a web browser, you can start using JavaScript. Most languages such as Ruby and Java will require you to download, install, and setup software on your computer before using. Also these language have to be compiled in order to run them. Since the web browser does all of this for you with JavaScript, you are all set from the start!

Not only can you simply get started with a text editor and a browser, but you can even start playing with JavaScript using just a browser itself. Most modern web browsers have a development environment built into to them which allow you to write JavaScript and run it on the spot. Below is an example of the Google Chrome dev environment and some very simple usage of JavaScript within it.

Google Dev Tools

I believe that because this language is so easy to begin using from the start, it allows you to learn it quicker. The best way to actually begin learning programming and the concepts of programming is to have your hands on and to begin using it and doing it. Since JavaScript is so easy to pick up and begin using, this is a huge advantage, especially if this is the first language you are choosing to learn.

 

The vast amount of libraries and modules.

1280px-JQuery_logo.svg

Although JavaScript is very powerful at its core, there are so many different useful libraries, plugins, and modules that make it even more powerful. One of the most widely used libraries for JavaScript is one called jQuery. jQuery makes it extremely easy to use JavaScript to interact with your HTML page. With jQuery you can easily manipulate anything on the web page, change text, create animations, and much more. Basically this library creates a shell overtop the JavaScript and simplifies the syntax to make JavaScript tasks much more simplified and easier to do.

Angular Logo

Another popular library is the MVC framework called Angular.js. MVC stands for modal, view, controller. This is a common design pattern used to make applications. Making web applications is exactly what Angular is used for. It is extremely popular today and is transforming the way web pages work. One of its many special features is a concept called data binding. Normally, web pages need to reload in order to complete certain tasks. But with Angular’s data binding design, it can dynamically execute tasks without reloaded or having to make additional calls to the server to send back new updated documents.

Node Logo

Another very special technology that uses JavaScript is the powerful Node.js. Node is software that allows you to run JavaScript from your command prompt, terminal, and on the server side of you web pages! Node uses Google’s very fast Chrome V8 engine. The other special thing about using node versus other server side languages is that it is non-blocking. PHP is another server side language. When PHP received a request to the server it has to stop everything else and do that one thing. As you can imagine, this is not very efficient. Node is non-blocking. It uses what’s called the JavaScript event loop to carry out tasks. Here is a short example. Node receives a request and sends it off to be completed, while the other is being completed, the application may receive another task, so it would send that off to be processes as well but at the same time as the other. These requests run asynchronously, they can all be done at the same time without holding up the application. This is super-fast and highly desired for modern and complex web application today!

There are meny other technologies like these that can be combined with JavaScript to lessen the amount of code you have to write and to handle things that would otherwise have to create on your own. These were just a few examples. I always say, why do the extra work when someone has already done it for you?

The job market for JavaScript is great.

With web pages becoming more complex and more advance than before, JavaScript tends to be the go to solution to achieve this. There are so many jobs available for programmers who can write JavaScript. With all of the growing technologies that are used with JavaScript the demand just keeps growing. So many companies are using JS technologies like Angular and Node in the work world today. If you do some searching around on Google you will find that often JavaScript is in the top 3 most desired programming languages that companies are looking for. In the rare occasion that it is not in the top 3, it is always within at least the top 5. With any type of highly desired jobs comes good pay. According to Indeed.com the average JavaScript Developer salary as of December 2, 2015 is $93,000. That’s not too shabby!

JavaScript gets the job done!

Do you need to add some interaction to that boring HTML web page? Do you want to develop a simple online video game? How about create a dynamic web application, or EVEN mobile application? These are all tasks that can be done with JavaScript. When Mocha came around, it really wasn’t all that special. Now, with 20 years of growth and many developers who have poured in their time and knowledge, JavaScript has become one of the most powerful and robust programming languages out there today.

One particularly poplar stack as they call it has come to be in the past few years. This is called the MEAN stack. The acronym stands for Mongo, Express, Angular, and Node. What this basically means is that you can create ALL parts of a website now entirely in ONE language (JavaScript). To be able to master and learn one language and its syntax and be able to achieve everything you need without having to learn another language is extremely valuable and efficient. I won’t go into much detail of each but MonogDB is the database used in the mean stack to store existing data and us used as the module for a web application. We have talked about Node so you are familiar with it. Express is a node framework that helps you create very well made servers, and APIs. Finally, Angular is the front end framework that helps carry out all of the dynamic tasks to enhance the user’s experience.

Start learning JavaScript!

Ultimately, you should deicide on your first programming language based on what you want to do. But in my opinion, JavaScript offers so much and is an excellent first language to learn. After reading this post you should now have a better understanding of how much you can do with it. But it doesn’t stop there. Developers are constantly investing time in making these technologies better, so expect the possibilities of JavaScript to only grow.

So where to now? I first began learning JavaScript through Treehouse which is an online coding school. They have excellent videos and instructors, so that is always a great place to start. Also, picking up a book on JavaScript is a great option as well. There are many other online resources and documentations on JavaScript that are highly valuable in the learning process. Don’t forget, that once you start learning to use the valuable dev tools in your browser as well. It’s a great way to excel the learning process. Good luck!


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