Finance, Credit, Investments – Economical Categories

Scientific works in the theories of finances and credit, according to the specification of the research object, are characterized to be many-sided and many-leveled.

The definition of totality of the economical relations formed in the process of formation, distribution and usage of finances, as money sources is widely spread. For example, in “the general theory of finances” there are two definitions of finances:

1) “…Finances reflect economical relations, formation of the funds of money sources, in the process of distribution and redistribution of national receipts according to the distribution and usage”. This definition is given relatively to the conditions of Capitalism, when cash-commodity relations gain universal character;

2) “Finances represent the formation of centralized ad decentralized money sources, economical relations relatively with the distribution and usage, which serve for fulfillment of the state functions and obligations and also provision of the conditions of the widened further production”. This definition is brought without showing the environment of its action. We share partly such explanation of finances and think expedient to make some specification.

First, finances overcome the bounds of distribution and redistribution service of the national income, though it is a basic foundation of finances. Also, formation and usage of the depreciation fund which is the part of financial domain, belongs not to the distribution and redistribution of the national income (of newly formed value during a year), but to the distribution of already developed value.

This latest first appears to be a part of value of main industrial funds, later it is moved to the cost price of a ready product (that is to the value too) and after its realization, and it is set the depression fund. Its source is taken into account before hand as a depression kind in the consistence of the ready products cost price.

Second, main goal of finances is much wider then “fulfillment of the state functions and obligations and provision of conditions for the widened further production”. Finances exist on the state level and also on the manufactures and branches’ level too, and in such conditions, when the most part of the manufactures are not state.

V. M. Rodionova has a different position about this subject: “real formation of the financial resources begins on the stage of distribution, when the value is realized and concrete economical forms of the realized value are separated from the consistence of the profit”. V. M. Rodionova makes an accent of finances, as distributing relations, when D. S. Moliakov underlines industrial foundation of finances. Though both of them give quite substantiate discussion of finances, as a system of formation, distribution and usage of the funds of money sources, that comes out of the following definition of the finances: “financial cash relations, which forms in the process of distribution and redistribution of the partial value of the national wealth and total social product, is related with the subjects of the economy and formation and usage of the state cash incomes and savings in the widened further production, in the material stimulation of the workers for satisfaction of the society social and other requests”.

In the manuals of the political economy we meet with the following definitions of finances:
“Finances of the socialistic state represent economical (cash) relations, with the help of which, in the way of planned distribution of the incomes and savings the funds of money sources of the state and socialistic manufactures are formed for guaranteeing the growth of the production, rising the material and cultural level of the people and for satisfying other general society requests”.
“The system of creation and usage of necessary funds of cash resources for guarantying socialistic widened further production represent exactly the finances of the socialistic society. And the totality of economical relations arisen between state, manufactures and organizations, branches, regions and separate citizen according to the movement of cash funds make financial relations”.
As we’ve seen, definitions of finances made by financiers and political economists do not differ greatly.
In every discussed position there are:

1) expression of essence and phenomenon in the definition of finances;

2) the definition of finances, as the system of the creation and usage of funds of cash sources on the level of phenomenon.

3) Distribution of finances as social product and the value of national income, definition of the distributions planned character, main goals of the economy and economical relations, for servicing of which it is used.

If refuse the preposition “socialistic” in the definition of finances, we may say, that it still keeps actuality. We meet with such traditional definitions of finances, without an adjective “socialistic”, in the modern economical literature. We may give such an elucidation: “finances represent cash resources of production and usage, also cash relations appeared in the process of distributing values of formed economical product and national wealth for formation and further production of the cash incomes and savings of the economical subjects and state, rewarding of the workers and satisfaction of the social requests”. in this elucidation of finances like D. S. Moliakov and V. M. Rodionov’s definitions, following the traditional inheritance, we meet with the widening of the financial foundation. They concern “distribution and redistribution of the value of created economical product, also the partial distribution of the value of national wealth”. This latest is very actual, relatively to the process of privatization and the transition to privacy and is periodically used in practice in different countries, for example, Great Britain and France.

“Finances – are cash sources, financial resources, their creation and movement, distribution and redistribution, usage, also economical relations, which are conditioned by intercalculations between the economical subjects, movement of cash sources, money circulation and usage”.
“Finances are the system of economical relations, which are connected with firm creation, distribution and usage of financial resources”.

