Lion of the Blogosphere

Follow-up on old engineers

My previous post on why it sucks to be an old engineer became a comment thread on a computer programmer’s forum.

If you want to read through the comments, be aware that they suffer from survivorship bias. This means that older people who used to be computer programmers/software engineers but dropped out of the industry don’t post there, so the existence of older programmer types saying that my warning is false is not at all representative because you are not hearing about the older people who used to be computer programmers.

It appears that several of the posters there have co-authored programming books, which tells you about the kind of dedication and expertise required to stay relevant as an older computer programmer/software engineer. In contrast, in just about any other profession, you don’t have to be a published author in order to stay employed.

Reading through the comments demonstrates something about the personality of computer programmer types. They believe they are smarter and better than everyone else, and therefore on account of libertarian economic theory in which smart people create value and value creators are always rewarded, they have nothing to worry about. For some reason, nearly all computer programmer types buy into libertarianism and they all think they are like Howard Roark. (White American computer programmers, that is. The Indians are more likely to be clock-punchers who happily claim it took them four hours to fix a very minor bug that I could have fixed in 15 minutes, back in the days when I did that stuff).

One commenter looked down upon my mention of immigration, on account of the assumed fact that anyone who is smart and competent like himself welcomes competition from immigrants. This is obviously an aspergery way of looking at the world. No one who wants to make money welcomes any competition. No one gets rich when there is competition. I was involved in an industry in which there were two major companies, both losing money and headed towards bankruptcy, but then they merged and as one company they became very profitable because they could raise prices and they were no longer subject to suppliers having them bid against each other. The CEO who walked away with 9 figures of profit was sure glad that there was no more competition.

Changing topics slightly, here is one comment I’d like to comment on:

I work at a software company that most likely will be bankrupt by year end due to a young developer’s desire to rewrite our flagship product from the ground up using “new” technology. Three years later this new product has 40% of the functionality of the previous version and has customers canceling contracts that have been with us for 10+ years.

I know why the young developer wanted to do this. So he could put down on his resume that he worked with the new technologies and could therefore get better jobs. This is necessity for those who want to stay relevant and employed. Too many years working in VB6 (that’s an excellent software development tool from the 1990s that’s now looked down upon with disgust because it’s not “object oriented,” and it was abandoned by Microsoft) and the result is technological obsolescence. Maybe the young developer sunk the company (who knows if the commenter is exaggerating?), but he will probably get a better job out of it. This anecdote explains why a lot of software sucks. The developers’ interests in staying technologically relevant are at odds with the need of their employer for reliable software that works.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

May 28, 2013 at 10:12 AM

60 Responses

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  1. My father is in his 70s and still works as mechanical engineer. If you are building billion dollar chemical plants/refinery, which is what my father does, you want some responsible, very experienced engineers around so you reduce the chance of someone being killed. However, most engineers end up managing groups of engineers, but it definitely requires technical knowledge and not just an MBA.

    My dad somehow managed to never get layed off which is a miracle in the petrochemical industry. He did this mostly by ignoring oppourtunties to make more money at things he was less good at and stick with what he was good at (managing projects). He was smart enough to help the people underneath him get ahead, so all the people including the VP of the section he works for all worked for him at some point. I think that helps.

    albert magnus

    May 28, 2013 at 10:25 AM

    • Age discrimination is just like discrimination of any kind. It is motivated by the so-called “ecological fallacy”, that is, because most engineers will decline with age all decline.

      In fact the effect of age on cognitive ability varies enormously.

      Nicolai Yezhov

      May 28, 2013 at 4:36 PM

      • “the effect of age on cognitive ability varies enormously”

        Citation?

        John

        May 29, 2013 at 4:12 AM

  2. No, VB6 isn’t looked down because it’s not object oriented. It actually is an object oriented language. It became popular because it was adequate for mundane internal company programs and was relatively easy to use. Which meant lots of crap programmers used it. If you only know pre-dotnet MS languages and never updated to the dotnet versions of them then yes, you’ve stalled in your career and aren’t going to be able to contribute to any new development, but you might be really great at maintaining old crusty programs and eke out a living that way.

    av

    May 28, 2013 at 10:27 AM

    • VB6 is pseudo-object-oriented. Everyone who really cares about that stuff knows it wasn’t a real OO language, and MS knew it too which is why it was abandoned and replaced with .NET, to appease the vocal element of the development community who disproportionately influence public opinion among techies who get to decide what programming languages and tools to use.

