In programming, there are certain tasks that appear over and over in some form or another. Sorting data is one of them. Linked lists are another. These tasks have been analyzed extensively and repeatedly, in order to find more and more efficient ways to do them.
Today, when encountering one of these tasks, there's no need to reinvent the wheel. It IS important to understand how to do them! As a new programmer, you really need to at least be familiar with these tasks and at least some of the ways to deal with them. Whenever you see something that seems like it's probably been done before, it probably has, and you should look for algorithms that already do the task and use those techniques yourself.
That's why algorithms are taught early in the class. They are fundamental tools for programming. If there's a task to be done, someone has probably already created some code for it. The more common the task, the more likely an algorithm has been written already, and the more likely that more efficient code for it already exists.
For example, there are many ways to sort data - bubble sorts, stone sorts, merge sorts, the list goes on. There have been whole college classes just on sorting data! You don't need to master them all, but you do need to know that they exist and to be familiar with some of the more popular ones. If you're more ambitious, you might want to study data sorting in depth. The point is, it's important to know that these algorithms exist, and to master at least some of them!
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