Now, I realize this is a quaint little parable, but think about it: He started at 65 and was rewarded around 20 years later. What do you think you could accomplish given 20 years? That would only put you at 56, so you probably can get another 20 year project in before your time's up.
Oh, also...while looking for the quote, I came across this in one of the Nobel prize winner's autobiographies:
In 1988, I retired, kept my office, gave up systematic experimental work and started to work on kinetic models for the overall reaction of the pump on computer. For this I had to learn how to programme, quite interesting, and amazing what you can do with a computer from the point of view of handling even complicated models. And even if my working hours are fewer, being free of all obligations, the time I spent on scientific problems are about the same as before my retirement.
This is from Jens Skou (http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/1997/...). He was born in 1918. So he started programming at 70.
Is 36 too late? What do you think?
So really I think it's all a matter of your own personality and attitude. If you're willing to work hard and are genuinely interested, I definitely think you can do it.
That said, I think you probably won't succeed as a programmer unless programming seems fun and interesting to you. If you've worked with programmers, but never tried programming before now, that might be a warning sign.
Still, best way to find out is to try. Start with something small and simple and see if you enjoy the process. Good luck.
I would say go for it.
My lesson 1, you gotta find others who are learning or are already doing and are willing to chat and share war stories. In a vacuum you will quickly lose motivation from all the minor failures that (attempting) coding results in.
My lesson 2, forget the idea that if I read this and that book I'm good to go with this or that language. Coding requires heaps of hands on practice, and once again, failure.
My lesson 3, coding requires a shift in brain patterns, literally. It takes a super eye for detail and a focus I simply have a hard time maintaining. And the question becomes, the question I find most pertinent, do you want that shift? It's not good or bad, but I'm convinced that if I were ever to be proficient in this field I would have to really alter my way of approaching problems and even perceiving the World around me.
speaking of all nighters.
Pick a language. Python is easy to learn and rewarding.
Grab a book.
Write some code!
Never too late.
As advancement in my first career began to look more and more remote, I had found myself wishing I had become a computer programmer, and was frustrated that changing course was so hard. One day about two years ago I decided that if I wanted to become a programmer, then I should start programming. If I didn't keep up with the programming, then ipso facto I didn't want to be a programmer.
Two years on, with a few college classes under my belt (basically useful, but probably dispensable), and a couple of side projects in various states of disrepair, I've got an low level coding internship with a very supportive employer.
I'm hardly brilliant programmer, but my employer hasn't kicked me out the door yet. The corporate environment is, at best, ok, and I would probably prefer not to have a job at all, but I am learning a lot. As far as jobs go, I can't imagine a better one than the one I've got. I expect that what I'm learning will open doors in the future, and the despair that clouded my first career is replaced by a sense of (I hate buzzwords, but here one comes) empowerment.
Most importantly, I really enjoy tooling around with my (two) side projects. Having fun problems to work on is the best.
On the other hand, if it's for starting a company, perhaps that your skills would be better used elsewhere than in learning a full new world, and so taking a developer with you may be the best.
The ageism in programming is only a side-effect of it being a new industry really since the 80s for desktop and 90s for web. You don't find many people in any industry much older than the industry itself.
I'd say it's not too late, but it takes time. You can trade your existing experience against the native wit/speed of the youngsters, but it still takes time to learn to program.
Especially to learn to program for someone else, by which I mean robust and comprehensive enough to be used by people you don't know, in ways you'll have difficulty imagining.
So it depends a lot on both you and your ideas. Are you willing to work as hard as a founder has to, but on someone else's ideas? I would recommend starting to learn to program, but floating your ideas to some experienced developers as well with the intent of finding someone to work with. If you can do all the business stuff, and are mildly technical, and they can do all the deep technical, and appreciate the business stuff, then you can have a formidable partnership.
After all, PG recommends having a co-founder ...
Having no technical founders is different. I believe that's happened only once in YC, and the founders were teaching themselves to be technical people at the time.
A new free online school for learning Ruby is just getting started, Ruby Mendicant University: http://blog.majesticseacreature.com/quick-rmu-status-update
Get your entrance exam in by Sunday and you've got a shot at being a part of the first round of sessions.
If, on the other hand, you feel you're really interested in programming then, by all means, go ahead and take the plunge. However, bear in mind that it will take you more or less 10 years to become an expert. It doesn't really have anything to do with age, it's just how much time people need to get excellent at something.
