Learning Javascript: Rebooted

Eloquent JavaScript


Note: After trying out Code School’s JavaScript course, I found myself a bit bored and not really digging how the material was presented. I went back to the drawing board and settled on a book called Eloquent JavaScript, by Marijn Haverbeke. It’s a book I tried back in the first edition, but ended up getting distracted and never going back. Having programmed for a bit longer now, I feel like I’m better suited to learn the material and benefit from it. So with that, we start again and head into the introduction chapter.

Eloquent JavaScript begins with a short anecdote about how we, as “squishy biological organisms,” have taught computers language as a means of communicating with them. From the onset, Marijn proudly displays his dry sense of humor, and with that helps lower the barrier for people like me – someone who has tried diligently to learn JavaScript, but couldn’t get through the tomes of other JavaScript material written by people who, while very intelligent, seemingly wrote their material simply to impress everyone with how smart they are.

In contrast, Marijn urges readers of his book to take it slow and make sure that they understand the material before moving on. He likens programs to a game:

“To some of us, writing computer programs is a fascinating game. A program is a building of thought. It is costless to build, it is weightless, and it grows easily under our typing hands.”

He also points out that while the rules of programming can be simple to learn, programs can quickly spiral out of control. What I really enjoy about his opening is that he takes the time to open the eyes of his readers to the reality of programming. I feel like a lot of online programming education glosses over this fact. They either use silly production values to water down the content, and thusly lack real-world examples of how or why it can be useful, or they go to the other extreme and end up alienating all but the already initiated.

From here, Marijn goes on to give a brief history into the evolution of programming; from the basic bits of programming – literally ones and zeros, up to its current iteration, which he says is almost English.

The next section speaks to the history of JavaScript; its formation at Netscape, its unfortunate naming, and where the language is headed. The other great thing about this book (at least if you’re reading it online, as I am) is that there are periodically sections that allow the reader to test out code right in the browser. At the end of each chapter, he gives coding challenges intended to solidify the reader’s knowledge of the material presented. I’m looking forward to working through these exercises as the book goes on.

That’s it for the introduction. The first proper chapter deals with Values, Types, and Operators. See you guys next week.

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