Have you given any thought to learning C? Though you may work in fields like data science or web development, which don’t feature much use of C, this doesn’t mean there aren’t any benefits to learning it.
In this piece, we’re going to explore what C programming is good for and why you should still learn it.
What Is C Used For (And Why Should You Learn It)?
C is a flexible, general purpose programming language developed by the famous Dennis Ritchie at Bell Labs in the early 1970s. It was originally intended to write utilities for the Unix operating system, but rapidly began growing beyond this use case. It’s now deployed in everything from high-performance scientific computing to microprocessors and embedded systems.
As opposed to an interpreted language like Python, C is compiled. This means code has to be translated all at once to machine language before it can be executed.
It was built with portability and performance in mind. C offers very low-level access to computer components like memory, which makes it ideal for applications that require a lot of hands-on optimizations of underlying computer processes.
All of this should sound pretty appealing to aspiring programmers. But if that’s not enough, consider that C is still a very popular language. Because of its longevity there is a staggering amount of legacy code written in C, including entire platforms and operating systems. C still regularly cracks ‘top 10’ lists of recommended programming languages to learn.
And as a very high-level coder once told me, learning C is something of a transformative experience for programmers. Because it’s a low-level language you can’t help but learn a lot about how computers in general work in the process of mastering C.
Resources for Learning to Code in C
With your appetite suitably whetted, let’s take a look at some great resources for learning C.
If you’d prefer to learn from books, there are a couple of titles which are considered the standard entry points into the language:
- C Programming Absolute Beginner’s Guide, by Greg Perry and Dean Miller. This is an excellent introduction for those new to C and those new to programming in general.
- The C Programming Language, by Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie. Since one of the two authors is the inventor of the language, it’s safe to assume that this is an authoritative work. And in fact it is considered one of the best places to go for information.
- C Programming: A Modern Approach, by K.N. King. Widely regarded as one of the best C textbooks ever written, the first edition of this book found adoption in hundreds of colleges. If it worked for generations of programmers, it’ll probably work for you too.
If you’re more into online courses or videos, check out:
- Learn-C is a free, online, interactive tutorial that takes you through the basics of learning C.
- Coursera offers an entire specialization in programming in C. Great for those who are new to C but want to really dive in.
- Udemy’s Master the C Language course takes you through building your first C application.
So there you have it, motivation for learning the C programming language and more than enough resources to keep you busy for a while.