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Programming

The Grumpy Programmer has Advice for Young Computer Workers (Video) 120

Posted by Roblimo
from the hey-kids-get-off-my-code dept.
Bob Pendleton calls his blog "The Grumpy Programmer" because he's both grumpy and a programmer. He's also over 60 years old and has been programming since he was in his teens. This pair of videos is a break from our recent spate of conference panels and corporate people. It's an old programmer sharing his career experiences with younger programmers so they (you?) can avoid making his mistakes and possibly avoid becoming as grumpy as he is -- which is kind of a joke, since Bob is not nearly as grumpy as he is light-hearted. (Transcript covers both videos. Alternate Video Link One; Alternate Video Link Two)



Robin Miller: Bob Pendleton, you call yourself the Grumpy Programmer. Which came first? Grumpy or programmer?

Bob Pendleton: I’d say grumpy.

Robin Miller: Really? So, you became a programmer because you were grumpy?

Bob Pendleton: No. No, I got grumpier after being a programmer for a long time.

Robin Miller: Which is how long?

Bob Pendleton: Started at 19 and I’m almost 62.

Robin Miller: Wow.

Bob Pendleton: For 40-some-odd years.

Robin Miller: Okay. Most of our audience members, shockingly, are somewhat younger than yourself. So, using the benefit of your advanced years and huge experience, tell them how not to get grumpy.

Bob Pendleton: How not to get grumpy? I would say lots of exercise, meditation, a good lover and don’t program.

Robin Miller: All right. So, let’s say these poor guys are already in a circumstance here where programming is the most money they can make.

Bob Pendleton: Okay. The number one thing is don’t put your ego into it. I once I knew Art Evans, the guy who wrote the story about “Always Mount a Scratch Monkey” who once said, you tend to fall in love with what you make love to. And that’s especially true of a programmers, you spend months, weeks, years writing a piece of code, you tend to fall in love with it. And that’s the worst mistake you can make. Every piece of code is basically a mistake from the beginning. You can’t know exactly how to do it when you start it. And no two pieces are the same if they are worth writing. So, you just have to assume you are going to make mistakes. You are going to have to throw away big chunks of it. You are going to have to start over sometimes. And what’s the concept? Keep a beginner’s mind. If you think you know what’s going on, you are wrong no matter what and keep rambling like this for a while, but

Robin Miller: So, let’s move to this. What languages have you worked with and which ones were the worst and which were the best? I’m talking about from your mental health perspective.

Bob Pendleton: Okay. I’ve worked in probably half a dozen assembly languages. Fortran, COBOL, ALGOL 60, Pascal, C, C++, Simula 68, TRAC, LISP and a whole bunch of others. The best from my mental health?

Robin Miller: Yeah.

Bob Pendleton: Probably, LISP. Or maybe Scheme. Done both of those. Scheme is a little more easy to understand. Assembly language can be a lot of fun, but probably LISP. Yeah, definite.

Robin Miller: I have a friend, an old friend named Marty Connor and he agrees with you. He loves LISP.

Bob Pendleton: Yeah. Here’s a test to take. I once went into an interview and the guy who was interviewing me was an ex-English professor. He said, what kind of poetry do you like to write? Now I’m a programmer, why would you ask me that? Well, the answer is, an awful lot of programmers are writers, musicians, artists. And so I told him, I like to write haiku sequences. And he says, you’re a low level programmer, you’d like to write assembly language or low-level code. And I said, yeah. And he says okay. And he took out his book and he wrote it down. He had something like 200 people he had interviewed. And he knew what kind of poetry they all liked to write and if they didn’t like to write poetry, he’d only consider them if they were exceptionally good at a musical instrument or at some kind of visual art. But he preferred poets.

Robin Miller: Code poets.

Bob Pendleton: Well, it works that way. I was actually studying creative writing, my second major in college. When I got fairly – I had been taking computer science and math classes because I’m crazy and one day, I read through some algorithm and I had the same experience I got from reading a truly great poem. And in my poetry writing class I was taking at the time, I turned in a poem and one of the students says, that’s poetry, but it’s symbolic logic. And I reread it and realized it was actually in poetry form – a recursive algorithm.

VIDEO TWO

Robin Miller: The best Perl programmer I know personally – or maybe one of the best – is a guy named Chris Nandor. He went to college, studied journalism, and he is a heck of a musician, so there?

Bob Pendleton: Oh, hey. Some of the best programmers I’ve ever met were anthropologists and English majors of various sorts. And when I was in college, both undergrad and grad school, about 2 o’clock or 3 o’clock in the morning all the instruments would come out. The rear door guard was a fantastic fiddle player. And the computer science faculty and everybody else would bring out their instruments and they jammed from about 2.30, 3 o’clock till around 4 or 4.30 and just set the whole building ringing with music.

Robin Miller: Where was this?

Bob Pendleton: University of Utah.

Robin Miller: Oh, good, I’ll tell people to go there; people go to the University of Utah, it sounds like fun. There have been changes, you haven't been going to college for a while, right?

Bob Pendleton: No, no, I went back, took a long online course a few years ago, but no, I’ve got two kids in college and it’s here in Texas and it’s completely different. Also the University of Utah at the time I was there, there was a computer science department, but they never felt comfortable with the name, and when, oh gosh, the guy who founded Adobe, Warnock, right?

Robin Miller: I don’t remember the name.

Bob Pendleton: But he went there and he donated a bunch of money so they could build a new building and they became the school of computing. If you go down there now, they give you a computing degree, not computer science. It’s very hard to justify the term computer science actually.