We meet with absolutely innovational definitions of finances in Z. Body and R. Merton’s basis manuals. “Finance – it is the science about how the people lead spending `the deficit cash resources and incomes in the definite period of time. The financial decisions are characterized by the expenses and incomes which are 1) separated in time, and 2) as a rule, it is impossible to take them into account beforehand neither by those who get decisions nor any other person” . “Financial theory consists of numbers of the conceptions… which learns systematically the subjects of distribution of the cash resources relatively to the time factor; it also considers quantitative models, with the help of which the estimation, putting into practice and realization of the alternative variants of every financial decisions take place” .

These basic conceptions and quantitative models are used at every level of getting financial decisions, but in the latest definition of finances, we meet with the following doctrine of the financial foundation: main function of the finances is in the satisfaction of the people’s requests; the subjects of economical activities of any kind (firms, also state organs of every level) are directed towards fulfilling this basic function.

For the goals of our monograph, it is important to compare well-known definitions about finances, credit and investment, to decide how and how much it is possible to integrate the finances, investments and credit into the one total part.

Some researcher thing that credit is the consisting part of finances, if it is discussed from the position of essence and category. The other, more numerous group proves, that an economical category of credit exists parallel to the economical category of finances, by which it underlines impossibility of the credit’s existence in the consistence of finances.

N. K. Kuchukova underlined the independence of the category of credit and notes that it is only its “characteristic feature the turned movement of the value, which is not related with transmission of the loan opportunities together with the owners’ rights”.

N. D. Barkovski replies that functioning of money created an economical basis for apportioning finances and credit as an independent category and gave rise to the credit and financial relations. He noticed the Gnoseological roots of science in money and credit, as the science about finances has business with the research of such economical relations, which lean upon cash flow and credit.
Let’s discuss the most spread definitions of credit. in the modern publications credit appeared to be “luckier”, then finances. For example, we meet with the following definition of credit in the finance-economical dictionary: “credit is the loan in the form of cash and commodity with the conditions of returning, usually, by paying percent. Credit represents a form of movement of the loan capital and expresses economical relations between the creditor and borrower”.

This is the traditional definition of credit. In the earlier dictionary of the economy we read: “credit is the system of economical relations, which is formed while the transmission of cash and material means into the temporal usage, as a rule under the conditions of returning and paying percent”.
In the manual of the political economy published under reduction of V. A. Medvedev the following definition is given: “credit, as an economical category, expresses the created relations between the society, labour collective and workers during formation and usage of the loan funds, under the terms of paying present and returning, during transmission of sources for the temporal usage and accumulation”.

Credit is discussed in the following way in the earlier education-methodological manuals of political economy: “credit is the system of money relations, which is created in the process of using and mobilization of temporarily free cash means of the state budget, unions, manufactures, organizations and population. Credit has an objective character. It is used for providing widened further production of the state and other needs. Credit differs from finances by the returning character, while financing of manufactures and organizations by the state is fulfilled without this condition”.

We meet with the following definition if “the course of economy”: “credit is an economical category, which represents relations, while the separate industrial organizations or persons transmit money means to each-other for temporal usage under the conditions of returning. Creation of credit is conditioned by a historical process of fulfilling the economical and money relations, the form of which is the money relation”.

Following scientists give slightly different definitions of credit:
“Credit – is a loan in the form of money or commodity, which is given to the borrower by a creditor under the conditions of returning and paying the percentage rate by the borrower”.
Credit is giving the temporally free money sources or commodity as a debt for the defined terms by the price of fixed percentage. Thus, a credit is the loan in the form of money or commodity. In the process of this loan’s movement, a definite relations are formed between a creditor (the loan is given by a juridical of physical person, who gives certain cash as a debt) and the debtor.
Combining every definition named above, we come to an idea, that credit is giving money capital of commodity as a debt, for certain terms and material provision under the price of firm percentage rate. It expresses definite economical relations between the participants of the process of capital formation. Necessity of the credit relations is conditioned, from one side, by gathering solid quantity of temporarily free money sources, and from the second side, existence of requests of them.

