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Why Coding At Fifty May Be Nifty 317

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

    • Re:40 (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Ramley ( 1168049 ) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @09:37AM (#41871897)

      ... and still coding

      / Very nice!

      I'm 48, and wish I had another 24 years to do all of the things I want to do coding-wise alone. I haven't learned it all yet, and still want to know how everything works.

      It's a great lifestyle after all this time. I own my own firm, work from my home office, get out to the boat on Fridays and work from there if needed (during summer), and make my own time to work on my own terms.

      Coding at 48 is great!

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

      by Terje Mathisen ( 128806 ) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @10:37AM (#41872159)

      I've been programming since 1977, and I'm still doing it, although my job description hasn't had "programmer" in it since 1984:

      (My first job out of university was writing digital signal analysis sw for a research institute, I did that from 1981 to 84.)

      During the last few years I've been involved with crypto (AES) and graphics optimization, multicore computing as well as a few programming competitions:
      I suspect that I'm probably 20 years older than most of the other quarter/semi-finalists at the two Facebook Hacker Challenges.

      The main/only/sufficient reason is of course that I love doing it!

      Solving puzzles is something I would pay to do, so getting paid is a great deal imho.

      (My official job these days is to be the in-house IT troubleshooter for a very large Norwegian IT company, I manage to sneak in some programming here as well, often some Perl to analyze network trace/log files.)


      • 60 here... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Rob Y. ( 110975 ) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @11:45AM (#41872595)

        After watching how the various regimes running (and buying, and selling, and outsourcing) my company feel about programmers, I don't think I would ever go into it as a young person today. But a strange thing has happened. Of all the people that have been there all this time, I'm one of the few that has survived all the M&A shenannigans and outsourcings. It seems that those who moved up into management roles were more replaceable than those of us who stayed technical. Turns out they really needed somebody around who knows how the systems work. And who better than the ones who wrote them. The serious downside to this is that all the shortsightedness and 'people as widgets' thinking is leaving behind no next generation to take over where I leave off.

        This stupidity will not end until people stop being rewarded for it. So far, every manager who's engineered the next sell-off of the company has been richly rewarded. The company's for sale again, and I can't imagine anybody being stupid enough to buy it. But fools abound, and I'm sure the current crop has their golden parachutes in order...

        • As for when the stupidity will stop, I'll only point out that you just described yourself like a 2012 version of the 2002 Cobol programmer, shortly after they were re-hired/promoted to fix Y2K issues. And there will be certainly be a new incarnation of exactly the same situation 10 years from now, too, just with different technology yet again. "Ask Slashdot 2022: Are Ruby programmers still relevant?"

        • by Nivag064 ( 904744 ) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @04:47PM (#41874575) Homepage

          I am 61, and certainly not the oldest still programming. My first 2 paid programming positions involved FORTRAN IV and COBOL, I now use Java. Recently I've played with Python and Groovy.

          A few years ago I met a young man in his mid twenties, who said he was too old to learn programming!

          I wrote my first program (in BASIC) when I was eighteen, to display what happens when you feed the sine function complex numbers - I did it for fun. The computer was the size of a 4 draw filing cabinet, and had about 4K bytes - not 4 megabytes, nor 4 gigabytes! Now my main development machine has 16 gigabytes.

          Currently I am writing a system to to store, retrieve, and display tagged images using Java on Linux. The full system will be backed by a Postgres database and will be accessed by a web front end.

        • by plover ( 150551 )

          Turns out they really needed somebody around who knows how the systems work. And who better than the ones who wrote them. The serious downside to this is that all the shortsightedness and 'people as widgets' thinking is leaving behind no next generation to take over where I leave off.

          This stupidity will not end until people stop being rewarded for it.

          My company has made similar incorrect assumptions about coders being "cogs in the machine", and a couple years ago the CIO reorganized our entire shop around the concept of cogs, instead of around products. Software now costs roughly four times to produce than what it cost before, takes roughly four times as long to produce, is of overall much lower quality, and the only thing that keeps any little bits of it afloat are those of us who were effective before the re-org. (Needless to say, that re-org drove

      • 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.
    • Re:40 (Score:4, Interesting)

      by SQLGuru ( 980662 ) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @10:47AM (#41872199) Journal


      Whether I do it for work or for play, I'll always code.