Robin Miller: Really? Well, let me ask you another question, change of subject, you’re not young, have you found

Bob Pendleton: No.

Robin Miller: No, neither am I, you’re within a year of my age.

Bob Pendleton: Okay.

Robin Miller: But probably older, I have to be younger than somebody.

Bob Pendleton: Okay.

Robin Miller: But age discrimination in employment, have you encountered?

Bob Pendleton: Oh, absolutely. I got laid off on my 49th birthday and haven’t been able to find a full time job since.

Robin Miller: How about finding freelancer contract work?

Bob Pendleton: A little bit for the – almost enough to survive for the first four or five years and then I switched over to teaching part time, because they won’t hire full time people if they can possibly avoid it, and so then I taught until, well my health started giving out, one day my wife said, Bob you’re retired. And I go, oh okay, that means I can stop trying to get a job. So now I’m the Grumpy Programmer.

Robin Miller: But do you still work?

Bob Pendleton: Well, at home.

Robin Miller: Also like me, I am working right now.

Bob Pendleton: I have no paid employment.

Robin Miller: Oh, okay.

Bob Pendleton: Haven’t for a couple of years.

Robin Miller: Okay.

Bob Pendleton: It’s really, really hard to find.

Robin Miller: So, I gather what we’re saying here to the young ones is sometime around your 40th birthday, you might consider a career change, am I right?

Bob Pendleton: Yeah, I had the opportunity to go into management in my early 40s and I hated it and so I went back to programming and that’s about the only way you can stay employed in a technical field after that or if you can get a job with the federal government or a state government, they will actually keep you employed forever because they don’t pay very well, but they have great benefits.

Robin Miller: And I used to have job stability, I don’t know, Texas, Florida, it’s not stable working for the government.

Bob Pendleton: Texas, actually my wife works for the State of Texas and even during the worst part of the recession, they didn’t have really huge lay-offs, mostly they just stopped hiring people and stopped replacing people, so as long as you kept working you kept your job.

Robin Miller: I assume that was in computer fields as well.

Bob Pendleton: Especially, they have a real hard time hiring people. Other places, if you specialize in COBOL, on MVS on IBM Mainframes, you can go to work for any of the Fortune 50 and work until you die, because they just can’t hire people to do that, nobody wants to learn it, nobody coming out of college knows anything about it. And nobody wants to do it, but there are literally mega lines of COBOL code out there running everything, the whole billing system and even most of the rest of everything at – all of the phone companies, it’s COBOL.

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The Grumpy Programmer has Advice for Young Computer Workers (Video)

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  • First sentence (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HairyNevus (992803) <hairynevusNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @03:52PM (#47760239)

    "Bob Pendleton calls his blog "The Grumpy Programmer" because he's both grumpy and a programmer."

    Thanks, Rob!!

    ;-P

    • But what about this "the" word at the beginning? That doesn't get a word of explanation.

      • Yeah, he's not the only one. Take Dilbert for example...!
      • by stonewolf (234392)

        The "the" is there because I could not get .org .net, and .com of grumpyprogrammer,

        • and there is only one of him.

          • by mcswell (1102107)
            Well, that was my reaction, too. This guy is old, and he must have started programming when computers were really new. So he's unique. Then I realized that I'm over 60 (64, in fact) and that I (afair) was in my teens (19) when I took my first computer programming class (Fortran and PL/1). So either he's not so old, or I'm really old. But I'm only grumpy when I'm awake.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Blackadder: "I seek information about a Wisewoman."
      Young Crone: "Ah, the Wisewoman... the Wisewoman."
      Blackadder: "Yes, the Wisewoman."
      Young Crone: "Two things, my lord, must thee know of the Wisewoman. First, she is... a woman. And second, she is..."
      Blackadder: "Wise?"
      Young Crone: "You do know her then?"
      Blackadder: "No, just a wild stab in the dark which is, incidentally, what you'll be getting if you don't start being a bit more helpful."
      • by hughbar (579555)
        Yes, exactly. I am planning to start the 'tautology party' with policies like 'higher taxes mean that taxes are higher'. The party will make about as much sense as the current political parties.

        Incidentally [and unrelatedly] I'm 63, a programmer and grumpy. I hate every 'latest' javascript framework, stupid hipster hats and THOSE KIDS ON MY LAWN.
    • by rtb61 (674572)

      But no "Grumpy Programmer" ever really gets to be a "Grumpy Programmer" until they cease being a 'programmer' and become a system salesperson 'er' accounts manager 'er' system consultant 'er' systems integrator 'er' company representative basically what ever title suits for a failed to keep up with language changes programmer.

  • Transcript... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mythosaz (572040) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @03:52PM (#47760243)

    The transcript reads like a conversation between two guys with almost nothing to say. I'm honestly not sure what my takeaway from this should have been. Guy was a working programmer for 30 years (unemployed for the last 12+), and now he's... ...a guy making small-talk in a video?

    Help me understand what I missed.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You've missed that Slashdot has become a steaming turd of inconsequence.
       
      Will the last fucktard to leave please turn off the light?

    • Help me understand what I missed.

      What you should understand is that you should never take advice from a guy who has been unemployed for the last 12 years. If he can't manage his own career, why should you let him manage yours? Unless his code is structured far better than his speaking, I wouldn't employ him either.

      • As someone who has been unemployed for the last 14 years, I can manage anything because I've been doing almost nothing besides reading about everything on the internet.

        Oh, and I'm also stupidly wealthy, which is why I haven't had to work since 2000. Which probably qualifies me for a few things here and there.