Though, at the same time we must distinguish two resembling concepts: loan and credit. Loan is characterized by:

o Here, the discussion may touch upon transmission of money and also things form one side (loaner) to another (borrower): a)under the owning of the borrower and, at the same time, b) under the conditions of returning same amount or same quantity and quality of the things;

o The loaning of money may bear no interest;

o Any person may take part in it.
With the difference with loan, credit, which is somehow a private occasion of the loan, represents:

o One side (loaner) gives to the second one (borrower) only money, and _ for temporal usage;

o It may not bear no interest (if the assignment doesn’t foresee something);

o In it creditor is not any person, but a credit organization (at the first place, banks).
So, a credit is the bank credit. To our mind, it is not correct to use “credit” and “loan” as the synonyms.
Banking crediting is the union of relations between bank (as a creditor) and its borrower. These relations touch upon:

a) Giving a certain amount of money to the borrower for definite purpose (though, we meet with the so-called free credits, aims and objects of crediting are not appointed in the assignment);

b) Its opportune returning;

c) Getting percentage rate from the borrower for using the sources under his/her disposal.
The essential foundation of the credit essence and its important element is existence of trust between the two sides (in Latin “credo”, from which comes the word “credit”, means “trust”).
From the position of circulation of money forms (in the abstraction, historical process of formation economical relations and social budget and banking systems expressed by them) comparing different definitions of finances and credit, the paradox conclusion appears: credit is the private occasion of finances. And truly, from the position of movement of the money forms, finances represent the process of formation and usage of the funds of cash means. Very often such movements are fulfilled without returning, but sometimes, it is possible to give loans from the budget for the investment projects of other needs. Also, when a manufacture or corporations use their cash funds and we mean the finances of industrial subject, such usage may be realized as inside the manufacture or corporation (there is no subject about returning or not returning of the usage), so gratis under conditions of returning. This latest is called commercial form because of transmitting the sources to others, but even in this occasion, it is the element of financial system of the manufacture and corporation.

From the point of cash means movement, main character of credit is the process of formation and usage of the funds of cash means under the conditions of returning and, as a rule, taking the value-percentage. If gating the credit value doesn’t take place (even in the exceptional occasions), according to the movement form, credit becomes a private occasion of finances, as from the net financial funds (consequently from the state budget) the loans which bear no interests may be used. If gating credit value takes place, by the appearance form, credit is discussed to be financial modification.

From the historical point of view, finances (especially in the sort of the state budget) and credit (beginning with usury, later commercial and banking) were developing differently for considering credit to be the part of finances. Though, from the genetic-historical point of view, previous loaners, before giving loan, needed gathering the permanent capital not returning, that is the net financial foundation. The banks analogously needed concentration of the important own capital for influxing the consumers’ means and for getting higher percentage rate under the conditions of returning. Herewith, exactly on the financial basis, in the sort of financial fund (which later partially becomes loan fund) part of the bank capital appears to be the reservation (insurance) part of the fund, which by nature is financial and not loan. So notwithstanding the essential distinctions between finances and credit form the genetic-historical point of view, credit appears to be formed from finances and represent their modification.

From the essential position of expressing economical relations of finances and credit, we meet with cardinal distinctions between these two categories. Which mostly expressed by the distinction of the movement forms notwithstanding they are returnable or not. Finances express relations in the aspects of distribution and redistribution of social product and part of the national wealth. Credit expresses distribution of the appropriate value only in the section of percentage given for loan, while according to the loan itself, a only a temporal distribution of money sources takes place.
Herewith, there is a lot of common between the finances and credit as from the essential point of view, so according to the form of movement. At the same time, there is a significant distinction between finances and credit as in the essence, so in the form too. According to this, there must be a kind of generally economical category, which will consider finances and credit as a total unity, and in the bounds of this category itself, the separation of the specific essence of the finances and credit would take place.

Funding of the cash means is common to the researched economical categories. It takes place in any separate system of finances and credit, which have been touched upon during the analyses of defining finances and credit. Word combination “funding of the cash sources (fund formation)” reflects and defines exactly essence and form of economical category of more general character, those of finances and credit categories. Though in the in economical texts and practice, it is very uncomfortable to use a termini, which consists of three words. Also, “unloading” with an information hardens greatly its influxing into the circulation even in the conditions of its strict substantiation and thoroughness.
In the discussing context we consider:

1) wide and narrow understanding of economical category of the finances;

2) discussing finances in narrow understanding under general traditional meaning;

3) discussing finances, as funding of the cash means, in wide understanding, which concerns finances – in narrow meaning and credit – in complete meaning.
Termini “funding” and its equivalent “fund formation” are used by us as the purposeful structuring of cash means, which is based on two poles – accumulation of money sources (gathering) and its usage for definite purpose in the way of financing and crediting.
We have established a new termini – “finance-investment sphere” (FIS). Analyses about interrelation of finances and credit made by us give us an opportunity of proving, that in the given termini, the word “financial” is used with the meaning of funding cash sources, its purposeful structuring. In this process we consider at the same time financial, credit and investments’ economical categories.

Let’s sum up middle results of discussing new concept – “finance-investment sphere” and discuss its investment consisting parts.

