Geek Logbook

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Talent as a programmer and talent as system-level thinkin. Peter Deutsch talks about that

Perhaps the most forgotten for the massive public of the book. But, if you use the REPL you you are making a silent tribute, because the first REPL was created by Laurence Peter Deutsch. Link to Wikipedia

Seibel: So is it OK for people who don’t have a talent for systems-level thinking to work on smaller parts of software? Can you split the programmers and the architects? Or do you really want everyone who’s working on systems-style software, since it is sort of fractal, to be able to
think in terms of systems?

Deutsch: I don’t think software is fractal. It might be nice if it were but I don’t think it is because I don’t think we have very good tools for dealing with the things that happen as systems get large. I think the things that happen when systems get large are qualitatively different from the things
that happen as systems go from being small to medium size.

But in terms of who should do software, I don’t have a good flat answer to that. I do know that the further down in the plumbing the software is, the more important it is that it be built by really good people. That’s an elitist point of view, and I’m happy to hold it.

Part of what’s going on today is that the boundary between what is software and what isn’t software is getting blurred. If you have someone who’s designing a web site, if that web site has any kind of even moderately complex behavior in terms of interacting with the user or tracking state, you have tools for building web sites like that. And working with those tools—as I understand it, not having used them—accomplishes some of the same ends as programming, but the means don’t look very much like writing programs.

So one of the answers to your question might be that over time a larger and larger fraction of what people used to think of as requiring programming won’t be “programming” any more and pretty much anybody will be able to do it and do a reasonable job of it.

You know the old story about the telephone and the telephone operators? The story is, sometime fairly early in the adoption of the telephone, when it was clear that use of the telephone was just expanding at an incredible rate, more and more people were having to be hired to work as operators because we didn’t have dial telephones. Someone extrapolated the growth rate and said, “My God. By 20 or 30 years from now, every single person will have to be a telephone operator.” Well, that’s what happened. I think something like that may be happening in some big areas of programming, as well

Coders at Work – Page 421 – Peter Deutsch

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