When I built my first computer in 1977 and then went on to medical school and found a mainframe in the basement of my college putting it together piece by piece, I had to program the things myself using Assembly Language and it was pain, pain, PAIN! Then the computer world progressed to the C programming language and things got a lot better. And yet still — this was not for the faint-hearted and was reserved for a small minority of us. Setting up the tools was a pain, several blind alleys awaited the unwary. You’d often find yourself needing to compile a program and that was daunting enough. If you needed to compile a compiler and yet needed a compiler before you could compile at all you found yourself in a chicken and egg trap with nowhere to go.
Fortunately that has all changed and today we have tools that are INCREDIBLE. You have no idea what you’ve been missing. There are tools ‘out there’ that are FREE, easy to install, easy to get up and running, don’t care whether you’re on Windows, Linux or macOS, and that almost disappear from your view so that you can concentrate on the ideas in your mind.
In my training programs I use the programming language Python. It’s not a new language but it is THE MOST POPULAR language with hundreds of thousands of tools/libraries available for it.
That’s close to 170,000 libraries of tools you can use right off the bat and can be up and running with a software tool you’ve written in a matter of minutes. Within a day or so you could have a complete app that you’re running on your phone and within a month a trading system you probably don’t even know to dream off as you read this now.
Seriously folks – install the tools I’ll guide you to install (very easy half hour job that consists mostly of downloading files from the internet and clicking on buttons and following very clear instructions on screen) – and I’ll have you writing your own Python code and executing it right here in your browser in 2 minutes flat!
In fact this is so easy I’m going to walk you through it right now and within 30 minutes (if you have a decent internet connection) you’ll be up and running with Python and a Jupyter Notebook.
- Click here to go to the Anaconda website.
- Scroll down till you see a green button that says download as in the image below:
Make sure that the platform you are installing for is the one you’re using – Windows, Mac or Linux and that you’re downloading the 3.x version not 2.x.
- Click the green button and wait for the file to download to your computer.
- Double-click the file you downloaded and follow the onscreen prompts to install the Anaconda python distribution on your computer.
- Open a terminal or command line and type python -V (don’t know how to do that? Put a question in the comments on this page or reach out to me). You should get back a message that tells you what version of Python you now have installed. Make sure it’s Python 3.something not 2.x. I am no longer supporting Python version 2.
Now at the same terminal/command line type: jupyter notebook as I’ve done below:
Your browser will open a new tab with a listing of files in it. At the top right click <New> and choose Python 3 as in the image below and …
Voila! You have the Python 3 programming environment at your fingertips ready to do your every bidding. The cell you see with the green box around it is waiting for you to write your first command. Here … I’m going to do it …
I’ve entered print(“Hello World!”) and then pressed <control+enter> and this is what I got.
Did you get this? If so HOORAY – you’ve run your first Python program.
Time from start to finish should not have been more than 30 minutes if you have a decent internet connection and did not make any mistakes or type any typos or miss any steps in the process I’ve described above. Are you a programmer yet? Hell no! That will take a while. Just as I can teach you all the chess moves in a morning you will not be a chess grandmaster by afternoon. Just as becoming a grand master takes practice and much thought and study so too does programming take the same time and skills development. But you have a programming environment that is so, so easy to use, easy to tinker with, easy to put small bits of code into to see what they do when you execute them.
So what I’m here for now is to help you get the skills into your head and fingers that will make you a programmer interacting with a computer in ways you never thought possible, making the computer into an intelligent partner in your life.
Generally the process is very similar to the installation of Python I’ve walked you through above. It goes smoothly and the tools are so transparent now that we can focus on the ideas and not on the tools any more. We can think about how to tweak algorithms so they make money for us or work on new and novel ways of looking at our business or company data to extract new insights and meanings out of it. Or we can download data sets and study them to figure out what we should be eating based on hundreds or even thousands of pieces of data that we can tap into to figure out what the real deal is all about. Or we can find a data set to analyse and enter a contest in which we can win several thousand dollars or even a million dollars. The choice is ours. We no longer have to walk alone in the dark believing what all and sundry tell us. We can figure it out for ourselves wring out the proofs and go our merry way knowing that we know!
But you’ve begun your journey and it’s going to be a very exciting one.