The concept “investments” was brought into the native economical science from the West. In the Soviet economical science they for a long time used in the place “investments” the termini “capital placement”, which expressed the usage of the industrial factors in the sphere of real industrial activities during realization of capital projects. From one glance, this termini in its concept is identical to the “investments”, consequently it is possible to use them as synonyms. Though the termini “investments” and “investing” have the advantage towards the termini “capital placement” from linguistic and philological points of view, because they are expressed with one word. This is not only economical and comfortable in the process of working with the termini “investment” itself, but also it gives an opportunity of termini formation. More concretely: “investment process”, “investment domain”, “finance-investment sphere” – all these termini are much more acceptable.
Changing native economical termini with foreign ones is purposeful, if it really matters (by keeping parallel usage of the native termini for the inheritance). Though we must not change native economical termini into foreign ones all together, when by ordinal traditional language easy to explain private and narrow concrete processes and elements get their own termini. The “movement” of these termini is approved in the narrow professional bounds, but their “spitting out” into the economical science may turn economical language into the tangled slang.

Let’s discuss termini – “investment” and “capital placement’s” usage in the economical literature.
Investments are placement of funds into the main and circulation capital for the purpose of getting profit. “Investments in material assets – are the placements of funds into the mobile and real estate (land, buildings, furniture and so on). Investments in financial assets are the placements of funds into the securities bank accounts and other financial instruments”.

We don’t meet with the termini “investments” in the earlier economical dictionary, but we meet the combined termini “investment policy” – the union of the industrial decisions, which guarantee main directions of the capital investments, the activities of their concentration in the determinant suburbs, on which the reaching of planned rates of development of the society production is depended, balancing and effectiveness, getting more and more production and profit of the national income for every lost Ruble”. For today, in the most actual definitions, the capital investments are bounded only by financial means, when not only financial, but also the investment of natural, material-technical and informational resources takes place. Labour resources take an actual place in the investment process. They themselves fulfill this or that investment process.

A positive side of the discussed definitions is that they connect investment policy and capital placements (investments):

- economical development according to the key directions to the concentration;

- providing high rates of economical growth;

- raising an economical effectiveness, which is expressed:

a) by growing the throw off of the production and national income for every lost Ruble;

b) by fulfilling the branch structure of the investments;

c) by improving their technological structure;

d) by optimization of their further production structure.

Compared with such definition of the investments (capital placement) the definition of investments in the dictionary attaching the “Economics” seems to be unimproved: “investments – the expenses of gathering production and industrial means and increasing material reserve”. In this definition current expenses (production expenses) are mixed with the investment (capital) expense. Also, not the investment expenses but (though the investments are followed by the appropriate expenses) exactly advancing. It differs from the expenses by that the means (means) are put by returning the advanced values, also, under the conditions of growth, to which the concept-advanced capital is corresponding. the advancing may be realized in the money, natural-material and informational forms.

Except the termini “investments”, there are two more termini related with the investment. They are shown below.

“Human capital investment” – any activity provided for rising the workers labour productivity (in the way of growing their qualification and developing their abilities); at the expenses of improving the workers’ education, health and raising the mobility of the working forces”. It is very useful to use the mentioned termini, though it needs one correction: the human capital investments do not concern only workers, but also the servants, representatives of every kind of labour.
“Investment commodity, capital goods – a capital.”

In the official manuals of political economy of the reformation time the capital investments are discussed as “expenses for creating new main funds and widening, reconstruction and renewing the active ones”. In this definition the investments (capital placements) during separation of the forms (types) of further production of the main funds are bounded only by main funds (without increases of the circulation funds and insurance reserves):

a) creating new ones;

b) widening;

c) reconstruction;

d) renewing.

Also, the concept of the industrial gathering appears, at the expenses of widening of basic, circulation funds and also insurance reserves takes place”.

You’ll meet below the definitions of investments from “the course of economy”: the investments are called “placements of fund into the basic capital (basic means of production), reserves, also other economical objects and processes, which request long-termed influxing of material and cash means. “According to the division of capital into physical and money forms, the investments too must be divided into material and cash investments”.

They apportion investment commodity, to which belong industrial and nonindustrial building objects, vehicles purposed for changing or widened technical park and the furniture, increasing reserves and others.

