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Programming

Why Coding At Fifty May Be Nifty 317

Posted by timothy
from the because-that's-when-you-join-the-singularity dept.
theodp writes "Enough with the dadgum naysayers. Google's Vivek Haldar lists some good reasons for why you would want to program at fifty (or any other age). Haldar's list would probably get a thumbs-up from billionaire SAS CEO Jim Goodnight, who had this to say about coding when interviewed at age 56: 'I would be happy if I just stayed in my office and programmed all day, to tell you the truth. That is my one real love in life is programming. Programming is sort of like getting to work a puzzle all day long. I actually enjoy it. It's a lot of fun. It's not even work to me. It's just enjoyable. You get to shut out all your other thoughts and just concentrate on this little thing you're trying to do, to make work it. It's nice, very enjoyable.'"
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Why Coding At Fifty May Be Nifty

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  • 40 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by petronije (1650685) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @08:28AM (#41871615)

    ... and still coding

  • by mrbluze (1034940) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @08:30AM (#41871619) Journal
    And so if you keep programming, you keep learning and stave off brain rot.
  • Re:Good for you! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kwikrick (755625) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @08:39AM (#41871647) Homepage Journal

    If coding is like typing for you, you've never done any real programming. Coding is about thinking out elegant solutions to interesting problems. I don't think that's boring at all.

  • by bregmata (1749266) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @08:55AM (#41871707)
    What a stupid fucking premise.
  • Re:Good for you! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vlm (69642) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @08:56AM (#41871709)

    As for me at 48, sitting in front of the computer all day just pains me - literally. No matter how often I take breaks, I have a lot of tension that runs down from my neck to my ass.

    That's exactly how I felt at age 19 as I was stacking 80 pound salt bags on pallets for roughly $5/hr. About a week after I got my first "real" desk job, the most surprising observation I had, other than the obvious "now I take a shower before work rather than after work" was that I wasn't in some level of constant pain. Getting old is no fun but it beats the alternative, and I'm not thinking there's anything that can help once you get old enough, by that I mean that stacking 80 pound salt bags would probably just kill me at my current age, not make my back feel better. I had back problems a couple years back until I (re-)started serious (as in, need a shower afterwards) weightlifting during lunch hour, the key being if your physical therapist says do X Y and Z do exactly X Y Z no improvising or excuses.

    I can't wait for the day when I can tell the computer verbally or draw a picture the algorithm and never ever have to type another line of code - ever.

    The bandwidth for that is almost infinitely low compared to typing. You'd basically have to invent your own glyphs and language, or spend hours drawing thousands of pictures. You may want to look into the CAD drafting profession, where you get to spend hours drawing the equivalent of a couple lines of text. Another fun one is wedding photography.

    Also try a less verbose language. I've seen 1000+ line java programs replaced by about 5 lines of Perl/CPAN... two use statements, two cpan calls, and an immense line noise appearing regex between them. Unsurprisingly, neither extreme is healthy.

  • Re:Good for you! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jcr (53032) <[jcr] [at] [mac.com]> on Sunday November 04, 2012 @08:57AM (#41871711) Journal

    It also pains me intellectually and emotionally - it's boring.

    I'm the same age as you, and it sounds to me like you're working on things that don't interest you. I like coding, as long as what I'm writing is solving an interesting problem.

    -jcr

  • Nifty, for sure (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kjella (173770) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @08:58AM (#41871721) Homepage

    I hope I'm still solving little puzzles like that when I'm 50 but I also solved those when I was 25. There's nothing wrong with that, but if that's all you do then you're probably going to be at the same point career and pay grade-wise at 50 as at 25. If you've become the CEO of SAS, that's probably because you're solving a lot of other issues that you couldn't solve as a 25 year old. If you have experience, you have to find positions where that gives you leverage and not all of them are like that. It doesn't matter if you've been flipping burgers for 30 years and perfected your burger flipping technique, you're still very replaceable by a newbie. If you want to be a coder specialist, make sure it's a specialist job and not just writing your average glue code. It's easy enough for the CEO to say that, he can pick whatever problem he finds complex and interesting to do as a hobby, the actual employees don't have that luxury. Unless you're talking about working on an OSS or pet project outside of work.

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @09:13AM (#41871773)
    I wouldn't say coding is hard. However, it does require a certain level of mental discipline and the ability to organise one's thoughts. The problem with older coders is that they tend to just get the job done. Quietly, without fuss or drama. (At least, I do) Whereas the young 'uns make a big deal about working late, pulling all-nighters ('cos they're on FB all day) and turning a project into a crisis. That means they get all the attention and the spotlight, which makes them look like superheros when they squeak in with a clean compile just milliseconds before the delivery deadline.
  • by seven of five (578993) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @09:44AM (#41871925) Homepage
    The flip side of that is, who'll hire a 50-year old coder, or even keep him or her on the damn payroll? Even at reduced wages it's a crap shoot.
  • by Simon Brooke (45012) <stillyet@googlemail.com> on Sunday November 04, 2012 @09:54AM (#41871979) Homepage Journal

    The flip side of that is, who'll hire a 50-year old coder, or even keep him or her on the damn payroll? Even at reduced wages it's a crap shoot.

