Think about some cf the different ways that people use computers. In school, students use computers for tasks such as writing papers, searching for articles, sending email, and participating in online classes. At work, people use computers to analyze data, make presentations, conduct business transactions, communicate with customers and coworkers, control machines in manufacturing facilities, and do many other things. At home, people use computers for tasks such as paying bills, shopping online, communicating with friends and family, and playing computer games. And don't forget that cell phones, iPods®, BlackBerries®, car navigation systems, and many other devices are computers too, The uses cf computers are almost limitless in our everyday lives.
Computers can do such a wide variety of things because they can be programmed. This means that computers are not designed to do just one job, but to do any job that their programs tell them to do. A program is a set cf instructions that a computer follows to perform a task. For example, Figure 1-1 shows screens from two commonly used programs, Microsoft Word and Adobe Photoshop. Microsoft Word is a word processing program that allows you to create, edit, and print documents with your computer. Adobe Photoshop is an image editing program that allows you to work with graphic images, such as photos taken with your digital camera.
Programs are commonly referred to as software. Software is essential to a computer because it controls everything the computer does. All of the software that we use to make our computers useful is created by individuals working as programmers or software developers. A programmer, or software developer, is a person with the training and skills necessary to design, create, and test computer programs. Computer programming is an exciting and rewarding career. Today, you will find programmers' work used in business, medicine, government, law enforcement, agriculture, academics, entertainment, and many other fields.
Figure 1-1 A word processing program and an image editing program
This book introduces you to the fundamental concepts of computer programming using the Python language. Before we begin exploring those concepts, you need to understand a few basic things about computers and how they work. This chapter will build a solid foundation of knowledge that you will continually rely on as you study computer science. First, we will discuss the physical components that computers are commonly made of. Next, we will look at how computers store data and execute programs. Finally, we will get a quick introduction to the software that you will use to write Python programs.
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