        • CEOs are technically employed, but they do not REALLY work do they.

          Attend meetings, read the internet, attend meetings, play golf, fly a jet or two, stay in hotels, travel to other meetings, oh tell the PA to do a,b,c,d.

          CEOs arent super human, their brain capacity is not 20x average. Im sure any seasoned programmer could do what a CEO does, remember more details, understand tech better.

          Oh but the real skills come in social engineering and getting that billion dollar deal, by tricking the client.

          Programmers

          • Good CEOs typically have the gift of being able to get shit done, doesn't matter what or when or why, they just make it happen, most of the time through connections and social engineering - but they get paid what they get paid because no one else can do it. They don't need to understand the tech, they pay people to do that for them.
        • "Retired" and "Unemployed" are two words that may mean the same thing, or may not. If you're unemployed by choice, then you are what most people would refer to as "retired". If you are unemployed not by choice, then that makes people think you're unemployed because you can't find a job.

          Oh, and I'm also stupidly wealthy, which is why I haven't had to work since 2000

          Obviously you fall into the category of "retired".

    • by istartedi (132515)

      Help me understand what I missed

      The fact that they actually gave us a transcript instead of trying to make us watch two videos. I skimmed it in a couple minutes and reached the same conclusion. It's just a lot of dime-a-dozen cliches; but I didn't waste too much time finding that out. Thanks. Now make it a rule that you can't do video stories without a transcript, unless it's something where a transcript doesn't make sense such as a rocket launch, electronic music, or a badass sharkbot shooting lasers

    • by Skarjak (3492305)
      I honestly have to agree. I mean, it's kind of neat to hear form an old timer, but it's mostly just him bitching about life. There is some entertainement value from hearing and old dude bitch about life, but not much education value.
      • by cheekyboy (598084)

        Just wait will 2040, when your job will be outsourced to dozens of 3rd world countries.

        Oh and your burger joint will be 100% robotic, so will taxis, and hell, 90% of jobs will be robot run, and you will make a video, "shit damn I wish I did robotics or AI coding, not stupid govt medicare website"

        • by cboslin (1532787)

          Just wait will 2040, when your job will be outsourced to dozens of 3rd world countries...

          Don't have to wait, just had a second job outsourced to India last year. And so many others have had jobs outsoruced since 2005, so no need to wait another 26 years...been there, already happened, can't afford the T-Shirt to prove it.

          Still find it funny when one of these outsourcing company's steal a company's trade secrets, code, products and eventually their vertical market thanks to that outsourcing. How about that, you really do get what you pay for! Who would of thunk it.

          Back in the 90s, there were a group of middle IT Managers and IT Directors that would be assigned the new shiny 'golden' project initiative that the company was pursuing to increase revenue and theoretically grow. Right before the project would completely 'fail' they would ju

    • Re:Transcript... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by grcumb (781340) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @04:53PM (#47760723) Homepage Journal

      The transcript reads like a conversation between two guys with almost nothing to say.

      Because a real grumpy programmer doesn't fucking talk on a fucking video. A real grumpy programmer uses text, just like he always did, to write about how those hipster fucks who think they have even half a fucking clue deserve get run out of town on the Rails they rode in on.

      A real grumpy programmer still fucking hates Microsoft, but can't be arsed even to hold down the shift key long enough to type a '$' - even though those monopolistic fucks in Redmond deserve it. Develop my ass, Ballmer.

      A real grumpy programmer knows what C is for, but the pissant little twerps who bitch about the lack of strong typing in Perl can go get fucked, because fuck you, that's why. And fuck your Web 2 Point fucking Oh, and fuck your Twitter and fuck your fucking FuckBook.

      And that, my child, is what a real grumpy programmer looks like, because get the fuck off my fucking lawn you ignorant little turd polisher.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        True! I am disappointed by his lack of grumpiness. The only thing worse is if more slashdot videos are added for Doc, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy and Dopey.

      • I wasted my mod points.... :(

      • by glhturbo (32785)

        Lewis, is that you?

    • Re:Transcript... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @07:22PM (#47761583)

      I learned that many programmers are musicians or good at various art forms. Which surprised me because I was a good programmer and can't play a musical instrument or do anything artistic at all.

      I learned that if you're a coder, you'd better have a career change lined up before you're too far along into your 40's.

      I learned that when you're older if you lose your job, good luck getting re-employed.

      I learned that if you want life long income from writing code, you'd have been well off to learn legacy languages and operating systems and get a job with a large business or the government. In fact, doing that now would leave you with a lot less competition for highly specialized work and you'd largely be competing with old farts for jobs.

      I learned how to reduce stress.

      As a code writer from the 70's through the early 90's and the manager of programmers through early 2000's, followed by watching almost everyone I know who did it lose their jobs in their early 50's and go through hell to find work, seems like all of that is not only reliable but pretty important.

      That's without going back and re-reading the transcript.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Zapotek (1032314)

        I learned that many programmers are musicians or good at various art forms. Which surprised me because I was a good programmer and can't play a musical instrument or do anything artistic at all.

        Music is basically counting and patterns, something that should come naturally to most programmers. The music theory jargon can easily go over your head at the beginning but you don't need to dive into it to actually play music at a basic level, and after you get some practise and a feel for it, the more advanced stuff start to make sense.

        The hard part is actually getting some level of technical proficiency over your instrument of choice, dexterity is rarely useful in real life but it's the basis of playi

      • So those 30 year olds hiring people, immediately cut off any one with more than 10 years experience do they?

        Do they assume those people will be listening to beatles music and be old shits, type slow, or like 4:3 screens, and use vi?