    • 73 and still coding. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by RNLockwood ( 224353 ) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @01:05PM (#41873149) Homepage

      I did my first coding at 37 on using punch cards and coded for cash the next year. A couple of years ago I had to switch from C/C++ and Windows to Java on LINUX and have learned Java and some LINUX. When my Raspberry Pi arrives in a couple of weeks I'll start on Python! Mostly my job descriptions have been Ecologist with some coding. I look at most of the coding I've done as problem/puzzle solving.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 04, 2012 @08:29AM (#41871617)

    This just in, programmers would prefer to continue programming at 50.

  • 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.
  • But with all the requests I get for tech support(including how do set up this 3rd party USB device) because we don't have a help desk, requests for installation support since we don't have any release engineers, and meetings on top of this I'm lucky to do 2 hours of coding a day.(Suffice it to say I never get into the zone, did I mention I'm a software engineer?)
    • I'm 35 and I'd love to code now!
    • 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.

      • Let me ask, do you have that problem because both QA and managers think it's ok to just add new bugs to the board mid iteration? (Damn it, it's only 2-3 weeks. We can look at that shit at the next iteration.)
        • Re:Oh god, not agile (Score:5, Informative)

          by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @12:30PM (#41872881)

          oh no.

          I've done agile many years back and it as great - iterative development, regular releases, a 'vision' of what was needed to be added to the product per cycle... it worked.

          Today... agile seems to be a way of doing massively heavyweight processes. we have 2 scrum boards, we can't decide what the timebox items should be, or how long it'll take to do them, or how many should be in there, or how much planning for the next timebox needs to be done.... gah! its all planning on our agile nonsense.

          Its not agile, lets put it that way.

      • by hemp ( 36945 )

        Agile is for people that can't put together project plans.

      • by jfanning ( 35979 )

        I hate to break it to you, but that isn't agile.

        You, as a team, should be planning the tasks and working on them together. You disappearing for two months to "solve" all the problems yourself is the problem.

    • Actual coding is the smallest part of modern software development not just because of all the meetings agile techniques like Scrum require, but also because we're expected to support the code we write instead of just writing it in isolation, tossing it over the wall and expecting some other sucker to maintain it. The theory is that if the developers have to support the code themselves, then they'll pay more attention to quality, reliability, stability and other factors that improve maintainability.

      Of course

  • by grcumb ( 781340 ) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @08:39AM (#41871643) Homepage Journal

    Asking whether geeks should still be coding at fifty is like asking if people should still be having sex at fifty. The answer is stupidly obvious. OF COURSE we'll still be coding at fifty! It may seem revolting to younger folks, and lord knows it does take a little longer to get going. But once we've hit that groove, baby, we're not done in 30 seconds. No, we work that algorithm, and we know how to do it, too. None of those stupid mistakes we made during the frenzied, sweaty all-night coding sessions of our youth, blindly swapping pointers and hoping to avoid another premature segfault. Oh, no. And none of that I'm-too-hot-for-you arrogance, either. We leave our customers satisfied, because - take my word for it - that's the only way they're coming back for more.

    ... Tragically, of course, if you're a fifty year old geek, coding is as close as you're getting to sex for the rest of your life....


    • by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @08:52AM (#41871697) Homepage

      ... Tragically, of course, if you're a fifty year old geek, coding is as close as you're getting to sex for the rest of your life....

      Boy, are YOU doing it wrong....

      • ... Tragically, of course, if you're a fifty year old geek, coding is as close as you're getting to sex for the rest of your life....

        Boy, are YOU doing it wrong....

        Yes, someone needs to introduce him in the field of advanced robotics.
        My FemBot3000 will be finished any moment now!

    • So true - Fuck personality. If you're a 50 year old doctor you will live alone.. If you're a 50 year old physicist you will live alone.. If you're anything but a red convertible driving buffed up football watching meat-head who can't let go of his twenties - you will live alone. The fact of the matter is - programmers don't usually fight over the telly remote and have a capacity to learn and understand - but fuck that because you will live alone. It's not programmers that scare women off - it's socially aw
      • So - marry one. Plenty of women are socially awkward nerds, and the Internet means it is now possible to meet them. Mind you, as a socially awkward nerd married to a woman who does all the social stuff for both of us and likes to have someone dependable who ensures that all the infrastructure just works and brings in good money - I recommend this too.
  • by korpique ( 807933 ) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @08:39AM (#41871645) Homepage

    Many people move on from programming to management or entirely other careers because it is so hard. What makes most existing systems hard to develop is the unnecessary complexity, lack of or overabstraction and negligence of test code. Management coming from such mess and never seeing anything better can not strive for anything better. It is hard to navigate such an enviroment and stay sane and become productive. Once you succeed it is highly rewarding to coach younger team members. I'm living proof of that and there are plenty more at least in the Finnish agile circles. Career age would be of essence to anyone looking for real successful team leads.

