I learned about application programming interfaces, or APIs, in a practical context first. There were two pieces of software that my team at work used and every week, they’d manually download a spreadsheet of data from one system, then upload it to another. Then, like magic, they worked with another team to develop an API to connect the two systems and make the data flow from one piece of software into the other.
Though I really had no idea how that worked, I loved the delightful idea of eliminating simple, repetitive tasks that no one really enjoys. When APIs can automate simple tasks that no one really enjoys doing, that’s a big win.
APIs are incredibly practical and helpful.
While trying to wrap my head around APIs, I read an explanation from freeCodeCamp titled explaining APIs “in English, please” that cleared things up for me a little more.
The best way I’ve heard it described as is “a thing that makes systems talk to each other.” That might be a bit of an oversimplification, but it gets the idea across.
I love the practical background APIs and how they have the potential to automate mundane tasks in our typical workdays. However, figuring out how to make a simple one work was still incredibly difficult.
Every API is incredibly different and unique.
In retrospect, I feel like I should have expected this going on. But as the novice I am, I didn’t. I’m working in p5.js and experimented with a lot of different functions before I got an API properly loaded into the p5.js editor.
I tried a random cat fact API, but had some trouble making that read in p5.js.