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Fighting Against Reality

March 7, 2010 10:15:19.819

You have to recognize what era you live in - and as much as it might be nice to hearken back to some presumed "golden age", it's just not coming back. Where am I going with this? To Mike Taylor's lament about the mundaneness of modern software development:

Today, I mostly paste libraries together. So do you, most likely, if you work in software. Doesn't that seem anticlimactic? We did all those courses on LR grammars and concurrent software and referentially transparent functional languages. We messed about with Prolog, Lisp and APL. We studied invariants and formal preconditions and operating system theory. Now how much of that do we use? A huge part of my job these days seems to be impedence-matching between big opaque chunks of library software that sort of do most of what my program is meant to achieve, but don't quite work right together so I have to, I don't know, translate USMARC records into Dublin Core or something. Is that programming? Really?

I rather suspect that as cars moved from being mostly mechanical to being highly dependent on software the same kind of lament went up amongst car enthusiasts. There's really no going back though; just as I have no real interest in gapping my own spark plugs, I have no real interest in writing my own version of malloc(). Even if I did, outside of being a harmless hobby, who the heck (outside of a handful of OS developers) would pay me to do it?

The world turns, and life moves on. The time for building every little library by hand is gone, and it's not coming back. Personally, I'm happy about that; I just never got a thrill out of low level grunt work :)

Having said that, I can tell you where that level of creation is still going on: game development.

posted by James Robertson

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