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Programming

Where Are the Original PC Programmers Now? 124

Posted by kdawson
from the nobody-expects-the-internet dept.
Esther Schindler writes "In 1986, Susan Lammers did a series of interviews with 19 prominent programmers in a Microsoft Press book, Programmers at Work. These interviews give a unique view into the shared perceptions of accomplished programmers, the people who invented the tools you use today. In Programmers Who Defined The Technology Industry: Where Are They Now?, I tracked down the fate of these prominent developers — from Robert Carr (Framework) to Dan Bricklin (VisiCalc) to Toru Iwatani (author of Pac Man, I'm glad you asked). The article quotes the developers' 1986 views on programming, the business, and the future of computing. In two cases (Bricklin and Jonathan Sachs, author of Lotus 1-2-3) I spoke with them to learn if, and how, their views had changed. One meaty example: In 1986, Bill Gates said, on Microsoft's future: 'Even though there'll be more and more machines, our present thinking is that we won't have to increase the size of our development groups, because we'll simply be making programs that sell in larger quantities. We can get a very large amount of software revenue and still keep the company not dramatically larger than what we have today. That means we can know everybody and talk and share tools and maintain a high level of quality.' At the time, Microsoft had 160 programmers."
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Where Are the Original PC Programmers Now?

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  • Re:So.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Friday October 22, 2010 @09:46AM (#33985182) Journal

    Well those were back in the 8 bit days when the database couldn't hold more than 256 employees at once. They had some wiggle room, but not much.

  • by cindyann (1916572) on Friday October 22, 2010 @09:47AM (#33985206)

    "We can get a very large amount of software revenue and still keep the company not dramatically larger"

    Translation: more money for me.

  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday October 22, 2010 @09:48AM (#33985218) Homepage Journal

    PCs are little different than then the big iron when computers were new. I'd say that people like Grace Hopper who wrote the first compiler, Von Neumann who came up with the archetecture, John Atanasoff and Clifford Berry, John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert, etc. were the real pioneers.

  • Back in the days (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Friday October 22, 2010 @09:48AM (#33985226)
    Everyone from my parents to job counselors kept telling me that learning programming and computers was a dead end because it was both a fad and a saturated market. IBM already had all the programmers they would ever need, who would hire more?
  • by somersault (912633) on Friday October 22, 2010 @10:04AM (#33985346) Homepage Journal

    Yep - he seems to be describing Open Source development, rather than Microsoft.

  • by arth1 (260657) on Friday October 22, 2010 @10:20AM (#33985488) Homepage Journal

    In defense of TFA, it is called "Programmers who Defined the Technology Industry", following up on the book "Programmers at Work" which was about Microsoft programmers.

    Listing who the real computer pioneers were is a bit like replying to a post about singers by stating that Robert Moog and J.S. Bach were music pioneers.

  • by AnonymousClown (1788472) on Friday October 22, 2010 @10:24AM (#33985534)

    Everyone from my parents to job counselors kept telling me that learning programming and computers was a dead end because it was both a fad and a saturated market. IBM already had all the programmers they would ever need, who would hire more?

    Then, you went into programming. Life was good ... but you start noticing that more and more programming jobs start going overseas. But you don't worry, they're just doing the maintenance and boiler plate code. You, after all, are doing the intense design and algorithms. Life is still good - your pay just keeps going up and up!

    Then one day, you're asked to train a young man from an Asian country about your code. You answer questions like, "What does an asterisk by a variable mean?", "What's this arrow mean?" and "What's a pointer?" and other questions that make you wonder if this person is even qualified to be doing what they hired him for.

    You think nothing of it because you have skills and you are always willing to learn and adjust - you'll be employable for ever!

    Time goes on and you're getting closer to 40. You start doing more documentation type of things because the coding is being done more and more with outsourcing companies.

    Then one day, they don't need you anymore and when you try to get more work, you hear nothing. Many, many, many resumes out - nothing. You get more education and training and still nothing. In the meantime, you see posts on places like Slashdot saying that they are having a hard time getting qualified people. Resisting the urge to flame the poster, you walk away from your computer mumbling, "Bullshit. Bullshit.Bullshit. Bullshit. ..."

    You then see that some "loser" you knew years ago went into management and is still employed and you think "Why oh why did I insist on staying technical!?!"

  • Peter Norton? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BetaRelease (110550) on Friday October 22, 2010 @11:22AM (#33986368)

    Where is Peter Norton? His Norton Utilities was the greatest set of utilities then -- especially Unerase!

  • Re:So.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CAIMLAS (41445) on Friday October 22, 2010 @11:27AM (#33986454) Homepage

    As a proportion of their employee total, I'd suspect it's actually shrunk a bit. Microsoft wasn't exactly a litigation-free company back then.

  • Finally! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Call Me Black Cloud (616282) on Friday October 22, 2010 @11:39AM (#33986656)
    I always wondered what happened to Bill Gates!

    Wait, the article doesn't say anything about him but "duh". Nice bit of journalism, guys.
  • Re:Good Old Day? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by abigor (540274) on Friday October 22, 2010 @12:00PM (#33987016)

    Why the heck don't people like you post more often? I love hearing this stuff.

  • by blair1q (305137) on Friday October 22, 2010 @12:29PM (#33987482) Journal

    imagine what I could DO if my little brain could wrap itself around the complexity of this massive OS...

    Yeh. And then add in the several hundred parallel cores in your video card...

    I'm pretty good at wonky stuff and I just sort of stare at the computer sometimes wondering how to fill it up.

  • by VGR (467274) on Friday October 22, 2010 @03:13PM (#33989846)

    Don't blame outsourcing, blame having 20 years experience and still being a code-monkey. Your job should be "business analyst" by now - yeah, cringe at the title, but the point is to apply that experience towards requirements analysis and planning, and let the kids waste time in actual IDEs.

    You are a major part of the problem. What I see in your words is that all developers are identical to entry-level code monkeys. In your mind, someone who spends decades becoming an excellent software engineer is worthless; the only worthwhile use of his time would have been learning to be a manager.

    This is the real reason managers are so willing to outsource: they think everyone who can make code compile is equivalent, whether their experience is one month or twenty years. In the context of that belief, it makes sense to send the labor overseas.

    I'll admit, though, that any engineer who's no better than he was twenty years ago has only himself to blame. (And I've met at least one who fits that description.)

  • by Stiletto (12066) on Friday October 22, 2010 @04:30PM (#33990854)

    It's because in the world of commercial software,

    1. software doesn't have to be perfect
    2. software doesn't have to be ultra-efficient
    3. software doesn't have to be well-engineered
    4. software doesn't have to have a good design
    5. software doesn't have to compile clean

    Something just has to be delivered. On time and under budget. It doesn't often even matter what that "something" is or if it even works.

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