The Trick Of The Mind
Written by Mike James   
Monday, 29 November 2021
Article Index
The Trick Of The Mind
A First Language
Active and Dynamic
What Remains?

What Remains?

If you have been following you will now have some idea of what a program is, what a programming language is and what a computer is – it is a machine that obeys a program. 

At this stage it all seems trivially easy, but I hope you have discovered that our simple drawing language has some difficulties to be mastered.

However, there is the question of what could we possibly need to add to the mix to make a “little” language that is limited into a “big” language that can do everything?

A big language is one that you can use to do almost anything. It might lack some facility, but this would mostly be due to a problem with the hardware– for example you might not be able to make sounds if the hardware doesn't support it. In principle, a big language serves to write any program you can think of. This sounds like a tall order and it seems to imply something very complicated. While some computer languages have lots and lots of facilities, the truth of the matter is that the simplest big language is much simpler than you might imagine. In understanding what we need to add to our little language, you will discover how to move from its simple type of programming to the programming of everything.


  • Language is usually descriptive, but it can also be prescriptive.

  • A list of instructions is a static version of a process that can be activated by a computer that obeys the instructions. 

  • Programming is often referred to as coding because the instructions are often reduced to abbreviations.

  • Picking good abbreviations is difficult, but the best are short and make sense as soon as they are explained.

  • Turtle graphics is a little language that is part of Logo, a bigger language created for educational purposes.

  • To create a program you have to put yourself into the position of the entity that you are programming and you have to be able to imagine the effect your instructions have on it so that you can be in its future as well as its present.

  • The form of instructions can be complex, for example, you can have instructions that use parameters to specify exactly what happens. 

  • Talking about language is always difficult and it is one of the problem of learning to program. Placeholders or parameters are just stand-ins for real values.

  • A programmer doesn't just issue instructions as they are needed, but puts them together to build a complete process which is a symbolic representation of the process that can be activated by running it on a computer.

  • A program is like a stopped clock – a static representation of a machine. Give it to a computer and the clock ticks.

Related Articles

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The Computer - What's The Big Idea?

The Essence Of Programming

The Trick Of The Mind - Programming & ComputationalThought

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Chapter List

  1. The Trick Of The Mind

  2. Little Languages
       Extract: Little Languages Arithmetic

  3. Big Languages Are Turing Complete

  4. The Strange Incident of The Goto Considered Harmful
       Extract: The Goto Considered Harmful

  5. On Being Variable  

  6. Representation

  7. The Loop Zoo
       Extract The Loop Zoo
    Extract Advanced Loops ***NEW!!

  8. Modules, Subroutines, Procedures and Functions
       Extract Modular Programming

  9. Top-Down Programming 

  10. Algorithms
       Extract: Binary Search 

  11. The Scientific Method As Debugging 

  12. The Object Of It All
       Extract Why Objects 



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Last Updated ( Monday, 29 November 2021 )