      • The vocal ones you refer to usually call themselves ‘architects’. Some actually wear bowties. I sh1t you not. I keep a shotgun on my wall for these.

        Gilbert P

        May 29, 2013 at 12:55 AM

    • Lots of crap programmers use .NET too. Indeed, it allows them to reach much higher levels of crapitude.

      steve@steve.com

      May 28, 2013 at 8:49 PM

  3. Too many years working in VB6 (that’s an excellent software development tool from the 1990s that’s now looked down upon with disgust because it’s not “object oriented”) and the result is technological obsolescence.

    Yes, the technology behind programming languages can change rapidly. Like you, I worked on both a platform and languages (and operating system commands, etc, etc) that are now obsolete. Granted, I saw the handwriting on the wall for several years before that, but it took me a number of years to first get proficient, and then really good at my language, all the associated tools and shortcuts, and the platform. It’s hard to chuck all that and start from square one. It’s also difficult when your company makes the decision to go to the new stuff. They give lip service to training up their existing programming staff on the new stuff (and the older staff are usually better paid), but they can easily bring in recent grads and H1B types for less pay, who may already have a bit of experience at the thing you’re moving to. It’s something of a quandary for older programmers. Plus, it seems more difficult to essentially start over again when you’re older. I think older programmers are better at applying logic to languages they already know than they are at actually learning the whole shebang (new languages, operating system, assorted tools) all over again. At least, that’s how it was for me. I no longer code.

    John

    May 28, 2013 at 10:36 AM

  4. Here’s a combination of the class thread and the old programmer thread:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/ryanmac/2012/03/08/jim-clark-the-comeback-billionaire-who-bet-on-apple/

    A billionaire who owns a massive yacht, a 100 million+ home in Palm Beach, and an entire floor of of a building on the EUS overlooking Central Park, whose philanthropy includes a $90 million donation to Stanford, where he was a professor…and oh by the way is married to a young SI swimsuit model.

    And what is he doing for fun these days? Writing code! And he’s all about the object oriented programming.

    Anon1

    May 28, 2013 at 10:37 AM

    • You have given hope to Lion who would be a TOOS in a few years, after when banks his 1st billion selling this blog to whoever. It’s never too late to be ultra-rich and marry a trophy wife.

      Just Speculating

      May 28, 2013 at 8:12 PM

      • It’s never too late to be ultra-rich and marry a trophy wife.

        Try to marry a trophy wife with an IQ of 115-130 so your sons will have better odds of retaining your high IQ on top of inheriting wifey’s good looks & social skills. Then teach them value transference and teach them well and yer spawn shall rule the earth.

        The Undiscovered Jew

        May 28, 2013 at 9:39 PM

      • Try to marry a trophy wife with an IQ of 115-130

        PS, it’s rare for very beautiful women to have IQs over 130. There are however a surprising number of super models who sport IQs in the 120-130 range. It appears the intelligence-beauty correlation begins to invert when women go beyond IQ 130 and head closer towards the aspergery IQ needed to make a good physics prof.

        The Undiscovered Jew

        May 28, 2013 at 9:44 PM

      • Rare but not unheard of. Jennifer Jacquet:

        http://edge.org/memberbio/jennifer_jacquet

        She also lives in NYC and would be a great match for Lion readers in the area:

        “Areas of Research/Interest: Marine ecology; conservation & evolutionary biology; cooperation; social approval.”

        Robert

        May 29, 2013 at 2:47 PM

      • The trophy wife is rare. Most are matched for class background and looks believe it or not. All women are whores, but almost all the pretty ones are disappointed, and dumb is ugly.

