9: Programming in any language
 Page ID
 40097
Programming
To review, the purpose of programming on an electronic computer is to solve problems in a timely manner that are a difficult to solve by hand. Here we will review five languages as our examples: Octave (MatLab/Scilab), IDL^{1} (PVWave or GDL), Python, Fortran, and C++, with a heavy emphasis on Octave (the other languages are included to show similarities between these languages, as most languages are very similar).
While you could, as examples, use Octave, Python, or IDL to just add, subtract, divide, or multiply numbers as a sort of calculator that is not the best use of programming languages. A calculator would be better for that sort of work. What makes programming languages powerful is variables, not dissimilar to variables in regular mathematics, especially "variables" that are structures which are reminiscence of matrices or matrices themselves (see parachute person).
We will use Octave for the examples herein and other chapters to show what is being discussed in the text. Please run them and feel free to modify them and run them again (NB: your modifying the programs does not effect them for others...just you. So feel free to play.)
 Here we do simple math in Octave which makes Octave a great calculator, but does not nearly demonstrate its true power.
Numbers, variables, arrays, and other structures
In general we would like our computer programs to provide the user with a method to do either complicated calculation, complicated string matching and pattern matching, or a combination of both of these. Everything a computer does we can do by hand but with less ease (though some might argue after struggling with a program that that is not true, but as your skill grows you will find that indeed it is true). In order to do these complicated calculations there must be a way to have and use variables. Variables in a computer languages work just like they do in mathematics (and other fields)...a way of expressing an unknown or many unknowns.
Variables for calculations in computer languages are either declared as or given a specific type of number. A number (a scalar) in mathematics can be a counting number, an integer, a real number, a complex number, etc. In computers we have similar designations though the syntax differs depending on the programming language. The very basic data types are shown for a set of chosen languages below.
Basic data types  Fortran

C++

Python

Octave/Matlab

IDL

Your math class 

Integers  integer  int  Python does this for you  Octave does this for you  int  integers 
Real  real  float, double  Python does this for you  Octave makes all numbers <double>  float, double  real numbers 
Complex  complex  <none>  Python does this for you (using j as the imaginary number)  Octave does this for you (using either i or j as imaginary number) 
<none> (Need to use a function) 
complex number (real and imaginary) 
String  character (len=#)  char var_name(len)  Python does this for you  Octave does this for you 
string 
words 
There are many other data types that you will learn as you become a more sophisticated programmer, but for now these are a good start. It is likely that for engineering and science programs a programmer will need to use matrices (or structures) with the numbers having a specific type like in the above table. For equations most programming languages allow you to write it just as you would in mathematics, however just solving one equation still is more like a calculator rather than a programming language. For more utility a programming language would allow you to loop, do conditional branches (if A do B or else do C), and input and output data. These type of statements are the program control statements. But first let us introduce operators and functions (which we have already used above but let's complete the discussion).
Computer Operators
Programming in any language requires operators (like + and ) to do useful functions. has three main control statements.
 Just like in mathematics there are operands and operators
 For most languages computer operators follow the same precedence as mathematics operators
 Below we will briefly look at three of the most common operators
 ¬ Arithmetic operators

 Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and the like
 Addition, subtraction, and division look just like the do in ordinary mathematics
 Multiplication is normally represent by the * symbol and taking something to a power can be either represented by a ^ symbol or a ** combination symbol depending on the language
 In MATLAB/Octave/Scilab the * symbol can also mean matrix multiplication
 If you want to do element by element multiplication on a matrix you would need to use .* combination symbol
 In IDL the matrix multiplication symbol is a # and ## (IDL has a convention on matrices that is contrary to mathematics so the two symbols are needed; study up on IDL before you do matrices)
 The ++ and  are incremental addition or incremental subtraction
 Some operators are represented as functions such as square root (sqrt)
 Some of the arithmetic operators are strictly computer science oriented operators
 Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and the like
 ¬ Relational operators

 Operators that compare operands
 Greater than, less then, greater than or equal to, equal to, and the like
 Most languages just use the symbols we are familiar with (>, <, >=, <=, ==,!=)
 A number of languages use the == for relational equals and = for assignment equals
 The != relational operator is not equal to in computer parlance
 Some languages use letters instead of symbols like EQ, GE, LE, GT, LT, and NE)
 Sometimes the symbols must be contained by periods like .EQ.
 Two of the languages we will focus on still use these symbols (IDL and Fortran)
 ¬ Logic operators

