“What is Code?” is a 38,000 word primer on programming that everyone should read

"What is Code?" is a 38,000 word piece written for Bloomberg Businessweek that sets out to answer its titular question in a clear yet comprehensive manner. Penned by programmer Paul Ford, the piece has already received widespread acclaim not only for being an effective primer to programming, but for pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved with interactive, digital long-form journalism.

"What is Code?" is a 38,000 word piece written for Bloomberg Businessweek that sets out to answer its titular question in a clear yet comprehensive manner. Penned by programmer Paul Ford, the piece has already received widespread acclaim not only for being an effective primer to programming, but for pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved with interactive, digital long-form journalism.

"It’s a particularly complicated piece of art. With the parallel description of what code is, it implements code as part of the in-built web process," Jason Scott of The Internet Archive told Motherboard. "This is a gold standard as both a culturally relevant statement and something fundamentally meant to be ephemeral."

Intertwining narrative, "how-to" and history, Ford's piece is an immense undertaking beginning with an explanation of what a computer actually is, taking readers all the way through the fundamentals of programming languages to modern smartphone app development.

"Code has been my life, and it has been your life, too. It is time to understand how it all works," wrote Ford. "Every month it becomes easier to do things that have never been done before, to create new kinds of chaos and find new kinds of order. Even though my math skills will never catch up, I love the work. Every month, code changes the world in some interesting, wonderful or disturbing way."

As well written as "What is Code?" is, its digital elements truly make it shine. Bloomberg has brought the piece to life with a Clippy-like virtual assistant, interactive widgets, example code and elaborate photography. Completing the piece even nets the reader a certificate.

Click here to read "What is Code?"

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