Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 28th Sep 2012 21:51 UTC, submitted by MOS6510
General Development "When I started writing programs in the late 80s it was pretty primitive and required a lot of study and skill. I was a young kid doing this stuff, the adults at that time had it even worse and some of them did start in the punch card era. This was back when programmers really had to earn their keep, and us newer generations are losing appreciation for that. A generation or two ago they may have been been better coders than us. More importantly they were better craftsmen, and we need to think about that." I'm no programmer, but I do understand that the current crop of programmers could learn a whole lot from older generations. I'm not going to burn my fingers on if they were better programmers or not, but I do believe they have a far greater understanding of the actual workings of a computer. Does the average 'app developer' have any clue whatsoever about low-level code, let alone something like assembly?
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Doc Pain
Member since:
2006-10-08

Programmers used to have to be more precise simply because a run was a big deal.


Programming began in the head, not on the terminal's keyboard (if you had one). I think there was more emphasize of the "pre-coding work". Today you don't need that approach anymore as "trial & error" is inexpensive, all on company time. :-)

You didn't have your own machine at your beck and call.


You could be happy to even see the machine you're woring on (or for) once in your life. :-)

Instead, you shared a machine and computer time was a scarce resource (it cost money or it took you a long wait in line to get your program on the machine).


So you know where "accounting" in relation to computer resources (CPU time, storage, hardcopy) originates from. The UNIX and Linux operating systems still have this functionality built in.

I remember my CS professor stating: "'Trial and error' is not a programming concept!" :-)

Also back in the punch card era, it wasn't so convenient to alter your code as it is today.


For those not familiar with this important era of computing, I suggest reading "Programming with Punched Cards" by Dale Fisk:

http://www.columbia.edu/cu/computinghistory/fisk.pdf

It's more funny than you may think, and as a historic sidenote, it depicts the role of women in IT when IT wasn't actually called IT (but data processing).

So I don't know whether old programmers were "better," but I do believe they had to code more carefully and rely much more on desk-checking than simply running a program over and over to eliminate error.


I admit it's hard to compare in terms of worse or better. At least it's much different, even though some basic elements have been shared throughout IT history. Those who are willing to read, to learn, to think and to experiment will always be superior to "code monkeys" and "typing & clicking drones" involved in so many parts of corporate IT.

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