        Time flies, all those 30yr olds will be 40 soon.

        • by clifwlkr (614327)
          Yes, age discrimination is horrible and very real. I just hit 45 and am seeing it first hand. I work for a 'hot' type company and they actually said in a company wide meeting 'look around you. Notice that you don't see much grey hair. That is on purpose as we want people on their way up, not out'. I was shocked. Meanwhile their people 'on the way up' hack out some of the worst code I have ever seen. We could use a few more people on their way out to actually make some scalable and well architected products
  • by dtmos (447842) * on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @03:58PM (#47760277)

    Robin Miller: But age discrimination in employment, have you encountered?

    Bob Pendleton: Oh, absolutely. I got laid off on my 49th birthday and haven’t been able to find a full time job since.

    One piece of advice I always give younger engineers and programmers is to be increasingly vigilant about your career as you age. In the last decade or so before retirement one is very vulnerable to layoffs, because one's salary is high and one's formal education was a long time ago.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      So live below your means and invest everything you can, so that once you hit that limit you will be financially independent.

      Also, don't have kids. They cost a fortune.

      And also, don't get married, because divorces tend to wipe out 50-70 percent of your net worth.

      • So, live your entire life as though you're going to get fired tomorrow. Sounds like real fun.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          You very well might get fired tomorrow. Job security is a thing of the past in software development.

          If you don't want to live like that, switch careers.

          • by mabu (178417)

            I think the reason there's no job security in programming is because basically, nobody's really doing any "programming" these days.

            Modern programmers know less about machines and languages than they do APIs and UIs. Everything is so object-oriented and encapsulated, and there are so many square pegs developers are asked to fit into round holes, they're not really designing stuff as much as working on an assembly line sticking various parts-pieces together with no real sense of oversight of the big picture.

            • by m00sh (2538182)

              I think the reason there's no job security in programming is because basically, nobody's really doing any "programming" these days.

              Modern programmers know less about machines and languages than they do APIs and UIs. Everything is so object-oriented and encapsulated, and there are so many square pegs developers are asked to fit into round holes, they're not really designing stuff as much as working on an assembly line sticking various parts-pieces together with no real sense of oversight of the big picture.

              Yes, the big picture.

              The big picture is what gets one person fired and another a promotion.

              The big picture is what gets a guy a multi-million dollar salary while the other one is glad he gets to keep his job for another month.

              The best way to get the big picture is to connect, talk to people and see where everything is and looks like is going. Our lives have become so isolated and compartmentalized now. We do our thing in the cubicle and come home and watch TV and Netflix and ponder about what to buy n

            • I did linux kernel development and low-level posix stuff for over a decade, and there's still plenty of work there. I've now moved on to cloud computing, but on the backend infrastructure side. Lots of stuff happening there too...

        • by creimer (824291)
          If you're a tech contractor, you may very well get fired tomorrow. Prior to the Great Recession, I used to change jobs every three years. My last three jobs each ended after nine months. My current job is a one-year contract, but my employment is in jepoardy because someone complained that my pants were wrinkled were last week. My newest resume is already on the job search websites. Plan for the worst, hope for the best.
        • So, live your entire life as though you're going to get fired tomorrow. Sounds like real fun.

          Well, my advice is to find a decent job doing what you enjoy. Don't just keep a job to run out the clock until you retire. Get good enough to be valuable enough that the company wants to keep you around, and/or find a new business. Or start your own. (Never really done the latter in a serious way, but...)

          My current stats: switched jobs too many times, but for at least a couple of those I stayed longer than I should have, only because I had not been there long enough. I'm 50 now, and hope to stay in

        • by jedidiah (1196)

          > So, live your entire life as though you're going to get fired tomorrow. Sounds like real fun.

          If you work in IT, the whole "disaster recovery" thing should not be new to you. It doesn't just apply to technology. If problems are readily forseeable then certainly you should try to plan for them and be as prepared for them as possible.

          You don't necessarily have to go overboard. With many things, the most effective measures are the initial ones that are just past total apathy.

          Being slightly more prepared th

        • by stonewolf (234392)

          Well, not quite. Live your life like you are going to be fired TODAY. Be prepared for change.

      • by creimer (824291)
        Mod up. Cynical, no doubt. But very true. Good advice if you plan to become a grumpy programmer.
        • Living like this won't necessarily make you grumpy. Check out Happy [amazon.com]. Long-term happiness is attained by a combination of these three things: 1) participation in a community, 2) having a self-cultivating hobby, 3) engaging in altruistic behavior. Also, time spent in flow-state helps.

          One need not marry, have kids, or live opulently in order to have these things.

          • Sure, myopic extroversion fixes everything... And what about the many introverts that find 2 of those 3 a good way to want even ourselves dead? A community is another word for a subculture, which means politics, which means many bloodsucking parasites. Feeding them on purposes is not conducive to a will to live, much less happiness.
      • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @04:32PM (#47760603)

        And also, don't get married, because divorces tend to wipe out 50-70 percent of your net worth.

        Or just don't get divorced. It is common knowledge that half of all marriages end in divorce. But that hides huge variations. If both partners have college degrees, the divorce rate is about 20%. If both have engineering degrees, it is about 10%. It helps to marry someone trained in problem solving, and capable of rational thinking.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @04:42PM (#47760665)

          It helps to marry someone ... capable of rational thinking.
           
          Well, once you get past the gay marriage issue you're kind of SOL.

        • As usual, statistics lie. In dual degree marriages with engineering degrees there is a lot of money involved so one or both eats a lot of shit so they can live in the nice house, drive the nice cars and enjoy their earnings.