“They call the total investments of production an investment product, which is directed towards keeping and increasing the basic capital (basic means) and reserve. Total investments consist of two parts. One of them is called the depreciation; it represents important investment resources for compensation of renewal till the level of before industrial usage, wearing out and repairing of the basic means. Second consisting part of the total investments is represented by net investments – capital investments for the purpose of increasing basic means”. Depreciation is not a compensation resource of wearing the basic funds out, but it is the purposeful financial source of such resources.
Human capital investment is “a specific kind of investments, mostly in education and health protection”.

“Real investments are the investments in the economical branches and also, they are kinds of economical activities, which provide influxing the increases of real capital, that is increasing material values of the industrial means”. We can agree with such definition with one specification that material and nonmaterial values too belong to the real capital (wealth), consequently science-researching experimental-construction results, various information, education of he workers and others. Such service as organization of the excitable games, also the service of redistribution social wealth from one private person to another (except charity).

“Financial investments represent placement of funds into the shares, obligations, promissory notes, other securities and instruments. Such investments, of course, do not give increases of the real material capital, but they help getting profit, consequently at the expenses of changing the course of the securities in the time of speculation, or distinguishing the course in different places of sell and purchasing”. We share wholly such definition, hence it follows that financial investments (if it is not followed by real investments as a result) do not increase real material wealth and real nonmaterial wealth. According to this context, the expression below is very important: “we must distinguish financial investments, which represent placement of the funds in the ways of selling and purchasing the securities for the purpose of getting profit and financial investments, which become cash and real, moved to real physical capital.”

In the “economical course” quoted before long and short-termed investments are separated. Recognizing the existence of the bounds between them, the authors ascribe short-termed investments to “one month or more” investments. If we get such conditioned criteria, that we can call the investments which overcome the terms of some months, long-termed ones, which is very doubtful and we don’t agree with it. A long-termed character of the fund placement is a significant feature of the investments (short-term doesn’t combine with the concept of investments). Principally, it would be better to point out quick compensative, middle termed compensative and long-termed compensative investments:

- less then 6 months – quick compensative;

- from 6 months up to the year and a half – middle termed compensative;

- more then the year and a half – long termed compensative.

We stopped at the definition of the investments in the capital work “economical course” for the special purpose, as, in it the author tried to discuss the concept of investments systemically and quite completely, herewith the book is published just now.

We’ll return to the discussion the definition economical category of “investments” in different publications in the following chapter. The definitions given here are quite enough for having a notion of the level of lighting up the given category in the economical literature.
What conclusions may be made according the definition of the mentioned economical category in the published works, except the made notions and specifications?

There is quite deeply, concretely and thoroughly defined the concept of “investments”, different definitions in the economical literature; but mostly in every works about the investments discussed by us until now, there is not opened the essence of investments as an economical category. In every monograph , even if it has a title investment, as an economical category , there is given only the definition, concept of investments. But, as the Academician Vasil Chantladze explains, “a concept is a discussion, which proves something about the distinguishing feature of the researched object. A concept out of much essential characteristic features represents only one, and essential in it is only – definition”.

But the categories are much wider; it is “a key, the most fundamental concept of every science”. Economical categories theoretically represent real, objectively existed productive relations. A category is the defining of occasions of existed characters, connections, relations of the objective world. Generally, any educational process is fulfilled by the categories, which give opportunities for dividing the processes and occasions semantically, for expressing the definitions of a subject and realize their specific peculiarities and economical relations of a material world.
Our goal is exactly to substantiate investments – as an economical category and also, as a financial category in the narrow understanding.

Here we apply for another manual thesis made by the academician Vasil Chantladze: “every financial relation is an economical one and every financial category is and economical one, but not every economical relation and economical category is financial relation and financial category”.
In the process of defining the investments, it is important to take in mind the sides of resources, expenses and incomes, because investment, from one side, is the result of the manufacture’s activity, and, from another one, – a part of income, which, in this case, is not used for usage.
Another occasion: it is advisable to discuss investments in two aspects: as a category of reserve and flow, which will reflect exactly the connection between “placement of funds” and “investments”.

