School Nightmares

I am not a mother- but I have had the incredible honor of being old enough to help raise my little sister. Often I reflect on how much courage it takes to be a parent. To choose to bring a child into…


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What I Learned About Variables That Changed My Understanding of Computer Programming

Variables are one of the most fundamental concepts learned as a software engineer or hobbyist programmer. So fundamental, they are, that it is easy to use them with an understanding of the what? and why? of programming variables but no real understanding of how? they actually work in the greater context of computer science.

I knew that variables are names you use to point to a value with a given data type (string, integer, array, hash, etc).

I knew that variables are used to DRY up code by referencing the same value in multiple places throughout a given scope or context without explicitly duplicating the coded value.

I even knew that, depending on the programming paradigm you are working with (ex. Object Oriented Programming), certain variables can change the value to which they point (a concept known as “mutability”) while others can prevent changes to that assigned value (likewise known as “immutability”).

But what I didn’t know is that whenever I’m initializing a variable, I’m actually assigning a reference to that piece of data to a specific location in my computer’s main memory.

The location to which a variable is stored is determined during the process of code compilation or interpretation, associating the variable’s name and content to a unique memory address for the duration of a program’s run time.

When the program runs, memory space is allocated for storage of the variable. And when the program stops running, the space is reallocated for something else.

To someone with a computer science background, this isn’t a groundbreaking discovery. But for me, it provided a good lift to my…

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