    • 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.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Velex ( 120469 )

        This is my strategy. I tell my employer: "Do you want to pay me overtime or do you want the account to slip its deadline? Your choice." If that's drama, get your head out of your ass. If you're not paid by the hour to code, you're doing it wrong. I keep hoping my employer will answer "yes, we'll pay overtime" but they never do.

        What, is that somehow unfair. Well too fucking bad. My time is worth money.

      • I wouldn't say coding is hard.

        Coding is not hard. Being the one to do the grunt work is. You'll always be on the bottom of the corporate ladder and in the middle of the shit storm, regardless of skill and experience. You can either stop caring or switch careers. At 36, I am still in doubt which one it will be.

        Another thing making it hard to be a (non-freelance) coder, is that most of the time is spent on either trivial stuff or uninteresting problems. I know several coders who would love to work in innovative projects, but are forced to

        • I don't think "hard" is the right word but it more like "Coding is a pain in the ass". It's not the coding in and of itself that makes it so, it's the dealing with a legacy environment and integrating with less than well designed systems that makes things difficult and frustrating. If you're, doing greenfield development, then you don't have to worry about that stuff and it's all a bunch of fluffy white clouds but if you work in the environment that most programmers do, there are few fluffy white clouds t

      • by wdef ( 1050680 )

        I wouldn't say coding is hard.

        That depends on what you're coding.

    • by mattpalmer1086 ( 707360 ) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @09:25AM (#41871831)

      There seems to be some truth to this, in my own experience. I find the solutions my younger colleagues invent are just too complicated and gnarly. They haven't yet found how to see the underlying simplicity in the problem and solution - and more importantly, they don't even understand that they should be doing that.

      Mentoring is very satisfying, particularly when someone has a "got-it" moment, and their code improves forever thereafter. But I find that is rare. Many people I've worked with - even really, really bright people - just aren't interested in seeing a bigger picture. In fact, I'd go further. Most people will never do this - they will just solve the problem immediately in front of them, without any regard for how the whole thing hangs together, or the semantics of their construction, or the future ease of maintenance of their code.

      I guess what I'm saying is that I'm not sure it's really about inexperience, or hardness of career. It's the difference between being a journeyman or a master, and very few it seems have a genuine desire of mastery in what they do.

      • I'd agree totally with that, but I also blame the languages we use - there's often been a discussion concerning whether the "easy to use" languages and their "handholding" IDEs are corrupting the youth by making them turn coding into an exercise in snippets, or cut&paste, or click and its filled out for you.

        Its no longer a problem to solve, its a problem that has 1 solution that you have to find. Coding might have turned from a puzzle game where you have to think of how it all fits together, into an adv

        • I have to say, I'm not one of those who think that making programming easier is making programming worse.

          I've been programming for over 30 years (first experience being with hex keypads, teletype terminals and batch processing systems back in the 70s!). I love refactoring support, debugging, in-line help, static analysis, code navigation and folding, documentation generation, etc. They make me much, much, more productive. Anyone who thinks using a text editor, command line or punch-cards is superior is we

  • 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 Lumpy ( 12016 )

      Problem solving doesnt get better, you take less stupid risks at 50.

      20 year old - Server is down? let's try jump starting it with a pair of jumper cables from the other server!

      50 year old - Server is down? Fine, I'll go grab the spare from the closet, you get the backup tapes just in case. I told you the spare should be online all the time as a hot failover...

      and yes I have jump started a server back to life again. the power supply had failed and could not recover from a power outage. jumping the 1

    • by Gorobei ( 127755 )

      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..

      Exactly, at 50, you will still be solving those little puzzles, but you're going solve them with 30 seconds thought and 10 lines of code that runs first time: they are just that, little problems that you have encountered a hundred times before.

      But, if you want to be at a different career/pay point, you're also going to be solving big puzzles. Many of these are so big that people don't even see them as puzzles until you implement the solution, then man-years of work and confusion just melt away.

      The problem,

  • Two great pleasures of life you can still enjoy at 55. Other things, not so much.

    • I am over 60 and I disagree. A lot depends on how you lived in your twenties and thirties. If you have stayed fit all your life, maintained correct weight, avoided alcohol, tobacco, conspicuous consumption (and possibly firearms), your fifties and sixties is when you suddenly reap the benefits as you now have the money to do things and the kids have grown up,
      • I actually did all that and I reaped plenty of um, err....benefits. Current changes are both hormonal and psychological. I just don't feel as needy for sex, affection or anything else. The obsessive sexual fantasies of my youth have also disappeared. Everyone is different, of course. I certainly wouldn't quarrel with anyone at any age enjoying romantic interludes of any nature.