          In poor marriages, there isn't enough money to make it worthwhile.

          Its also interesting to note that second marriage divorce rates are higher than first, and third marriages are even worse. So they don't learn from their mistakes and failures beget higher failures. Once you're done wit

      • by Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @07:27PM (#47761613)

        Kids don't have to cost very much. Billions of them are raised around the world for next to nothing. Living below your means and having a good retirement account is a very good idea.

        But yeah, marriage is a piss poor idea. You have no idea what you're going to get. My ex wife held her breath for 5.5 years of dating and everything was wonderful. Which ended within days of the ring going on her finger.

        The old saying is true: marriages fail because men think that everything will stay the same and women think everything will be different.

        I survived financially because most of my assets were earned before we married and weren't community property. There's a reason they call it financial death.

      • by stonewolf (234392)

        Your first point is very very true and is exactly what I did. Kids are worth the cost. Sure, I would be a multimillionaire if we had not had kids, but what the hell. Not getting married may be a good idea but I have been married for 37 years to an ME and that is a wonderful way to spend your life.

        TheGrumpyProgrammer

        • Disingenuous or blind. You need social and legal threats to continue your relationship? Otherwise, it's not the social/legal entity of marriage but the independent relationship. You can call that "marriage", but that'd be perfectly arbitrary. The difference between wife and girlfriend are meaningless without the social and legal entity, which can't be part of actual intimacy. You can't subordinate intimacy to external politics, and it still be intimacy. It necessarily becomes the politics. I'd think 37 year
      • by Mr.No (752782)

        So live below your means and invest everything you can, so that once you hit that limit you will be financially independent.

        Also, don't have kids. They cost a fortune.

        And also, don't get married, because divorces tend to wipe out 50-70 percent of your net worth.

        Exactly, best advice ever. If only people could have more common sense we would get out of the master/slave relationship. The 1% who own the world encourage the 99% to reproduce so that they remain enslaved to them. To hell with mankind, it can disappear as far as I'm concerned. As Mr Smith says, "Humans are a virus ..."

    • Robin Miller: But age discrimination in employment, have you encountered?

      Bob Pendleton: Oh, absolutely. I got laid off on my 49th birthday and haven’t been able to find a full time job since.

      One piece of advice I always give younger engineers and programmers is to be increasingly vigilant about your career as you age. In the last decade or so before retirement one is very vulnerable to layoffs, because one's salary is high and one's formal education was a long time ago.

      And that's why, if you can, you go back to college to get a Bachelor or Masters degree when you get into your late 30's early 40's. I was fortunate in that I was able to take advantage of our corporate education benefits to complete mine. If nothing else, it shows that you still have the capacity and drive to learn and develop new concepts and skills outside of your current job.

      • And that's why, if you can, you go back to college to get a Bachelor or Masters degree when you get into your late 30's early 40's.

        That is the worst possible advice you could possibly give, except I guess for killing yourself.

        That is when instead of SPENDING ALL YOUR SAVINGS ON SOMETHING THAT WILL NOT MATTER, you should instead think about switching to consulting and increasing your earnings. Can't find a full-job easily past 40-50? Learn to make people pay what you are really worth for the vast amounts

        • by gbjbaanb (229885)

          Its interesting though - so many programmers think that programming is a cool and important job that requires a ton of skill and talent and dedication.... and then they learn at around 40 that is all a load of old bollocks, hence the reason companies have outsourced much of it to 3rd world places. A programmer is just a tech equivalent of a bricklayer.

          so to keep being employed in IT, you need to change with it, and learn that programming is less important than the design and architecture that goes into it,

          • so many programmers think that programming is a cool and important job that requires a ton of skill and talent and dedication.

            That remains true.

            and then they learn at around 40 that is all a load of old bollocks, hence the reason companies have outsourced much of it to 3rd world places.

            Who are mostly neither talented nor dedicated and produce crap...

            so to keep being employed in IT, you need to change with it,

            No, you need to leave IT and be hired back at a far higher rate to fix the mess caused by people wh

            • by gbjbaanb (229885)

              Leave and be hired back is exactly what I did but....

              there are many who couldn't hack it as developers who now manage outsourced teams(and still can't really hgack it, buit at least now they can cover their incompetence with a mix of blame culture, meetings and emails).

              I once interviewed a guy for a dev job and when we mentioned the new outsourced team he piped up with a lot of enthusiasm "do you need someone to manage them" as if it were a career progression (and I suppose to him, it would have been for re

    • Having a background like his, a different favourite form of poetry to write, and a love for LISP, I have to agree -- but after you've been coding for a few decades, the trick is to move into analysis and give up on the codemonkey work as a paying gig :( This doesn't mean going into management (which is another option), but instead using your years of expertise to look over other people's (finished/unfinished) code, tear it apart, and make suggestions on how to fix what they inevitably missed. Or go into s

    • I think the takeaway here is to not work on your birthday.
  • Anyone remember that old poster [tumblr.com]? It used to hang in an older professor's office back in school. I think he took it seriously too (not a humorous sort, that guy). The rest of us took it as bit of a joke -- a joke as in "Every old fart programmer thinks the next generation is doing it all wrong."

    Ironically, that was 20 years ago, and so now I'm an old(er) fart myself. But I'll resist the urge to tell all the newbies how *MY* generation got it right and THEIR GENERATION sucks.

    And get off my lawn!!!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Kids always want to use lambda expressions where for loops would work just fine, and run faster too.

      Bah, the next generation *is* doing it wrong.