        Nicolai Yezhov

        May 31, 2013 at 12:47 AM

      • I thought that econ prof married to the house husband was much comelier.

        After a certain point you’re fine looking and all comparisons are meaningless. I’m sure there are some men for whom Ingrid Bergman wasn’t so pretty and some women for whom Brad Pitt doesn’t do anything.

        It’s sad, but even the very best looking people can strike out because they just aren’t attractive to that “pitch”.

        Nicolai Yezhov

        May 31, 2013 at 12:52 AM

    • “…and oh by the way is married to a young SI swimsuit model”

      destructure should read this.

      Nicolai Yezhov

      May 28, 2013 at 10:31 PM

      • destructure should read this.

        You’re obviously referring to my earlier refutation of your claim that “all hetero women are whores”. I didn’t say no women were. But saying every woman is like saying every man is a “womanizer”. As I said earlier, to find the kind of partner you want be the kind of partner they want. This example only proves my point. She wanted a wealthy older husband and he wanted a young swimsuit model. Still, what makes you think they don’t love each other? I suspect they do.

        destructure

        May 29, 2013 at 9:46 AM

      • I doubt it.

        My Dad was a divorce lawyer. He got young platinum blondes in all the time saying they wanted a divorce. They always went back. Because they loved their sugar Daddy?

        Nicolai Yezhov

        May 31, 2013 at 12:44 AM

  5. Seems like it requires too much effort. Of course all industries change and require adaptation to changes, but the tech industry changes frequently and rapidly that it must be mentally taxing having to spend all that time and energy constantly keeping up to date.

    bobo

    May 28, 2013 at 11:12 AM

  6. “One commenter looked down upon my mention of immigration, on account of the assumed fact that anyone who is smart and competent like himself welcomes competition from immigrants. This is obviously an aspergery way of looking at the world. No one who wants to make money welcomes any competition”

    I agree with you on immigration, but programmers for the most part are not in competition with each other but are indirectly working together. You have programmers building platforms, frameworks, and libraries.

    soren

    May 28, 2013 at 11:55 AM

    • “but programmers for the most part are not in competition with each other”

      You’re confusing programming companies with programmers. Let’s say that I am working at Microsoft working on the next XBOX. You are working at EA working on a game for the next XBOX. Sometimes you send me emails asking about tech specs, etc…. and I help you. So we are cooperating? Nope, our companies are cooperating. We are in direct competition. I could be retrained to do your job and you could be retrained to do mine. So we are in competition for employment. We might both apply to the same job. Mangers will look at your salary when trying to decide home much to pay me, and vice versa and the fact that we are both in market hurts us both. If you died I would have the choice to keep my current job or replace the spot that you vacated, and I would choose the better job.

      Pretty much the only time where people actually cooperate is when helping you get promoted will help me get promoted. Such situations are actually pretty rare.

      T

      May 28, 2013 at 11:45 PM

  7. Reblogged this on oogenhand and commented:
    Interesting critique that is damaging to Libertarian presuppositions.

    oogenhand

    May 28, 2013 at 11:55 AM

  8. Reading through the comments demonstrates something about the personality of computer programmer types. They believe they are smarter and better than everyone else…

    Given their common stereotype of being less traditionally masculine, physically soft and with a low SMV, I think it’s easy for managers to play on these insecurities and get them to overcompensate by putting on this stoic, I-can-handle-it, bring-it-on face.

    When some question offshoring, you’ll see articles in the trade publications taunting them for “running to the politicians” for help, when of course the industry shamelessly seeks loopholes from politicians all the time.

    Fiddlesticks

    May 28, 2013 at 12:32 PM

  9. Libertarian programmer mindset is that specific inputs leads to specific outputs. They think the amount of effort put in yields predictable dividends.

    bobo

    May 28, 2013 at 12:54 PM

  10. Did people miss the part of the book where Howard Roark, despite being this supposed productive genius, ends up broke and working a dead end job? We also miss the part where Roark gets hurt or sick from unregulated industrial work in the quarry and the book ends.

    The second part of the book ends with him losing a trial and having his money taken unfairly.