What You Should Know About the Drawbacks of Home Schooling

Home schooling is something of a controversial subject. There are those who say that it is not a good practice for educating a child and that’s mostly because of the many drawbacks that can be found in it. You are sure to encounter a lot of people saying bad things about it.Despite the fact that there are some people who say bad things about home schooling, you might still be interested in it. The interest could be because of the many obvious advantages that you could get out of this particular form of education. You might be worried though about the many cons you have heard about it.Don’t let yourself be limited by what you have heard from other people. You should base your decision from that you have discovered on your own. Make the effort to check for yourself if home schooling is really something that would benefit you and your child.To help you in making that decision here are some of the real drawbacks of home schooling that you would be facing when you make the decision to switch to it. These drawbacks are all based on the experience of families who are into this form of education:· One of the biggest drawbacks of switching to this form of education is the reordering of your priorities. If you and your spouse are both working then you might have to think about becoming a single income family. Home schooling means that a parent should be focused and dedicated to the education of their child.· Another drawback of home schooling might be the lack of time that you can dedicate to yourself. It is important that you spend some time away from your duties as a parent and a teacher in order to refresh yourself. If you don’t then that could seriously affect the way that you interact with your child, not to mention with your social connections.· You might doubt yourself when you opt for home schooling because you are doing that is out of the ordinary. There are those who might question your motives for teaching your kids at home. You should learn to get over these doubts and be confident about the decision that you have made.· In connection with the last drawback, you might meet other people who would try to tell you that what you are doing is wrong. They are convinced about that as a fact that they will try to convince you of the wrongness of the decision. You just have to accept the fact that there are such people.· It will be more costly to go for this form of education. You will be buying all of the materials needed by your children. These things are available for free in schools.· In the end this form of education might erode your confidence in authority. You are going against the conventions of society and so it might lead you to think that it would apply to other institutions as well.These are just some of the real cons that you would face when it comes to home-schooling.

