When I was a mechanical engineer in the late 1980s I used Microsoft QuickBASIC to write and create simple programs for work. I loved it. It was a compiled BASIC, too, so it was speedy. I used it to recreate a lot of the programs from Rudy Rucker's Chaos software from Autodesk. I got pretty good at writing programs in BASIC, just as I got pretty good at nodding my head when my smarter programmer friends would tell me that BASIC was not a real programming language.
I never learned any other languages, but recently I've started using Python and it is easy and fun. One thing I did with Python was write a nontransitive dice simulator to prove to myself that these confounding dice really worked as described.
I just got my hands on a new book called Automate the Boring Stuff with Python: Practical Programming for Total Beginners by Al Sweigart, and it looks like it is exactly what I need: a book for beginners and with lots of ideas for programs that are actually useful. Examples:
- Search for text in a file or across multiple files
- Create, update, move, and rename files and folders
- Search the Web and download online content
- Update and format data in Excel spreadsheets of any size
- Split, merge, watermark, and encrypt PDFs
- Send reminder emails and text notifications
- Fill out online forms