    Then in the final part of the book he engages in a conspiracy to commit fraud by passing his work off as someone else’s. Then shocked that the people he’s defrauded act exactly the way he expected them to act he blows up a building. In the book he delivers a dues ex machina speech that has nothing to do with his crime and gets off, but in the real world he just goes to jail.

    It seems to me The Fountainhead is a case study in why the libertarian idea that “smart people create value and value creators are always rewarded” is entirely false.

    asdf

    May 28, 2013 at 1:01 PM

    • Plus he ends up with a divorcee who will probably not bear a child. Randism is like shakerism; interesting to study, but a dead-end philosophy since its founder didn’t believe in future generation.

      colmainen

      May 28, 2013 at 4:06 PM

  11. Embedded programming is still a viable market and of which I continuously keep receiving job applications for. The reason is that one has to do bare bones programming without much help from compilers on debugging. You have to rely more on past experience plus reading hundreds of articles to debug a specific problem. And one also needs to have hardware knowledge in order to understand/debug the board. Hardware is more tricky to learn and work with than software.

    For these reasons, embedded programming relies more upon experience than any other programming profession. Many of the companies I worked (product engineering companies) had embedded engineers of all ages. Thus I think any programmer should have embedded skills if they want to be relevant in their later career.

    Daniel

    May 28, 2013 at 1:04 PM

  12. And now Microsoft has killed Silverlight, after so many people spent so much time learning it.

    Camlost

    May 28, 2013 at 1:25 PM

  13. When you are talking about engineering, you are just talking about software, computer etc. engineering. There’s also fields like electric power transmission, civil engineering, process engineering, HVAC engineering etc. I don’t think this age-discrimination applies to these fields so much.

    tmmm

    May 28, 2013 at 1:42 PM

    • The slower the technology changes, the less disadvantage one would have as an older engineer. Computers change very rapidly, electric power transmission probably isn’t much different today than it was 10 years ago.

    • CS majors have much lower test scores than engineering majors.

      Nicolai Yezhov

      May 28, 2013 at 4:40 PM

      • Source Please? At a school like CMU where CS and Engineering are two different schools and you have to apply directly to a school during the UG app process, CS has higher stats and tougher to get into.

        Now that could be skewed because CMU has a world class CS program and its engineering programs are not as legendary but i wonder if it is the same at MIT, Stanford, or Berkeley.

        uatu

        May 29, 2013 at 1:30 AM

      • You’ve only listed elite schools. Mean SAT/GRE for the major. Physics and math top the list. Engineering majors have much more math AND verbal ability.

        Nicolai Yezhov

        May 31, 2013 at 12:38 AM

  14. It seems coders are competing more directly with their own code rather than other coders.

    00011001

    May 28, 2013 at 2:03 PM

  15. What you think, how easy it would be to jump from hitech-engineering to these more traditional engineering disciplines? Electric power transmission is not so much different than electronics in the end. Also many of these traditional disciplines are having more and more computer controlled industrial automation involved. In industrial automation having a computer related background would be an advantage.
    Maybe one should look in which of these engineering areas are having lot of old folk retiring soon.

    tmmm

    May 28, 2013 at 2:15 PM

    • It’s almost impossible to just jump. All the separate fields are full of specialized knowledge (what’s a Dynamic VAR compensator?) and the only way to get it is through work experience. If you are an older (I.E. not a fresh grad) and don’t speak the lingo, your application will be round filed. Once you are in a particular engineering stovepipe, it’s extraordinarily difficult to get into another, even if you could quickly and easily learn the knowledge.

      And besides, when companies set absurd job qualifications that nobody meets, that makes it easier to go whine to Congress for more H1B visas.

      Some Guy

      May 28, 2013 at 4:47 PM

      • I guess that’s why you need to co-author books. If you co-author a book on Latest Thing, people may believe you actually know it.

        But generally, saying that you know it because you studied it at home doesn’t carry much weight. Employers want to see real-world work experience.