How to Learn Your First Programming Language

IntroductionProgramming is a very useful and rewarding hobby. There are few better feelings than when someone sees you using a program you lashed together to make your life easier and says that it looks really useful. Most people have, at some point in their lives, really wanted to be able to do something on their computer or phone and been unable to. If you know a programming language, then there is often a fair chance that you can write a program to accomplish that task yourself. While there are a huge number of programming languages, many of them have a lot of similarities; this means that once you learn one language quite well, in most cases you will be able to pick up a new one far quicker.LimitsOne thing that all new programmers must come to term with is the amount of time learning a programming language takes. Although when you have become an expert you will be able to write many programs quickly, you must remember that many programs have taken whole teams of expert developers years to create. So it is important to understand that knowing a programming language or even several is not enough to write some of the more complex programs you have seen. Don’t look upon this new hobby as a way to save yourself a lot of money, as writing your own version of most of the programs that you need to pay for now will be out of your reach.The most important thing that a new programmer needs to know is that the “Learn Programming in 24 hours” sort of books are simply not true. A more accurate title would be “Learn Programming in 10,000 hours”. If you put 24 hours or a week into learning a language you will not be creating the next Windows or a new, state of the art game. It is possible to learn to write a program in 10 minutes, and really all you need to learn a new language is your favourite search engine, but you will not be an expert. The only way to become an expert is much like learning the violin; the answer is practice, practice and practice some more.Selecting Your First LanguageNow that we have examined the limitations and handled some of the more unrealistic expectations, those of you still wanting to learn to code will be happy to know that programming is not a hard thing to start learning and will not require you to pay out huge sums of money. If you are reading this article on-line, you already have the resources to start with some languages, so let us consider what your first language ought to be.Traditionally the first language a programming newcomer learns is either Visual Basic or Python. The first thing to understand is that these two languages are very different. The simplest difference is one of price. Python is totally free; you can start writing python now with just a text editor on your computer, though if you are on Windows, you will probably need to install it first. However Visual Basic, often abbreviated to VB, is both free and not free. On the upside, VB can be simpler for newcomers to learn because it allows you to build the interfaces (the part of the program the user will see) by dragging and dropping the different parts much like designing it in some basic art application. The version of VB newcomers learn is usually Visual Basic 6, but this is rather outdated and has been discontinued. So these days the version learned is often VB.NET which can be considerably less simple for newcomers.VB.NET must be developed inside what we call an IDE (Integrated Development Environment); this is basically a special program you use to write other programs. They also exist for Python, but their use is totally optional. The free VB.NET IDE is called Visual Studio Express. At the time of writing, the latest version is Visual Studio Express 2010. Unfortunately, by using the free version of the IDE you are restricted with what you can do, and any programs you create cannot be commercially sold on. Regretfully, the full paid version of the IDE is not cheap, and probably not appropriate for a hobbyist, but fortunately to learn VB the free version is enough. In practice, very few commercial programs are developed in VB these days, but the Visual Studio IDE allows you to use many other languages. The familiarity you will develop by using it will also allow you to use the power of the IDE for development in many other languages. Some will argue that almost every language can be developed in a text editor and that they are by far the most flexible way in which to code. While this is technically true (and I do suggest trying development in a text editor to compare once you get a little better), I would strongly advise learning your first language with a proper IDE.While traditionally, people learn Python or VB first and these are generally what is taught at schools, I would not suggest either of these. I am of the opinion that your first language should continue to be useful to you one it has served the purpose of helping you learn the fundamentals of programming. If I had to recommend one of these for newcomers, it would be VB.NET as often the most complex part of programming is the graphical side of things and in VB.NET this is very simple due to the drag and drop interface. These two languages are often used as introductions as they are very tolerant of mistakes, and allow you to become confident in programming principles without worrying about a lot of the more complex matters.For those brave souls among you, I would actually suggest Java as your first language, even though it can be complex, and is therefore not a common choice for a first language. Java programs are different to most others in that they do not run on your computer. The user downloads Java, then your code runs on what is called a VM (Virtual Machine). This means that your code runs in a special place Java sets up for it – a fake copy of your computer – and handles the translation of this to the real machine for you. This means that Java programs are “cross-platform”, meaning that they will for the most part run on Windows, Mac, Linux and most other operating systems.Java is a good language to learn, as it is very widespread and useful. Furthermore, it is very powerful, and is available for free for both hobbyists and commercial uses. However, in contrast to VB and Python, it does not tolerate mistakes and requires you to be very specific about everything. It is also an object-oriented programming language, which is a very complex issue which I will briefly try to summarise. Languages like Python and VB are what is known as procedural languages, meaning that the lines of code are run one after another, whereas Java is an object-oriented language. object-oriented development is a term thrown around a lot these days in the programming world, and while not always appropriate it is generally considered a good idea. At the most basic level, an object-oriented program is all about objects. An object is an “instantiation” of a “class”. A class is a blueprint used to describe something like a cat. The class contains both the data about the cat such as its name, age and owner as well as “methods” which are essentially actions the cat can perform, such as miaow. An instance of the class “cat” would give you a particular cat. However, this is not a Java tutorial, so if you are brave enough to experiment with Java you will come across this yourself in more detail. It is worth noting that VB.NET and Python both have support for object-oriented development, and Java has the potential to be used procedurally, but these are not the languages’ primary intended uses and are not often used. If you did not understand that comparison, don’t worry about it too much. Object orientation is hard to get your head around, but any basic Java or other object-oriented language tutorial will have you understanding everything in that paragraph.A final reason Java is a good first language is that it is similar in many ways to Javascript, which is an entirely different class of language. Javascript is a scripting language (as is Python), and learning Java will mean you understand Javascript reasonably well. The difference is between scripting languages and normal programming languages is outside the scope of this article, but as a large generalisation scripts are generally used for automated tasks while programs are used interactively by users. This is not totally true, as both types of language are used for both tasks and most web programs are built in Javascript.As for the actual language you pick, it is entirely up to you. Some may choose the traditional beginner languages or be brave and experiment with Java. Some of you may