      • Kids always want to use lambda expressions where for loops would work just fine, and run faster too.

        Or, you could simply use a good compiler which ultimately doesn't see the difference between the two.

        • by spitzak (4019) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @06:23PM (#47761275) Homepage

          Actually more often I have seen the opposite: claims the new stuff is going to be faster, the compiler is not smart enough to figure out that they are the same, and thus you should use the new stuff.

          There was a coworker who insisted that using C++ std::foreach for loops was faster because "the compiler knows you can't break out of it and thus can optimize the whole thing". I had two objections to this: first of all it would be a really stupid optimizing compiler that could not figure out there are no "break" statements inside the for loop. And second the C++ was still allowed to throw exceptions in both cases.

          The other objection I had was that the functors were unreadable.

          Yet another objection is my suspicion that the optimization would be far worse on the functors due to the enormous header files of templates they actually used and I expected the optimizer for the simple for loop to have fewer bugs in it. But I did not test this.

          • Well, C++ wasn't exactly what I had in mind. That's as broken as Perl.
          • lambdas can be faster than say, function pointers, mostly because the compiler can have more information about pointer aliasing. They should be a wash speed-wise relative to loops. Also, you say functors, which can take a few forms; this can be a callable object (e.g. a struct with its operator() overloaded, no templates needed), a stored lambda function, or a std::function object (e.g. as created through std::bind, lambdas, etc). They all look rather different; do you find all of them unreadable? Not all o
            • by spitzak (4019)

              I was talking about the pre-lambda stuff in std and boost, especially std::foreach.

              C++11x did in fact fix a lot of this and I certainly use the new syntax.

    • by stonewolf (234392)

      Do you happen to know who is in that picture? That is John McCarthy the inventor of Lisp. The joke is on you.

  • It is sad to see that Mr. Pendleton had an experience similar to my own. I was laid off the year I turned 48. Unlike him, however, I stayed in management despite hating it and still became unemployed. I hope Mr. Pendleton finds success and happiness in whatever he chooses.
    • For me it was 45, after 9 years and a patent application. Strange how one person was laid off from each project, almost all the oldest and most experienced, except for two new kids who had just recently started and hadn't even gotten any product training yet.
    • Better to start writing poetry, a novel, some music, etc., and then possibly get a job as an analyst (full-time or contract). Management is an option, but really only for those who enjoy it. Do what you love; find a way to convert your experience into a paycheck.

    • by m00sh (2538182)

      It is sad to see that Mr. Pendleton had an experience similar to my own. I was laid off the year I turned 48. Unlike him, however, I stayed in management despite hating it and still became unemployed. I hope Mr. Pendleton finds success and happiness in whatever he chooses.

      From the stories I hear, I think I will have to figure out an exit plan by 45-46.

      I really hope I can get my own business as consultant or something else with a bunch of people who are in the same boat as me. I really hope I can strike out as a startup and hire young programmers and not be firable.

  • It is, in fact, John Warnock who founded Adobe.

  • Stay away! Long hours, crappy pay working for a company that will use you for everything you are worth, chew you up, and when you turn 35-40, will spit you out. Only those few who specialized in now ancient technologies will have any prospects beyond age 40. The worst part is, there is no such thing as job security. No matter how much of a rockstar you are, at any time you are at risk of being replace by a kid from India or China, if for no other reason than the CTO needs a few extra dollars to get a new co

    • by lgw (121541)

      . Only those few who specialized in now ancient technologies will have any prospects beyond age 40.

      Maybe it's you? I'm 45 and recruiters bother me more than ever. I keep my tech skills current, and carefully manage my career so as not to get stuck looking like an expert only on old things. Senior engineers are golden right now - I find it a great place to be. If what I do could be done by a kid anywhere, well, I'd be a terrible engineer after 20+ years.

      The worst part is, there is no such thing as job security.

      True enough, but it doesn't matter. Other than during the dot-bust, it's never taken me long to get a series of interviews whenever I wanted/needed a

      • I'm 45 and recruiters bother me more than ever.

        I'm not that old, but I work with quite a lot of people who are older than you at various big companies. They're all exceedingly competent. I suspect that's part of the problem for the grandparent: the older you are, the greater the expectations. If you're as competent at 45 as someone else at 25, then people start to wonder how you've managed to work for 20 without gaining more insight. If you hire a competent 25 year old, then there's a good chance that they'll mature and improve over the next 5-10 ye

    • by stonewolf (234392)

      I did 5 start ups and was part owner of a game company (10%) I've done everything you said not to do and you are right. You would be better off selling hats off the side of the road. On the other hand, I had one hell of a lot of fun.

      TheGrumpyProgrammer

    • by creimer (824291)
      Three years after being a video game tester, I became a lead tester for another three years. Recognizing that it was dead end job, I went back to college to get an associate degree in commputer programming. After I got my I.T. certifications, I was branded as "not being a team player" since I had an exit strategy. Not long after I left to pursue a career in help desk support, the company got delisted from the stock market, traded on pink sheets, and became a private company. All my former coworkers got fire
  • by oldhack (1037484) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @04:19PM (#47760469)

    I'm one of these grumpies. Some of what I had to say may be useful to the wet-behind-the-year dopes. Not likely, though, because, back when I was at their age, I didn't listen to the old geezers, and that both helped me as well as screwed me.

    So, given the rapid speed of change in the landscape of IT industry, I have to wonder how relevant our experiences and lessons would be to the young'uns.

    • by bregmata (1749266)

      So, given the rapid speed of change in the landscape of IT industry, I have to wonder how relevant our experiences and lessons would be to the young'uns.

