Garrett (garote) wrote,
Garrett
garote

Obsolescence

Every couple of months, somewhere on the planet, some acolyte programmer or frustrated employer of programmers comes up with the bright idea that they could solve the problem of software development once and for all if they just built a set of software tools that management could use on their own, to describe their needs to the computer and have the computer do the work.

In the 60's it often looked like a telephone wiring panel. In the 70's the popular designs involved physical cards or cartridges that you could move around. In the 80's it was rudimentary wireframe gears and puzzle pieces, in the 90's it was drag-and-drop shapes that you connected with arrows, in the 2000's it was touch-based drag-and-drop shapes, and this decade it's the voice interface that just has a dialogue with you until it figures out what you want. Plus a zillion variations on all of these themes, drawn from contemporary sci-fi.

Despite endless attempts all over the world over the course of 50+ years, no one has managed to make programmers obsolete.

Instead, demand for them has exploded with each new leap in processing power. In the 60's computer programmers were a vague presence, somewhere in the depths of the largest buildings. Nowadays all middle-class parents nationwide worry about teaching their young children how to program so they aren't "left behind".

And that's what sets programming apart. If you want to be a programmer for any length of time, you need to keep learning. In a single season your skills could become half as useful as the next guy/girl, because you didn't notice some new advance in the field and learn how to leverage it. Programming is obsolescence-proof - because the obsolescence is built-in, and happening fast enough to shroud the whole discipline in a permanent blur. We are all like Lewis Carrol's Red Queen, running to stay in place.
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