already have your eye on a language or fancy one of the more specialist languages like Scheme or Prolog. Whatever your choice, the way you will learn how to program is the same.IDEs, Yes or No?Many of the purists say that IDEs are a bad idea, and are packed with unnecessary tools and menus that take up disk space and time to learn. While this is true, I feel that an IDE is definitely worthwhile. Many people offer free IDEs, such as Eclipse and Netbeans, for the more popular languages. There is also Visual Studio, which I mentioned previously; it is very intuitive, very powerful and it supports many languages (much as Netbeans and Eclipse do). If you chose to use Java I would suggest Netbeans, as there is a packaged version of Netbeans with the JDK (Java Development Kit). Most languages need an SDK (Software Development Kit) to work with them, and getting it installed properly and linked to the IDE is often the hardest part of the procedure. Visual Studio already comes with the development kits set up, which makes life easier, but other languages like Java and Python can be quite hard to set up properly. This is why I suggested the Netbeans + JDK bundle for those experimenting with Java, as it handles the complex set up for you, which will save you hours of suffering.There are, in my opinion, three major advantages to using a fully featured IDE. Firstly, they are usually extensible, meaning that there are many free plug-ins that could make your life a lot easier when you get a little more advanced. Secondly, and most importantly, is the ease with which an IDE allows you to debug your code. Most IDEs let you set breakpoints in the code, which will make the program stop when it gets to that point and let you step through it line by line, so you can examine the contents of all the variables at any time. (For those of you who do not know what a variable is, I will briefly explain. A variable is a bit like a train station locker. You ask for one big enough to hold what you want to store, and if what you want to store is the right shape, it can be stored there. When you write a program, any data you want to store temporarily will be held in one of these until you are done with it.) As the old programming saying goes, if you have not found any bugs, you are not looking hard enough. Almost no non-trivial program will work first time, and trying to work out where the problem lies without the use of a debugger is a pain I would not wish on anyone. Finally, an IDE will often give you advice on how to fix issues in the code. This can be very useful for fixing bugs, and saves you having to resort to Google every other minute.Learning the LanguageNow that you have a language and an IDE, it is finally time to learn the language. This, as you may or may not be surprised to learn, is not complex at all – it is simply time consuming. To learn programming for the first time, there is no better way than exploration. Buying a book that walks you through steps will not teach you anything, as you will not understand the reasoning behind what they are doing, and people often get disheartened by the tedium.The key to learning programming is to have a goal. Think of a task, such as a system to keep track of where you are in all the various TV shows you watch, or a system to let you look at all the books you own in a particular category, or, if you feel brave, try to replicate part of something that you use on a regular basis. My advice would be to start small, perhaps by making a sequence of message boxes that insults the user or a really simple calculator. It is important when you first start that your goals are interesting, challenging and entertaining. If you try to make really boring programs you will quickly get disheartened, so try to inject some comedy into your program. The calculator is a very good introductory program, but after you get the general idea it is important to set quite ambitious goals, as if you keep doing simple things you will never learn anything new. It is important to try to incorporate some of the knowledge you have gained from previous work. One of the reasons most books fail to teach programming well is that they use small examples for each thing they introduce, whereas what you really need to do is plan the task without considering what you will need to accomplish it. This means you will be able to code some of it using what you already know, but most importantly, you will not know how to code some of it. The best way to learn is to learn by doing. Go for a full program that does a task you wanted to do on a computer in the past, work on it, and when you are finished you will have learned a lot and you will have a useful (or at least entertaining) program which is far better than some toy program demonstrating lists.I have said that you learn by choosing to do projects where you are unable to do certain sections, thus requiring you to learn, but how do you go about finding out how to do them? It’s simple, and most likely the way you found this article. Go to your favourite search engine (like Google) and search for what you want to do – for example, search “drop down list Java” to find some examples of using drop down lists in Java. Because you will need it for another task, and not just to re-do the same thing the examples did, you will have to play with the examples you find and try to get them to do what you want. Just search each bit you need, and before long you will find that most of the basics are as natural as waking up in the morning, and you did it all without spending a small fortune on books, without getting bored and hopefully while being entertained. To this day, if I am bored, I sometimes break out one of my very first programs which is just a list of boxes and a random number generator. It is your task to try to fill all the boxes such that the numbers the random number generator gives you are in ascending order – if you don’t leave space and can’t fit a number in a hole then you lose and must start again. It’s a simple program, but it took a lot of work when I first made it and I learned a lot from the experience.Once you have a few decent sized programs under your belt, you will find that you know the language well. You will also find that it is rare, no matter how well you know a language, to be able to write a program without resorting to Google at least once just to check something. So with that in mind, it could be argued that you learned the language without ever actually trying to learn it. Clearly there are standards and good practices that you may not pick up on your own, but as you see more examples and read the comments you will find you adopt your own standards rather rapidly.Learning Another LanguageOnce you have learned one language, whatever it may be, the most valuable thing you will have learned is all the key words for searches. When you want to do something in a new language, you need only search what you want to do and the language name. However, by now you will know the names used to refer to what you want to do, allowing your searches to be more effective and yield examples and answers much more quickly. As the fundamentals of programming are mostly the same, regardless of the language you use, you will hopefully be able to guess at the meaning of most of the code much more effectively once you locate an example, allowing you to pick up most of the language very quickly indeed.ConclusionIf you take nothing else away from this article, remember that the best way to learn a skill is practice, practice and practice some more, so don’t expect to become an expert overnight. Remember that programming is not something that can be learned overnight, and that to become a passable expert you probably need to spend at least 10,000 hours programming, so you will need to find ways to remain motivated. Don’t think of it as learning to program – rather, just start programming, and before you know it you will be an expert. Programming is a skill, and while it is quite simple once you have the feel of it, it can be quite daunting to see your little calculator that took you a week and then to consider a modern game like “Batman: Arkham City” and realise how far you have to go.Programming is easy when you know how, but is not a trivial thing to learn, so it is important that you set yourself tasks. These tasks should preferably be interesting and, better yet, entertaining, as these will be what keeps you programming and learning more and more until, one day, you wake up and realise that you know quite a lot. You are your own best tutor and the key is simply to jump in and get started.