Prologue: Prerequisites

Your computer needs the following computer-programming tools to participate. Verify you have them working before you begin.

A command-line interface

Whether you know about it or not, there should be a way to open a window and directly issue commands to your operating system. Different operating systems give this tool slightly different names, but they all have some form of it.

On Windows this is called the “command prompt.” On MacOS it is called the “terminal.”

On Windows 10, we recommend you install the Windows Subsystem for Linux and select the Ubuntu distribution from the Windows Store. This will give you access to a generic open-source terminal without all the complications and quirks introduced by Windows. On MacOS, the standard terminal app will work fine.

Python 3.6 or higher

Python is a free and open-source computer programming language. It’s one of the most popular in the world and praised by its supporters as clear and easy to read.

That makes it ideal for beginners and is partly why it’s been adopted by professionals in many fields, ranging from engineering and web development to journalism and music.

You can check if Python is already installed on your computer by visiting your command line and entering the following:

python --version

You should see something like this after you hit enter:

Python 3.6.10

If not, you’ll need to install Python on your system.

If you see a number starting with 2, like say …

Python 2.7.12

…then you have an outdated version of Python and will need to upgrade to a version starting with a three. You can probably complete the class without doing so, but the maintainers of Python are gradually phasing out version two and officially recommend you upgrade.

Instructions for both new installations and upgrades can be found here.