If you feel undecided about whether you're really interested in coding or not, give it a shot and find out. If you really like coding, you'll know it.
If you stick with it, in a year you will have laid the foundation for your problem-solving skills. In just a couple years you will be able to produce all kinds of things. In 10 years there won't be a problem you can't tackle with perhaps a little more reading online and a few hours in your favorite text editor or IDE.
If however you don't hunger for the ability to create but simply want to flesh out your ideas then you might consider finding a programmer (or rather, a talented web developer) to create your sites. Either way I don't believe there is an age in your life where you just can't figure it out.
Programmer thinking: cool, ideas, Web
PHB speak: some, implement
If order to have the right mindset for programming, you must replace "some" with "one" and "implement" with "build".
In other words:
1. Is there something that you just have to have?
2. Do you absolutely have to build the first version yourself?
If you can answer both questions "yes", then, by all means, get started. Just start building something. Resources are right at your fingertips. You don't need college, classes, or special training, just a burning desire to learn what you need in order to build what you have to build.
If, on the other hand, either of your answers was "no", then you probably should stay a manager and assemble a team/project to pursue your ideas.
Either way, age has nothing to do with it. All that matters is what you really want. And the only one who can determine that is you.
I am also a programmer and it also works for me.
But grandparent was addressed to OP, who has already self-identified as a PHB, a totally different audience.
When another programmer talks about "implementing some things", I know exactly what he's talking about. He's going to dig down at his terminal and make things happen.
But when a PHB says the same words, it has totally different meaning. Why? Because these are "fluffy" words which infer different things from different sources. A PHB "implementing some things" probably means project plans and meetings, not coding in the trenches.
I think that the most important thing for OP to do is to stop thinking like a PHB and start thinking like a programmer. In his case, this means focusing on specific details and digging more than 1 level below the surface, 2 things at which PHBs are notoriously weak. If he continues to think "some" and "implement", he'll never shed his PHB skin and grow the new programmer persona he'll need. That's all.
Imagine web design never having known IE5.5 ... it's like a dream...
The power available now compared to 10 years ago to create stunning applications with only basic programming knowledge is phenomenal. I do suggest you skip the web and go learn a mobile platform though, android development is a good (and free!) place to start as it's still relatively new so there are lots of people learning and great resources available.
But once a hacker, forever a hacker.
Get started with building your mockups and slowly get the functionalities in when you are finding your way with the programming framework.
If you want to build businesses out of your ideas , you'll have enough to do and learn.
No matter your age, to learn code is not done over night. focus on getting things done.
my 2cts... im older than you but i started to code in early 80's :)
The only requirement is that you do have mindset suitable for programming. I've seen quite a few people struggle with programming who don't have an inherent logical thinking cap on their head!
My grandfather got into programming in his late 70s. He was a fund manager and just wanted to do it by himself.
Now he is dead but I keep source listings of his code.
But don't force yourself to learn something you don't love. Much better to partner with someone who does love programming.
If you do love programming, then do it by any means necessary.
That's sarcasm, you old fart.
It worked for phpBB and Wordpress...
Get yourself to build stuff and enjoy!
You might get a leg up by choosing a technical co-founder that is willing to be your mentor on your programming education.
On the other hand, web programming is exceptionally easy...
No, it's not. The only thing easy in programming is writing trivial examples and small stuff like that. Writing a non-trivial program that has to be used by real users and is expected to have as few bugs as possible is not easy at all.
If thats not easy, what is?
I don't think that's been true since the 1980's or so. There are so many things to do with a computer that writing programs might be something that takes years to get to, and not all systems make it all that obvious or easy how to start. The days when your computer had only a handful of programs and a BASIC so you could write your own are long gone.
The idea is that the only way he can find it out is by trying. Some of the best programmers I have met did come from outside compsci field - biologists, psychologists, and, yes, a business manager. The point is he must try to know whether he can - and is willing to - do it.
And, BTW, what good would a citation do? It would be as unfalsifiable as my claim.
I've seen the word developer used as an extension of programmer - someone who doesn't need a pseudocode specification to turn a requirement into a solution, whereas a programmer may be someone who just translates the spec into a machine-readable format. Both are programmers, though.