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Picking a computer and an operating system If you want to know how to program a computer, you need a computer to practice on. You can actually discover programming on any computer from a top-of-the-line machine, to an obsolete relic (that was once a top-of-the-line machine), to a simple handheld computer. As long as you have a computer, you can find out how to program it. Although it’s possible to figure out programming by using an ancient Commodore-64 or an antique Radio Shack TRS-80, it’s probably best to figure out programming on a computer that’s going to be around in the future. That way you can directly apply your programming skills to a computer used in the real world, which boils down to a computer that runs one of the following operating systems: Windows, Linux, or Mac OS X. An operating system is a special program that makes all the hardware of your computer work together. The operating system tells the processor how to work with the hard disk, read keystrokes typed on a keyboard, and display information on the monitor. Without an operating system, your computer is nothing more than separate chunks of hardware that does absolutely nothing. One of the most popular operating systems in the world is UNIX, commonly run on big, expensive computers.


Linux is based on UNIX, so if you understand how to program a Linux computer, you can also program a UNIX computer and vice versa. Because so many businesses use computers that run Windows, many computer programmers focus their efforts on discovering how to write Windows programs. If you want to make money, write programs for the computers that most people use.


At the time of this writing, that’s any computer that runs Windows. Although the Windows market is the largest, don’t ignore these markets: ✦ Mac OS X is the operating system that runs the Macintosh computer. Apple Macintosh computers are growing steadily in popularity, so the Mac OS X market will be lucrative for the future.