Programming is writing instructions through a computer language which tells the computing device what to do. Machine code is the lowest form of coding you can do. It is written in binary--using a series of "0's" and "1's"- as in "01101101." The lowest form of code does not mean it's the easiest. Higher forms of code such as C, C++ and Java are created to be easier to learn and to use than machine code.
Select the Right Language
Internet languages are HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and PHP (PHP Hypertext Preprocessor). There are others, of course, but these are the two that are best for the beginning programmer. HTML is good for designing basic web pages. If you want to create web pages, you had best learn this language first. It is the foundation coding language of the Internet. PHP is the guts of web pages. This language does the things you don't see going on. An example of PHP would be code that manages credit card orders.
Games and general applications are created with applications languages. These languages include Visual Basic, C and C++. Visual Basic is probably the easiest of the higher level languages to learn. The setback is that it is not very useful with complicated games and applications, but it can be a great language to learn basic programming. C and C++ are both higher level languages that create most applications on the market. They are a little harder to learn than Visual Basic, but if you know them, you can do just about anything in application development.
Other languages include MySQL, which deals with databases, and Java which is a mix between the application and Internet languages. These are both great languages to learn, but they are a little more difficult to learn than the other languages.
Where to Learn Your Language of Choice
The three main areas in which to learn programming are school, online tutorials and books. Your financial situation and the amount of time you can afford to take to learn programming will determine which of these choices are for you.
School is usually the best option. They will start you at the beginning and work you up to where you will need to be to be a successful programmer. Be leery of classes that can make you a programmer in 4 to 6 weeks; this is not going to happen. A general programming school will take 2 years, and the curriculum may include C, Java and MySQL.
Books can teach you a lot if you are self-motivated. Books usually cost around $50 each as of 2009, and can teach you from the ground up. Let's face it, the schools are going to teach you from the same books. The advantage to books is that you can pick the specific language you want to learn, and you can delve into it 100 percent. The disadvantage may come if you try to get hired as a programmer. Some companies want to know what school you attended to learn your programming skills, others, like Microsoft, will want to see what you can do. If you can do what they want, then they may hire you regardless of your schooling background.
Online tutorials are not usually a great way to start. They are useful after you have passed the "newbie" stage of programming, and, at that time, they can be a great resource.