Technical requirements

See the Installfest project for more instructions.


  • a text editor (VS Code from Microsoft)
  • a JavaScript engine (NodeJS)
  • Git


If you do not have these, RAISE YOUR HAND!

What will we learn?

In this class, you will learn about:

  • Code and coding
  • The command line and why we use it
  • How to run your code interactively or from a file
  • How to make a very simple website run on your own computer
  • How to deploy your website to the cloud, where anyone in the world can visit

Follow along online! Put a browser pointed at this site on one side of your screen, and Terminal on the other.

What if I know some of this already?

  • Pair up
  • Help your partner, help your neighbor
  • Docendo discimus ("By Teaching We Learn")
  • Promote yourself to TA

The best way to learn is to teach. Latin proverb

What is code?

Generally, code is something that stands for something else.

Specifically, source code is a series of instructions that tell a computer what to do.

With computers, "code" is not about secrets -- it's about symbols.

What is coding?

  • coding is fun!
  • coding is frustrating!
  • coding is creative!
  • coding is communication
    • between you and a computer
    • between you and other coders
    • between you and future you

What is coding NOT?

  • coding is not advanced mathematics
    • some logic (if / then / and / or / etc.)
    • mostly just counting ("do this 10 times")
  • coding is not solitary
    • most coding happens in a team
    • all professional coding happens with clients / users / designers / managers etc.
    • pair programming is awesome
  • coding is not about finding the right answer
    • there's always more than one way to do it
    • every solution has tradeoffs
    • there is always a better way, and never a perfect way
    • often the hardest part of coding is defining the problem, not solving it

"The only perfect program is an empty file." - Alex

A Program Is Like A Recipe

  • a recipe is a collection of ingredients and instructions

Grandma's Cookie Recipe

  • a program is a collection of data (ingredients) and code (instructions)

When you are coding, you are not baking cookies; you are writing a recipe for how to make cookies.

Writing a recipe involves trying out the recipe (baking a test batch), then tweaking the recipe and trying again and again until you get it right.

(recipe from


  • every program is written in a language
    • like Java or Python or C or Fortran
    • even HTML and CSS and SQL are languages
    • computer languages all have very silly names
  • computer languages are very specific compared to natural languages
  • different languages are useful in different areas, but there is a lot of overlap
  • today we will play with the JavaScript programming language

Errors Are Awesome

  • Don't be afraid of errors
  • Your computer is trying to help you fix your program
    • It's just really bad at communicating

If your code is a two-year-old child, then an error is a temper tantrum.

(It can take effort to figure out the underlying reason why they're upset and fix it.)

  • It's not all gibberish
  • Try to read it -- really try! -- and pull out the pearls from the pig slop

See also: What went wrong? from MDN

Lab: Opening the Terminal

  • to open your Terminal:

    • Mac OS: launch the "Terminal" application
    • Windows: launch the "Cmder" application (pronounced "Commander"), make a new console (Ctrl-T) and select
    • Startup command: {bash::bash}
    • Startup directory: C:\Users\yourname
    • Windows (alternate): Launch the Windows Command Prompt (cmd.exe or PowerShell) -- but beware, the commands are slightly different than in bash
  • Important: make your terminal as tall as possible and don't overlap windows

    • when reading a program's output you want to start reading at the top...
    • ...and if your window is too short then the top lines will scroll away and you will miss them
    • Make it look like this:

Optimal Layout - MacOS

Arrange your application windows like so

terminal next to browser

Optimal Layout - Windows

Arrange your application windows like so

terminal next to browser

Lab: Interactive Calculator

  1. open a terminal
  2. look at the prompt -- it should end with a $ or > symbol
  3. type node -- that's you commanding the computer to launch node
  4. press the Return key (also called Enter)
  5. see the > prompt
  6. type 1 + 1
  7. press the Return key again
  8. see the 2
  • Yay! Your computer is an expensive calculator!
  • Bonus: what other math can you do?

Node is a JavaScript Engine

Diagram: Node Train: Command Line

An "engine" is a type of program that either executes or empowers other programs.

NodeJS (aka node) is an engine that runs JavaScript programs -- either from files, or interactively from the command line.

A Tale of Two Prompts

WARNING: Before you start typing, look at the prompt!

  • A shell is the command interpreter that the terminal starts with
    • The prompt typically looks like:
    • Davids-Macbook-Pro:~ David$ (Mac)
    • [email protected]:~$ (Ubuntu Linux)
    • C:\Users\david> (Windows)
  • The command node is a program that is launched from the shell
    • The node prompt will look like: >

While running node, if you want to return to the shell

  • Type Ctrl-C twice
  • OR type .exit and then Enter

When in doubt, try it out!