    I don't have any problems getting hired. I keep myself up to date with what's current, and I have thirty years experience so I know what not to do; and so I can produce higher quality code faster than people half my age. I can't work as long hours as I used to - I can't hold concentration for seventeen hour days any more; and I value my free time more. But I'm good, and I'm productive, and I'm never short of work.

    If you get worse at your craft as you grow older, you're doing something wrong.

  • by kwikrick (755625) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @10:05AM (#41872031) Homepage Journal

    OK, granted, I misread you on purpose, go for the easy mod points.

    Still, do you really think talking to your computer, or drawing pictures for it, is going to make programming easier or more fun or less work? I very strongly doubt that. When programming becomes repetitive, you should find some way to automate that part; code it differently, develop a tool or invent a new language. And ultimately, it would be great if some AI would just write programs for our problems. Before that, there will be some typing. But not too much if you do it right.

  • by gbjbaanb (229885) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @10:11AM (#41872053)

    tech support! I used to dream of tech support interruptions!

    Now I'm doing a bastard child of agile that the company has brought in and I cannot do anything for longer than 2 hours without having to go back to the scrum board for more work. Don't they know they can just point me at a problem and I'll get it solved - it is what I've been doing for several decades after all.

    I guess the agile stuff is for the kids who can't concentrate on a task for longer than an hour and have to keep being told what to do or they'll just start looking at facebook and twitter all day.

  • by Count Fenring (669457) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @10:29AM (#41872121) Homepage Journal

    I was born and raised in FLORIDA and I still think you're being kind of an ageist jerk here.

    I've seen that behavior in over-50s, I've seen it in under-50s. Entitlement isn't an age issue, it's a class issue, or sometimes just a personality issue.

  • by wdef (1050680) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @11:06AM (#41872307)
    This is modded -1? Why? The poster is saying that we shouldn't be surprised that people who like coding want to continue coding regardless of age but that ageist stereotypes (wrongly) insist that all coders should be scabby teens.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 04, 2012 @11:14AM (#41872363)

    I see your points now, but I have a story from my own life that I hope you consider.

    I used to manage a self storage facility. People from all walks of life used it, but some people were become such a problem (couldn't pay their bill on time, got mad that we auctioned their stuff off after not hearing a peep from them for a few (4 to 6) months (no payments at all), had no valid means to contact them, etc. It was very easy to start to feel anyone who used that sort of business was a low-life after a while. But when I actually looked at the numbers, the vast majority of people paid their bills (and most on time), and never got auctioned off. Some ven used it for years faithfully. But those people I hardly ever talked to because they weren't trying to cause any problems, so it was easy to forget they even existed. The problem cases were only around 5%, but I spent 90% of my time dealing with them, so my gut instinct made them seem to be the majority. And yes, those people were usually poor, but most poor people still paid their bills, or removed their stuff to prevent being a problem.

    In short, don't get into the trap of thinking because most people who treat you like crap are over 50 that most people over 50 will treat you like crap.

  • by JosephTX (2521572) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @12:35PM (#41872917)

    "Paid for"? Funny!

    But seriously, though, you must not be in America, because medical care isn't considered infrastructure here. And the rest of what older generations have left for my generation is pretty laughable. Transportation is horribly inefficient pretty much anywhere outside NYC because all the baby boomers need their own McMansion with their own lawns and gardens, most likely tended by the same people they say should be deported. So now the tallest buildings in most cities are two-story houses, and it's impossible to simply go get groceries without a giant gas-guzzling 5-to-8-seat car that you only drive in alone/with one other person 99% of the time.

    And educational quality is horrible in the US for 2 reasons: bad/absent parenting and politically-connected textbook publishers (both of which are, again, on older generations) that put profit ahead of textbook quality; and don't forgot the massive tuition rates my generation is having to pay just for the CHANCE of making a comparable salary (adjusted for inflation) to what our parents made without a degree 30 years ago.

    And then there's the retirement age, which is pretty much going to be stuck at 65 for the next few decades so everyone currently above 50 gets to retire by then, effectively contributing to the economy for maybe half of the 80+ years they'll be around. But even all that isn't enough; older people also want lower taxes, which is effectively the same as passing the bill to their kids/grandkids/great-grandkids/great-great/ and so on, because they aren't even willing to give back to society just like society gave to them when they were our age. And let's not even get started on the wonderful global climate disasters we get to inherit while our parents and grandparents are long gone.

    And then after all that, older generations accuse ME of being entitled and self-centered? Your generation doesn't exactly get to act morally superior. Like one of the parent posters said, entitlement isn't an age issue, just a personality issue.

  • Re:40: I'm 55... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gregor-e (136142) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @12:47PM (#41873023) Homepage
    I just turned 55, and have been writing software my whole career. I still enjoy it, but it's been a long time since I had that feeling like there was blue fire coming out of my fingers as I write. I find it has become pleasantly mundane. Beats the heck out of working for a living, though.
  • by DerPflanz (525793) <bart AT friesoft DOT nl> on Sunday November 04, 2012 @03:04PM (#41873913) Homepage

    Why is there no +1 respect ?

What this country needs is a dime that will buy a good five-cent bagel.

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