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @09:11AM (#41871763) Homepage

    Switching between languages takes time. Programming Java, then C, then Assembler... It takes me a solid 4 hours to switch between languages if I have to do anything complex. If I have been coding in C for months and then Oh here's a new embedded project we need done in assembler... My brain doesn't have the drivers loaded for assembler and it has to search the tape backup archives for that driver and load it into operating memory.

    Then I hit the ground running full speed.

    Back in my 20's I was able to switch language sets at random within a moment's notice. In fact I was at one point writing in 3 languages at once. 4GL for the accounting system, C writing printer drivers for that Xenix 386 OS we were running at the office, and assembler for my 68hc11 wyse terminal multiplexer. I figured out how to get 16 text terminals to communicate uber fast speeds over a single pair of dry copper wires from the main store to the second store location. But then I also did not need coffee and drank an epic amount of beer and rum every day...

    • ... but the code your wrote; more maintainable now, or then? That's really the important part of software development in most cases. I used to aim for code that ran as fast as possible, and was frequently so complex I had trouble debugging it myself. Now I aim for "fast enough", generally error free, but maintainable by someone with far less skill. When you know a language well, you can write beautiful poetry.

      • ... but the code your wrote; more maintainable now, or then?

        Interesting point. I'm returning just now to re-use/update/port some stuff I wrote a while back, some of it 5+ years ago, and even some bits from 24 years ago. Sometimes I find the rationale was clear enough, other times I have to kick myself before I can figure it out again, and there is one awkward little knot that still works but I completely forgot how and why, and so far I didn't manage to untie it.

        What this does remind me, though, is that my

        • I rarely write comments any longer, and only use them when I can't make the code any clearer (or to explain *why* I did something, rather than what I'm trying to do.). 'What' comments rarely get updated when the code changes, and can frequently do more harm than good. I feel a little sad when I feel I need to add a comment to explain what I'm doing. Computing power helps these days. Back in the old days when writing realtime code, the stack overhead from breaking things up into functions/methods would kil

          • Comments can become indispensable when the reason for putting something in (and the criterion for its correctness) is external to the code itself. I used sometimes to think "it must be obvious where that came from", but now with failing memory I often find it's not as obvious as I thought it should be. :(


            • That would be the *why* type of comments. Frequently a small paragraph rather than a simple one-liner as well. I think the failing memory (or sometimes it seems like it) can be a benefit; you know that in 6 months you *won't* remember, where in the the past, you *thought* you would.

      • My code is much more maintainable now. If there's a choice between a sexy, haha-see-if-you-can-figure-this-out way or a bread-n-butter way of doing it, I generally go for the bread-n-butter way now. I still indulge in a little Perl golf from time to time, but never anything bigger than a few lines of easily replaceable functionality.
  • by seven of five ( 578993 ) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @09:44AM (#41871925)
    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 ) <> 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.

    • It's only a crap shoot if you suck at hiring people.

      But then obviously it is going to be a crap shoot no matter what age they are...
    • As a fifty+ year old coder/designer/architect, I just went back to do another startup where I get to write code again and to mentor the rest of the team. The reason to write code is that I want to build something and have it used by customers (preferably paying ones). I can have the biggest impact in a small startup where we want to change the world (or at least a small, profitable, segment of it!)

      At 50+, your priorities do change somewhat -- family and kids are more important -- but these all encourage you

    • by hughbar ( 579555 )
      Nope, I'm 62, there have been a lot of threads about this recently [or maybe I'm reading the same thread time and again? nooooo] and I get quite a lot of work. I'm contract and I've never been that interested in salaried work. As I'm mainly a Perl person who works on large codebases, I'm in a good legacy niche.

      But I keep up with stuff, svn and now git, Ruby as it's related to Perl, Erlang because it's interesting, PHP because half the open-source-web is coded in it [ugh], not-Java though I could probably
  • ... and I've gone back to coding. I'm good at it and I know I'm good at it. I'm only 56 now, but I expect to be still coding for a living when I'm 70.

    • by Argon ( 6783 )

      Been there done that too. I am 40 and don't plan on getting back to management.