      • Authoring books only works for software. Nobody writes books (well, there frequently is one, industry standard academic textbook on each individual subject) about voltage regulation in transmission grids, or integrating high power DC motors with an industrial plant, or designing a gigawatt class AC/DC inverter, or how to dig a mine shaft.

        If you’re (say) a mining engineer, in a worldwide industry downturn, and your particular company dumps you, you’re toast. In a non-slump era, you’d be readily picked up by any company for your experience (real, non-software engineers seem to become more valuable with experience), but in a slump nobody in your field is hiring, and nobody in any other field cares that you are THE expert on ventilating a mine with 4 shafts and 500 miles of drifts (people opening a new mine, on the other hand, would be willing to pay $$$$$ for your time).

        Some Guy

        May 28, 2013 at 9:24 PM

  16. The Indians are more likely to be clock-punchers who happily claim it took them four hours to fix a very minor bug that I could have fixed in 15 minutes, back in the days when I did that stuff).

    Yes, that about sums it up! And this will be considered “greater efficiency” because the Indian code monkey gets paid less.

    peterike

    May 28, 2013 at 2:39 PM

  17. One commenter looked down upon my mention of immigration, on account of the assumed fact that anyone who is smart and competent like himself welcomes competition from immigrants. This is obviously an aspergery way of looking at the world.

    Some look at things from a systems perspective and make a personal sacrifice to optimize the system. Sort of like taking one for the team. It’s about integrity. But others are slightly psychopathic. They couldn’t care less about optimizing the system as long as they benefit personally. They’d stab a more deserving co-worker in the back to get a raise or promotion. They’d even damage the system if they would benefit personally.

    This is why it’s important to consider the externalities of hiring immigrants. Smarter doesn’t make one immune to competition. Even if the competition is low quality it puts pressure on everyone’s wages. If you have a large number of grunts doing the lower level work, better quality workers are still priced out of this lower level work unless they want to work for peanuts. So they start competing for higher level jobs. This works its way up the skill level and putting pressure on everyone’s wages.

    If it happened naturally and organically then that would be one thing. But its not organic. Corporations are going outside the system to recruit large numbers of programmers from the 3rd world. By doing so they destroy the domestic pipeline because Americans don’t want to enter an industry when they know they’ll be replaced by a lower skilled worker that’s cheaper. Plus, it makes it harder for American rookies to get the jobs where they can even develop those skills in the first place. But it’s not even about the skills. Corporations want H1B indentured servants. Even if they got all the H1B’s they wanted today they’d still be looking for newer ones tomorrow because they’d need a new crop of indentured servants to replace the previous.

    These industry lobbyists would keep dumping immigrant labor on the market until the US standard of living was so low no one would come.

    destructure

    May 28, 2013 at 3:18 PM

    • “Some look at things from a systems perspective and make a personal sacrifice to optimize the system…”

      There are no such “some”. The “system” has no designer or designers and varies from one country to another. It is rationalized by those who have benefited from it.

      Nicolai Yezhov

      May 28, 2013 at 10:29 PM

  18. Microsoft’s new gaming console the “xbox one” features a lot of things nobody wants. It’s being ripped to shreds on every gaming and technology blog/forum on the internet.

    Conquistador

    May 28, 2013 at 3:51 PM

    • Microsoft, Sony, Google, Apple, Nintendo, Valve and all the other major tech players have not yet understood that technology is a winner-takes-all. There is room for only one in the market of unified entertainment devices, and as long as the sky has not cleared, people will simply not buy them.

      Thomas

      May 28, 2013 at 6:26 PM

      • You are right that Microsoft doesn’t realize that, Windows 8 is proof. Google, Apple, and Nintendo definitely realize that technology is winner take all. Google is grabbing information as fast as it can, putting it into the position of likely winner for most categories. Apple has staked itself out as a maker of luxury goods. Nintendo has actively avoided the xbox/play station fight and focused on different audiences.

        T

        May 29, 2013 at 12:23 AM

      • Major tech players are struggling to win the living room with a unified ent device because of the siloed nature of content production and delivery via cable/satellite operators.

