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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I Was There
by DriverGuy on Mon 1st Oct 2012 14:44 UTC
DriverGuy
Member since:
2012-10-01

I think I probably *am* one of these "ancient" programmers you're talking about. Punched cards in college, started programming on Minicomputers in Macro-11 (assembler) in the "real world."

Back in the day, people "fell into" programming because they liked it and they were naturally good at it. There were few schools that had a computer science major, and most of the CS classes were taught in the dept of mathematics (heresy!).

We're programmers BETTER then than they are now? No, not at all, NO WAY.

Back then, computer problems were SMALLER. The listing (in assembler) for a complete PDP-11 operating system (including all the system services and many utilities) would fit into a a 3 ring binder. Compare that with Windows or Linux today! Back then, you could KNOW all the code in a given operating system pretty easily. You could see it in your head. It was pretty easy to be an "expert."

Also, there were few "off the shelf" solutions for problems. If you wanted to control a basic lab peripheral you had to write the driver for it (again, in assembler language). So, naturally, lots of folks knew how to write drivers and knew how the OS worked. A complex "line of business" application comprised prompting somebody on a character-oriented terminal and printing out some clever spread-sheets with dashes and plus signs.

So, guys back then (sorry, they WERE mostly guys) knew different things... more in-depth things that were closer to the hardware... because that's all there WAS. That was the class of problem we were solving.

But was there more ENGINEERING talent back then? No. Did people right better CODE back then? HELL no. There was ZERO concern for security back then (there was very little malicious hacking so nobody paid any attention to the threat). You'd be FIRED if you wrote code today like we used to write it "back in the day."

Seriously... the world is different, that's all.

Why haven't "new" programmers "learned more" from us old guys? The biggest reason is because a lot of what we struggled with just isn't relevant anymore. Anybody care to hear about how we use overlays to fit "big" programs into the 32KB virtual address space on a PDP-11? Or how we implemented zero copy interprocess communication using OS memory management directives? Or how we used to do dynamic assignment of Unibus Mapping Registers to manage a scare resource? NO? You don't want to learn this stuff? Well, hell, *I* don't even want to remember that shit. Nobody does. It's not relevant anymore.

Logic is logic. Engineering is engineering. Good engineering is the same now as it was then... an elegant trade-off of factors to achieve a prioritized series of goals.

On the other hand, I *do* miss programming in Macro-11 every once in a while ;-)

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