      There's no point in telling the younger folk anything, they already know it all. Wait until they're older with a little more experience and find out they still have much to learn.

  • I guess I get why there may be some ties between programming and poetry, but it's not my thing. I wonder what the ex-English-professor would have said about a novelist?

    • by Andrewkov (140579)

      A good number of IT people I know are either into photography or music, some are into both.

  • Turns out being a COBOL programmer isn't a guaranteed job for life in the age of the Cloud.

    • huge space for COBOL/FORTAN/PASCAL/OLD_SHIT -> node.js (or other cloud friendly service host, insert fav.) in the future. Some companies are already doing that or a subset of that.
  • 2014... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @05:01PM (#47760783)

    It's 2014 and we still have streaming video served up as FLASH???? ON SLASHDOT?!?!?!?!?! What a joke.

    • by 2fuf (993808)

      Yeah, because "HTML5" is such a great success

    • by ruir (2709173)
      my plugins block flash automatically and I wont bother to watch it actually. I was programmer in my late teens, and after 3 years hated being it full time. Still enjoy hacking some programs as hobby.
  • by mabu (178417) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @05:16PM (#47760885)

    I am not sure there's much advice us older programmers can give new developers because the industry is a lot different now.

    In the old days we were often tasked with solving a problem, and we were more-often free to use whatever tools and technology were best, and we also thought of development environments as tools, which we could switch out if the application required something different. We also did all our own testing. I recently worked with a younger programmer on a project and it was miserable. He couldn't give me 20 lines of code that didn't have a bug in it, because he was dependent upon having some QA person test his work and an IDE that would hilight every mistake.

    Nowadays there is so much abstraction going on in programming, people don't really seem like they're programming as much as they're using some sort of GUI development tool and plodding through innumerable amounts of API documentation and going on witch-hunts to try and figure out why something that's documented to work, doesn't actually work. I remember a big Oracle project I was on where my software wouldn't work properly and I couldn't figure out why. It took me several months of bitching on usenet to finally get a rep within Oracle contact me privately and tell me I wasn't crazy, they knew about the bug and just weren't acknowledging it. In the old days, there wasn't as much of that going on. Programming was simpler and less bureaucratic.

    • by Art3x (973401) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @01:22AM (#47763037)

      I liked the part about poetry. That rings true. I came to programming from writing. They have a lot in common.

      I am not sure there's much advice us older programmers can give new developers because the industry is a lot different now.

      Experience counts. It's wiser to hire someone with 25 instead of 5 years experience. I generally get better results from the elders, whether they are my server admin, plumber, or barber. The years round off rough edges, and they're just more relaxed. They may be grumpy, but they always seem ready to make a joke. In their work they are more methodical and deliberate. They seem to be working slowly, but they finish sooner. They're mainly just less frantic, less wasted motion, more thoughful. There's no problem they can't figure out, eventually. They also are more likely to be the ones to insist on doing the job right, or thoroughly, more than the customer is asking them to. They are more likely to describe something as elegant or know what the word means.

      This obsession with youth is sort of like how everything's new "on the Internet." Eventually the gleam will wear off, and society hopefully will realize that it's better to hire old people, just like it's better to hire master plumbers, 60-year-old architects, and gray-haired graphic designers. Steve Jobs, for NeXT's logo, paid $100,000 to Paul Rand, who was 72.

      I recently worked with a younger programmer on a project and it was miserable. He couldn't give me 20 lines of code that didn't have a bug in it, because he was dependent upon having some QA person test his work and an IDE that would hilight every mistake.

      I'm a web programmer in my 30s, but I use vi, psql, and --- well, that's about it.

  • by 2fuf (993808)

    He looks older than my 70 year old dad

  • by PJ6 (1151747) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @07:22PM (#47761589)
    when I discovered that he doesn't bother to proofread or use a spell checker.

    I don't care how long he's been doing it, sloppiness is a sign of a poor programmer.
  • by some old guy (674482) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @04:50AM (#47763479)

    As I near the end of a nominally successful electrical engineering career that spans the humble analog beginnings of automation to the roboticized present, I can look back and smile at what a smart-assed punk kid I was, deriding the old-timers with snot-nosed comments and the immeasurable over-confidence of youth.

    Barring an early death, everyone gets old. Know what? I neither desire nor require the respect or veneration of the young. I got mine. As jobs get scarcer and pay less with each passing year, all I can say to the smartaleck young snerts is, "Suck it. See you in St. Croix."

    On the other hand, ask me nicely and I'm happy to lend a helping hand.

    Respect is a two-way street with no speed limit.

  • I was kind of confused about the message and intent of the videos. If the goal is to give advice to those who want to continue programming as a career beyond their 40's and into their 60's, it might make more sense to interview somebody who has managed to do that. I guess the idea was to avoid doing what he did.

    The advice seemed to come down to this: Take care of yourself and work for the government or just skip a career in programming altogether. The rest was made up of miscellaneous recollections.

    I
  • So next to your CS degree you are going to need a fine arts major and better be a published author, recognized composer or important contemporary painter on top of 50+ years of working experience in a technology that's been around for 5 years oh and please do not be older than 25 because we all know from your 30s it is downhill, you cost 300 times "too much", experience doesn't mean anything and your are "not flexible".

    It is becoming absolutely ridiculous what people seem to think a "real programmer" should

  • The message I got was: either become a brain-dead manager (technologically speaking, of course :) ) by the time you reach your 40s or work for the government if you want to stay employed in the field. I managed to make it to 61 without becoming a manager, so I guess that's not too bad. And he's right about allowing yourself to be attached to your code: don't. As hard as it may seem to be able to do that, don't forget it's just code.
  • Your only security is the money in the bank (or investment).