From now on, whenever you see text in the code font, try typing it into the terminal and see what happens! For example:

'pod' + 'cast'

If that doesn't print 'podcast', look at the prompt; you may be inside your shell instead of inside node.


  • A directory is a location on your hard disk
    • Also sometimes called a folder
  • Directories can contain files
  • Directories can also contain other directories (called subdirectories)
  • There are visible directories like: /Users/yourUserName/Downloads/
  • There are hidden directories like: /Users/yourUserName/.ssh/
  • There are also hidden files...
  • We will cover how to view these in the command line

Show hidden in Finder

Show hidden in Windows

Where am I?

  • Inside the Terminal, you are always "inside" a directory.
  • It is very easy to get lost in a maze of directories.
  • To find out which directory you are in, type: pwdReturn
    • This stands for "print working directory" (not "password").
    • Most of the time you can also look at the prompt to see what the current directory is.

Home Directory

  • When you first open the Terminal you are in your HOME DIRECTORY
  • If you store files directly in your home directory, it will soon get cluttered
  • For this class, we recommend:
    • Create a code directory inside your home directory
    • Create a new directory inside code for each lesson or project > WARNING: On some windows systems, Command Prompt will open to C:\Windows\System32

WARNING: On some windows systems, Command Prompt will open to C:\Windows\System32. You can get back to your home directory by typing cd %HOME%

Listing Directory Contents

  • When you type ls ("list") it shows the contents of the current directory

    • On Windows you may need to type dir instead
  • If you type ls -al ("list all long") it also shows hidden files and extra info like the modification date

    • On Windows you may need to type dir /A:SH instead

Making a directory

  • When you type mkdir ("make directory") it creates a new subdirectory inside the current directory
mkdir code

Changing directories

  • cd ("change dir") moves you into a different directory
  • For example, cd code would move you into a subdirectory named code
  • If you ever get lost, type cd all on its own and press the return key. This will send you back to your home directory. > Unix shell only, not Windows!

Basic Command Review (Unix)

  • pwd ("print working dir") -- Shows the name of the current directory
  • cd ("change dir") -- Move into a different directory
  • ls ("list") -- Shows the contents of the current directory
  • mkdir ("make dir") -- Creates a new subdirectory inside the current directory

These apply to Mac / Unix / Linux / bash / cmder

Basic Command Review (DOS)

  • cd ("change dir") -- With no directory, it lists the current directory. Otherwise, it changes to the specified directory
  • dir ("directory") -- Shows the contents of the current directory
  • mkdir ("make dir") -- Creates a new subdirectory inside the current directory

These apply to Windows / DOS / PowerShell

LAB: make a subdirectory and then enter it

  1. Open Terminal or Command Prompt
  2. Confirm that you are in your home directory
  3. Make a new subdirectory using mkdir code
  4. Change into that directory using cd code
  5. Make sure you're really there using pwd
    • On Windows use cd
  6. List its contents using ls (and note that it's empty)
    • On Windows use dir


  • A file is a place on disk for storing "stuff"
  • The "stuff" here could be any "data" at all
    • Documents, pictures, sounds, applications, or anyting else!
  • Every file lives inside a directory

Text Editor

  • A text editor is a program that edits a text file
  • A text editor is like a word processor
  • BUT a text editor is not a word processor
  • You probably have installed by now: VS Code
    • Some other editors include Atom, Sublime Text, Notepad++, TextMate, Vim, Emacs
    • The following are NOT editors: TextEdit, Wordpad, Microsoft Word

Source File

  • Source code is the essence of a program
  • Source files are text files that contain source code
  • To RUN a JavaScript program you type node and then the name of the source file, like this:
$ node hello.js
Hello, World!
  • The Recipe Metaphor
    • source file ≈ recipe
    • running a program ≈ cooking

LAB: Hello, World

  1. Make sure you are in your code subdirectory using pwd or cd
  2. Open this directory in your text editor
    • for VSCode, use code . ("code dot")
  3. Create a file named hello.js using the File > New menu
  4. Inside this file, put the following source code:

    console.log("Hello, World!");
  5. Save the file

  6. Switch back to the terminal (using Alt-Tab or Cmd-Tab or clicking)
    (If you are using VS Code, you can click Terminal → New Terminal for the built-in terminal panel)

  7. Run this file using node hello.js

What happens? Is this what you expected?

Command-Line Shortcuts

These work in bash:

bash shortcuts


  • You can use Esc instead of Alt for the above
  • Esc-Backspace (delete previous word)
  • up/down arrow (scroll through history)
  • End and Home (jump to end or beginning of line)
  • Tab for auto-completion of filenames (e.g. typing node hTab will emit node hello.js)

(image source: Clément Chastagnol)

Bash Shortcuts Cheatsheet