        My Strategy to completely win the living room (only works for apple because they have the balance sheet to do it):

        1. Apple Buys Disney (Apple can afford it and has a history with disney considering the Jobs Estate owns more of Disney than Apple)

        2. Apple wins the next NFL Sunday Ticket deal for exclusive rights over DirectTV (if DTV lost sunday ticket, they would be in a world of hurt)

        3. Apple offers all of Disney and NFL properties exclusively on future Apple Living Room Device thereby cutting out cable/satellite operators in the process.

        4. Do a JV with Nintendo to acquire gaming knowhow/tech/IP (Nintendo has the best family friendly/casual gaming IP/track record and that’s more important than what hardcore game geeks like).

        Given the install base that would occur for said device due to the demand created by the exclusives apple would have, game devs, content producers for tv/movie would all have to play ball with Apple.

        Now would this run into anti-trust issues? Maybe but it’s an interesting thought experiment.

        uatu

        May 29, 2013 at 1:46 AM

  19. OT

    Lion, when you have time would you comment & post on this story* about a deeply indebted law grad who convinced the 9th circuit to discharge most of his student loans?

    This is big news because if thousands more follow his lead and even a percentage win in bankruptcy court this could blow a hole in academia’s finances. This ruling could also help some of your younger readers who got screwed with student debt. In particular anyone who lives under the Ninth’s jurisdiction and has unmanageable student debt should go to bankruptcy court ASAP to discharge as much of their burden as possible:

    * http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505123_162-57586171/court-opens-window-of-hope-for-student-debtors/

    The case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, decided on May 22, presented a colorful, but by no means unique, display of the lengths courts think people should go to re-pay a loan. The plaintiff in the case, one Michael Hedlund, took on about $85,000 in debt to get an undergraduate degree at the University of Oregon and a law degree at Willamette Law School. He also took an internship with the Klamath County district attorney in Oregon and twice took the bar exam, failing both times. On his third try, Hedlund locked his keys in his car and missed the exam. When he couldn’t pass the bar, he lost his job and took another one as a counselor. He got married and had a child. When he was 33, he declared bankruptcy .

    snip

    By reining in the district court, the appeals court also may offer greater freedom to bankruptcy judges to give student loan borrowers and other debtors the benefit of the doubt if they can show that they tried to pay a debt.

    “We’re delighted with the court’s decision,” said Derek Foran, a partner with Morrison and Foerster in San Francisco who represented Hedlund on a pro bono basis, in a statement. “The Ninth Circuit’s decision is important for other student debtors, because it clarifies the correct standard of review governing undue hardship determinations under the bankruptcy code. It will mean significant relief for student debtors — who often are unrepresented — seeking relief in bankruptcy court.”

    The Undiscovered Jew

    May 28, 2013 at 6:21 PM

  20. Three years later this new product has 40% of the functionality of the previous version and has customers canceling contracts that have been with us for 10+ years.

    He works for Microsoft?

    The Undiscovered Jew

    May 28, 2013 at 6:22 PM

  21. Comments like these are why I keep reading:

    “…more likely to be clock-punchers who happily claim it took them four hours to fix a very minor bug that I could have fixed in 15 minutes…”

    Sad but true.

    lion of the lionosphere

    May 28, 2013 at 6:48 PM

  22. “The developers’ interests in staying technologically relevant are at odds with the need of their employer for reliable software that works.”

    You are a heretic to the free market religion and must be burned at the stake.

    Nicolai Yezhov

    May 28, 2013 at 10:48 PM

    • The ‘free market’ myth (which is that a society functions best when based solely on contractual exchanges) has completely died off among intelligent people during the past few years.

      Only 13-year-old nerds are still libertarians.

      Thomas

      May 29, 2013 at 1:58 AM

      • It is funny that computer software is the least regulated market with the most dominating monopolies until finding out that programmers are some of the most staunch Free Market Libertarians. Then it’s hilarious!

        javert

        May 29, 2013 at 11:18 AM

      • Like Paul Ryan. He read Rand like some others read Tolkien.

