As We May Code
keynote at PPIG08 – The 20th Annual Psychology of Programming Interest Group Conference. Lancaster University, UK. 10–12 September 2008.
download slides of talk (PDF, 877K)
Comparisons - then and now
When I started coding you had:
Your job as a programmer was to find a solution to the problem using the primitives.
Now, instead of problem solving, programming feels like a British Library task: googling wikis, blogs, and semi-generated APIs to find a code snippet or piece of advice, more alchemy than chemistry.
Some changes seem for the good (such as the democratisation of coding through open-source communities), others less so. However, whether good, bad or simply different, coding now is not the same as it was 50 years ago when Knuth first wrote, nor for that matter 20, or even 10 years ago. And these difference are often ones that change the way we think about code and coding.
I'm trying to thrash out some of the main differences in the tables below. Of course, many things are more changes in emphasis and examples of 21st century programming practice can be found 50 years ago as can traditional programming be found now ... and of course some things never change!
Alan Dix 25/8/2008