  • by metaforest ( 685350 ) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @10:11AM (#41872051)

    He was designing and troubleshooting analog and digital hardware.... radio and battery systems until the day he could legally tell his employer to fuck off and collect his Navy retirement and SSI...

    He knows more about practical engineering than I ever will. And we still kick ideas around. He retired but did not stop being an Engineer.

    I'm 46 and still writing code, and back at school for Biz Admin. I got to go back to my roots focusing on bare metal, and more recently embedded LINUX.

    I'll stop writing code when you pull my cold, dead fingers off the keyboard.

  • May I paraphrase?: "That silly stuff engineers do? Fun and easy compared to the really hard important grown-up job us executives do."

  • by tulcod ( 1056476 ) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @11:16AM (#41872387)

    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.

    You guys should get into math.

    • by wdef ( 1050680 )
      Google say they preferentially hires maths graduates over comp sci grads. They say mathematics graduates are better at problem solving than comp sci degree holders. And of course, most applied maths courses require you to learn some programming anyway.
  • It's all fun and games until you put a deadline on it.
  • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @12:33PM (#41872903) Journal

    Mental exercise significantly decreases the chances of dementia []. I'm 56 and involved in lots of things, not the least of which is coding for a large company. Someone once said "learning keeps you young" and he was right. My last career switch was at 53. I picked up a new, fairly technical hobby at 54 at which I'm becoming fairly decent. Earlier this year I completed a 4,400 mile solo motorcycle trip.

    There are concessions, of course. My knees are blown out. I can't run or bicycle anymore, and put those things away with true regret. But other things have replaced this. Walks with the dog, (with knee braces) long motorcycle trips, and driving daughter and her friends to skiing trips. (I hang out in the bar and write. Some of my best articles have come from there.)

    If you think your life is over at 50, I can tell you from experience, it is only if you want it to be. I see some of my contemporaries sitting in their barcaloungers in front of the boob tube waiting for life to end, and it makes me sad. A few of them used to be sharp, and can no longer carry on a conversation that doesn't involve reminiscing. The people I associate with tend to be decades younger than I, because they're still doing stuff and I am unwilling to give up on doing stuff.

    At 65, my mother had a bad heart attack, resulting in a triple bypass. She quit smoking, started a new business, and now in her seventies is a successful small businessperson. But the biggest change I've noticed is that for the first time in years her thoughts are clear, she can carry on a coherent conversation, and she's interested in learning new things.

    I thought it had been pretty much settled that activity (mental and physical) tends to keep the parts working. I'm not sure why this is a news item. But I note other threads like this, even in Slashdot, of people worried that their careers will be over at 40. Well, maybe if you're a trapeze artist, but otherwise, it's pretty much up to you.

  • by iamacat ( 583406 ) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @12:59PM (#41873105)

    Not only management is an entirely different field requiring a different personality and skill set, but it's a pyramid scheme. By definition, only a minority of engineers can become managers. So if the choice is learning an entirely new profession on level field with newcomers or staying good at what you are good at, have tons of experience in and which is still in high demand, I think it's a no brainer. I fully expect to be coding until retirement, although I do notice that my average work day is 2-3 hours of actually writing code and the rest of the time helping others.

  • My 'creds' : coding since 1968, not as a career or software jock, but for fun and to support my research/analysis as student and engineer (in that order :-) ).
    While you don't have to be a total c++/java/perl expert to do engineering, you sure as heck have to be able to move on from slide rules and TI-88's to actual programming if you want to be a productive engineer.
    I'm 57 and continue to enjoy writing stuff in R (as well as explaining to people why LabView is a recipe for disaster if you try to apply it to large projects). Then again, I like abstract algebra and topology, so I suppose I'm an outlier (yeah, I do stats too).

  • by durdur ( 252098 ) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @03:18PM (#41873985)

    No, not any more. When I was a young programmer, you could disappear into an office and just code all day. But one thing that has happened in the last couple of decades is that coding has become much more collaborative. Even if you are not doing extreme programming, with another coder practically in your lap, test-driven development, continuous integration and methodologies like Scrum mean that you are spending a lot of your day with QA and other devs. Break something and you have 20 guys on your back to fix it, stat. Put in some nifty but unorthodox code and then get it reviewed out of the product. I'm sure there are lots of people who thrive in that environment, and it does tend to improve the quality level of the software, but it means that you don't get to fly solo anymore, and that is what drove a lot of introvert/geek types into programming in the first place. It's also a bit of a shift if you haven't grown up as a dev in the new world, although I've been able to deal with it.

"Everyone's head is a cheap movie show." -- Jeff G. Bone