        Nicolai Yezhov

        May 31, 2013 at 12:42 AM

  23. I don’t understand programmers. Isn’t it somewhat obvious that the very nature of object-oriented technology implies that programmers at any given level of knowledge are going to become obsolete? The whole point of the object oriented approach is to move away from a programmatic, algorithmic approach to one where common programming routines are simply, well, called.

    For example, if you wanted to write a “sort” or a “count” routine in a structured programming language like C or Cobol, then you would need to code whole if, then, else statements, while comparing strings, doing looping routines, passing to and from fields, initializing them, etc. In fact, writing “sort” and “count” routines from scratch is a pretty challenging exercise for novice programmers but is also a very good way of developing logical thinking skills in programmers because you would have to actually code this process.

    With object-orientation, you do not write sort/count routines. You call an object that does this for you. All you need to do is pass parameters to the object module, make sure it works, and it will do this for you.

    The problem is that this does not look like programming. Invoking a bunch of black boxes to perform tasks means your skill set is in understanding a development environment and the libraries of object modules that are contained. Actual code writing (the creation of objects) is passed onto algorithm design, which comes into play at a more advanced level. In other words, the only time you actual do any real coding is when you are working on something novel. But how often is true novelty to going to appear in a workplace environment?

    So, it seems, the battle between C#, C++, Java, SQL, PHP is in knowing what the modules are and in knowing how efficiently these black boxes execute routines. Yet, how is it possible to know this if getting things done gets in the way of getting under the hood?

    map

    May 29, 2013 at 12:36 AM

    • Your confusing object oriented with libraries. Yes, modern programming tools have huge libraries, and it takes a lot of time using such tools to get a feel for whats in the libraries, and the various library functions can be extremely complicated and require much study to figure out how to use them. Which is why one can’t just simply jump from XCode to .NET or Java.

      • I don’t think I am. For example, inheritance and encapsulation are techniques of re-using existing code, the code that is contained in libraries that you need to understand before inheritance and encapsulation is useful.

        map

        May 29, 2013 at 11:26 AM

      • A non-object-oriented language can also have extensive function libraries.

      • What Lion said. The only reason that a language like Fortran is even semi-functional these days is those extensive libraries.

        With that said, can’t you use the libraries of one language in another these days?

        Buzzcut

        May 29, 2013 at 12:07 PM

  24. You’re only partially right.

    “I work at a software company that most likely will be bankrupt by year end due to a young developer’s desire to rewrite our flagship product from the ground up using “new” technology. Three years later this new product has 40% of the functionality of the previous version and has customers canceling contracts that have been with us for 10+ years.”

    Why did they put the rewrite into production if it had less functionality? This company seems downright incompetent. Still, I think that there is a tension in software. It is impossible to have a company where all of the employees work on new products, and only the people building original products have strong career prospects, so software development inevitably becomes a winner-takes-all profession.

    “I know why the young developer wanted to do this. So he could put down on his resume that he worked with the new technologies and could therefore get better jobs. This is necessity for those who want to stay relevant and employed. Too many years working in VB6 (that’s an excellent software development tool from the 1990s that’s now looked down upon with disgust because it’s not “object oriented,” and it was abandoned by Microsoft) and the result is technological obsolescence. Maybe the young developer sunk the company (who knows if the commenter is exaggerating?), but he will probably get a better job out of it. This anecdote explains why a lot of software sucks. The developers’ interests in staying technologically relevant are at odds with the need of their employer for reliable software that works.”

    Your views are based on your experience with a mediocre company. Many of the important ideas in software development have academic roots in the early 20th century. For example, Scala and Clojure are rapidly gaining ground as mainstream programming languages, yet the paradigms that they enable are relatively old. Functional programming is very closely tied to lambda calculus and Lisp, the predecessor of Clojure is from the 50s.

    Alex

    May 29, 2013 at 3:13 AM

  25. When you talk about the personality of computer programmers, it is almost universally true. Probably because it attracts that sterotype nerdy guy. Here in Brazil is basically the same thing. Programmers think that they are smarter than any one else. And the result is the same also: unemployment near the forties.

    Samuel

    June 1, 2013 at 7:25 PM


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