 Performs logic operations (that is only 0 and 1)
 Includes bitwise operators (using the bits of the operands) and shortcircuit operators (operators that stop a process is an answer is already reached)
 In Python the symbol ^ is used as a bitwise operator (XOR) so the ** combination symbol has to be used for powers
 Bitwise operators are an advanced topic so we will just give a taste of this through Python
 Python has the following bitwise operators x<<y shift left y places, x>>y shift right y places, x^y XOR, xy bitwise OR, x&y bitwise AND, and ~x which returns the complement of x
 In Python 2^4 is equal to six, that is because in binary 2 is 0010 and 4 is 0100 which when XORed is 0110 or 6
 If you were expecting 16 then you wanted powers so you should have done 2**4 in Python
 Bitwise operators are useful for image manipulation as well as just logic
Computer Functions
Programming in any language has functions like print or write.
 ¬ Functions

 Functions are "programs" that do a single task like print or write
 Functions include standard mathematical functions like sine and cosine (sin and cos) which is a good way to envision functions
 Functions can be created by a user though some are given as default (like sin and cos)
 Consists of a value output (can be null), the function name, and the arguments that you pass into the function
 Example: ans = sin(pi/4) where the ans is the output and pi/4 is the input
 Can have as many arguments as you need
 Arguments can be passed by "value" or by "reference"
 Some languages choose the method, some languages you can choose the method
 Traditionally functions only had one output but that has changed as programming languages evolved
 Example from a next chapter: function [t,v]=paraperson(ti,tf,vi,c,m,g,tsteps)
 Function name: paraperson Output: t and v Input: ti,tf,vi,c,m,g,tsteps
 ¬ Subroutines

 Subroutines differ from functions in that their arguments include both the input and the output
 This feature was more relevant when function output was only one variable
 Fortran has subroutine while most programming languages have shifted to calling subroutines functions
 This is a callable unit (functions are callable unit as well)
 Example: subroutine inverse(a,n,np,indx,y,yy)
 To use: call inverse(dum,idatapnt,idatamax,indx,cminv,cm)
 Subroutine name: inverse Output: cminv, cm Input: dum,idatapnt, idatamax,indx
 There are some subtle differences between subroutines and functions in some languages
 Subroutines differ from functions in that their arguments include both the input and the output
 ¬ Script

 This is not really a piece of a program like a function or subroutine, but a quick program that you can do in interpreted languages
 Scripts are not programs and do not substitute for programs
 Scripts are convenient but not meant to do powerful work
 In this class you should try to learn to program and avoid the use of scripts except for single use quick type calculations
Control Statements
Programming in any language has three main control statements.
 ¬ Loops

 Loop statements can be used to process a set of statements a number of times
 Do or For type statements process a set of statements a predetermined number of times
 While, Until, DO while, etc. process a set of statements a certain number of times that depends on a condition that must be met
 Loops can be placed inside other loops which programmers call "nested"
 Some programming languages don't have loops per se but another method call recursion that can achieve the same result
 Loop statements can be used to process a set of statements a number of times
 ¬ Conditionals

 Conditional statements allow the user to control the process of different statements depending on certain conditions
 This is very useful  as a simple example if you were dividing by a zero you would want to do something different for division by zero (given x/y if y is 0 then give error else do the division)
 if, then, else statements is the most common syntax for a conditional statement
 switch, case, or select statements are used for multiple conditional statements which is quite useful
 Some languages can do this with pattern matching (the extinct language SNOBOL concept)
 This concept is a little bit more sophisticated than a case statement
 Since science and engineering is more about the numbers it is not as useful in those fields
 Python is the only major programming language that does not have this feature which is not necessary but useful
 Some languages can do this with pattern matching (the extinct language SNOBOL concept)
 ¬ Input and output

 Clearly without input and output programming would have no true use as you eventually want some sort of answer to your problems
 Computers are not meant to be machines with no purpose, though it sometimes seem like some people view them that way
 There are many many different types of commands for input and output so the list here is not complete
 Display input and output
 Some input and output statements are meant to go directly to your computer screen
 Input: input, read, reads, scanf, gets, getchar, cin, etc.
 Output: print, write, printf, puts, putchar, cout, etc.
 File input and output
 Some input and output statements are meant to go to a file on your computer, especially if there is a lot of input or a lot of output
 Input: read, fscanf, fread, fgets, readf, readu, ifstream, etc.
 Output: write, fprintf, fwrite, fputs, writef, writeu, ofstream, etc.
 Input and Output: fstream
 On a personal note: if you save a file of hundreds of numbers for a project, don't print them out to hand in  make a graph, please
Below is a script example of each of the major control statements^{2}
 This is an example of a loop.
9: Programming in any language is shared under a CC BYNCSA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.