You've always wanted to learn how to build software yourself—or just whip up an occasional script—but never knew where to start. Luckily, the web is full of free resources that can turn you into a programmer in no time.
Since the invention of the internet, programmers have been using it to discuss software development techniques, publish tutorials, and share code samples for others to learn from and use online. If you're curious about how to become a programmer, you can get off to a running start using tons of great free web-based tutorials and resources.
Instead of being bound to specific programming languages and the look and feel of a particular operating system, you can put your killer application in the browser and run it in the cloud, as a webapp. Welcome to the wonderful world of web development.
HTML & CSS
The first thing you need to know to build any web site is HTML (the page markup that makes up web pages) and CSS (the style information that makes that markup look pretty). HTML and CSS are not true programming languages they're just page structure and style information. However, you should be able to author simple HTML and CSS by hand before you begin building web applications, because a web page is the frontend to every webapp. This HTML tutorial is a good place to start.
Once you're good at making things happen inside a web page, you're going to need to put some dynamic server action behind it and for that, you'll need to move into a server-side scripting language, like PHP, Python, Perl, or Ruby. For example, to make a web-based contact form that sends an email somewhere based on what a user entered, a server-side script is required. Scripting languages like PHP can talk to a database on your web server as well, so if you want to make a site where users can log in and store information, that's the way to go. Excellent web development site Webmonkey is full of tutorials for various web programming languages. See their PHP Tutorial for Beginners. When you're ready, check out how to use PHP to talk to a database in WebMonkey's PHP and MySQL tutorial. PHP's online documentation and function reference is the best on the web. Each entry (like this one on the strlen function) includes user comments at the bottom which are often as helpful as the documentation itself. (I happen to be partial to PHP, but there are plenty of other server-side scripting languages you might decide to go with instead.)