    Even if your house is paid off, you still have to pay your property taxes, insurance (home and auto), food, water, power or you will lose that home.

    Here is what I wish I knew 10 - 15 years ago...you can learn from my mistake (I am successfully doing this today as you should be.):

    Follow Jim Cramer's Homework and Buy method of investing. Watch Mad Money Monday through Friday on CNBC at 6pm EDT. Pay $199 for his Action Alerts and follow along until you learn how. Read two of his many books: 'Sane Investing in an Insane World' and 'Get Rich Carefully' and follow his method of investing and you should be able to retire by year 8, 9 or 10 even with a minimum wage job. (And as a Programmer, you better be making more than minimum wage!)

    No more fears of age discrimination by age 35 to 45 any longer as they need you, but you do not need them. That is real power and real stability, how much money you can generate each and every year for the rest of your life. As long as you are dependent on others, you will be at risk to become a laid off programmer that many will not hire. Heaven help you after 45 if you still have to work...our society does not want you to receive a retirement any more. And if that 401K is not managed by YOU...the reason its not growing are the hidden fees sucked out each and every year by whomever manages it for you. Waht a farce.

    Here is how I got the $140 per week:
    $14,336.00 = ($7 per hour * 2048 hours per year) (takes out vacation, sick, etc...) = $14,336.00 per year in salary.
    - $5,160.96 ($14,336.00 * .36 percent tax rate, hopefully you have an accountant and are not paying 36%.)
    ========
    $ 9,175.04 ~ (after tax yearly income on a job paying $7 per hour, should you get taxed at the max rate of 36%)

    $ 176.44 ~ ($9,175.04 / 52 weeks)
    $ -140.00 ~ saved each week to be ready to invest and not touch for at least 8 years....
    ========
    $ 36.44 ~ what you have left over to live on, after taxes and saving $140 to be invested.

    $ 140.00 ~ If the minimum wage is raised to $11 per hour, you will be able to invest $140 and have $140 per week to live on. Perhaps if your car is paid off and you have no mortgage or rent payment you can do this...good luck if you do not do this while you are programming and making better than a minimum wage. Still would be hard if you have to many monthly revolving expenses above and beyond mortgage or rent...do your self a favor and limit any and all revolving charges.

    Assumption: You save $140 per week in an account ready to be invested. When that account reaches between $750 and $2,000 you buy 20 - 25 shares of a stock costing between $30 and $80 per shares (see break out below). If you do this for 8 years, you will be close to $125,000.00 in your stock portfolio and earning more than $20,000 each and every year for the rest of your life.

    Here is how it could work for anywone, even with a close ot minimum wage or minimum wage job.:
    $140 per week ~ minimum in an investment account, when that account gets up over $750 dollars, buy 20 - 25 shares of a lower priced stock that you have personnally done the homework on.

    • When you reach the following levels of savings in your stock market investment account you can purchase at least 20 shares of stocks at the following price levels:
    • Savings ~ The number of shares at what
    • to Invest ~ dollar amount you can invest:
    • $750 ~ 20-25 shares in the $30
    • $1,000 ~ 20-25 shares in the $40s
    • $1,250 ~ 20-25 shares in the $50s
    • $1,500 ~ 20-25 shares in the $60s
    • $1,750 ~ 20-25 shares in the $70s
    • $2,000 ~ 20-25 shares in the 80s

    $125,000.00 ~ Takes 8 - 10 years if only investing $140 per week. Faster if you invest more per week. Assuming you reinvest all the proceeds, assuming a 20% return (extremely conservative, I am over 30% and have a shot at 50% return this year) within 8 years you will have amassed this level in your stock investment portfolio.
    $20,000 per year ~ The amount you can be sure you will earn on your $125K portfolio for the rest of your life. Probably more, this is very conservative. You will never fear that you will lose your paid off home because of property taxes, cost of insurance, etc...
    $250,000.00 ~ Amount of your portfolio, 2 or 3 years after it reached $125K. Compounding is your friend and helps you amass wealth faster the more you have. At this level ($250K), you will never have to work at anything you do not want to again. You will never lose your home if its paid off. You will be able to afford vacations multiple times per year.
    $50,000.00 per year ~ The amount you can be sure you will earn on your $250K portfolio for the rest of your life. Probably more, remember I am being extremely conservative.
    . . . It only gets better from here, because you learned the value of deferred gratification and the compounding effect of money / investments.

    This only works if you follow Jim Cramer's Buy and Homework method of investing talk in to the two books mentioned above. There are no short cuts, the more you make and put in investments, the faster you will reach true financialy independence.

    Yes the market is rigged (google 'Flash Boys' its all true, and you can get ahead in spite of it) for those that trade in large volumes, however individual stock pickers can get ahead by following Jim's advice.

    Investment income is taxed at a 15% rate, lower 10% if you have a great accountant and are very wealthy. Its how Mitt Romney managed to get a 10% tax rate that everyon

  • I can still rail ( no joke) about how stupid Java is. I worked at Sun until 2004 and haven't worked a day since, now at age 67, but I used to be pissed off but I am not as much as I used to be. About six months ago I became enamored with Python, which I still respect. I am very impressed with the concepts of Literate Programming and reproducable results as I started off linking FORTRAN code with math and statistics libraries as a so-called scientific programmer. Now the researchers are able to do all this

The more cordial the buyer's secretary, the greater the odds that the competition already has the order.

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