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No Company For Old Programmers (blogaborty.blogspot.in)
74 points by tathagata on Apr 11, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 105 comments



45 here, still enjoying it. and much of that description didn't really ring true. the obsession with computer science came at the start (i wasn't educated as a software engineer, so my first job writing code had me scrambling to understand the theory); what i enjoy most these days is crafting something well. it doesn't have to be rocket science - it's a pleasure just to make something that is so simple it is beautiful, yet works so well it makes others happy.

everything else - understanding inherited crappy code; fixing bugs no-one else can / wants to; listening to clients change their mind again - is just the price you pay for being able to do that craft...


42 here, and still loving it.

I work from home, and can work anywhere in Europe, as much or as little as I want (within reason). I don't have to put up with meetings and bullshit bosses. Above all, I still love programming for its puzzle-solving side, and for its non-stop accumulation of learning and experience.

I'm currently having an awesome time in Barcelona, but I've lived in a beautiful city in France, by a beach in the Canary Islands, and in an 18th Century Norman Château (well, in its converted stable anyway).

I'm sooooo glad I stuck to the coalface and didn't move into management, or I'd probably still be swearing at tourists on the tube every day.


Sounds awesome.

This is probably one of the best things about being a programmer. You can work from home (or a coworking space) and live anywhere in the world.

The article and others like it usually allude to soul-sucking management-heavy corporate environments. It's no surprise to me that people don't want to work there late into middle age (as programmers).

I also work from home, have never worked in a corporate environment and probably never will.


How do you find remote work? Are you a contractor or permanent?


I'm a one-man business doing web development.

I get my work almost solely through contacts I made when I lived in London, though I left the UK in 2007.

Sorry: probably not what you wanted to hear!


It's not that bad, I'm a web developer too and I work in London at the moment. With my day rate I could probably fund a year in a cheap part of the world on 6 months work, but it would definitely stretch further if I could top it up with some freelance work :-)


oh good point - similar story - it made moving to / living in s. america possible when my s.o. got a permanent job here.


47 here , getting paid to develop since I was 16 and still it is fun and games. I really don't understand burnout concept and self imposed stress some people have. Must be just my luck. Planning to do this as long as I can type :-)


Funny you mention "as long as I can type". Recently had back surgery which makes it difficult to sit, hence difficult to code. Got me to thinking about all the things that could cause me to stop coding... Loss of ability to type (fingers/hands lost). Loss of eyesight (though in college we had a blind developer). Inability to sit (back problems). Loss of mind (dimensia/Alzheimers). Loss of motor control (Parkinsons/paralysis). Im sure theirs more, but like you, i imagine I will be doing this until i cant...


fwiw i lost use of my right hand for a few months (it's largely ok now) and it made surprisingly little difference to productivity. i don't think anyone else noticed! turns out i spent more time thinking and less writing than i had assumed.


I've often thought this was the case, but fortunately haven't had an opportunity to test out the theory. Occasionally I've seen software development jobs where they look for the ability to type some number of words per minute. I think that is a red flag.


Check out Tavis Rudd's Using Python To Code By Voice (from Pycon 2013) for a cool demo (that starts at 9:00): http://pyvideo.org/video/1735/using-python-to-code-by-voice


48 here ... and I do it because I love it. In fact, I've been to management and back three times (but I've learned my lesson now). I still feel the same "joy of discovery" I experienced upon writing my first line of code but I'm a bit more capable now.

I think there are people who were made to be makers/tinkerers and other that aren't, but fake it for a period of time. If this was the 1800's, I'd be laughed at as a "fool inventor".


I'm 38. The difference in what I know, can do, and can do quickly, now vs. 10 years ago is staggering. I can't wait to see where I'll be in 5 years.

It makes me confused about the "young founder" trope. Maybe some wunderkind can pick up a lifetime of learning before they are 22, but if so, I'd love to know how, and how this could be a common scenario. It just seems far-fetched to me. So much of what I know came from experience, but without that experience, I'm not sure how one would learn these things...


Young founders don't trust you because you don't know the latest technology that has come out in the past 2 years.

Now, you know that there have been hundreds of flashes in the pan (or things that should have been flashes in the pan), and it's usually much easier to keep a high-level overview of a field and only dive into it when you need it, which usually takes a matter of days because you have worked with similar things anyway.

But they don't know that you know that.


>Young founders don't trust you because you don't know the latest technology that has come out in the past 2 years.

Then the young founder is wrong. I'm also 38, and not only am I familiar with (intimately in many cases) with 2 year old technology, in many cases I'm in the process of _creating_ the future of technology (in my particular slice of computer science).

You may be on to something with fads, though. My experience (purely anecdotal) is that more experienced developers are better able to pick out the fads vs. new tech that's likely to stick. That makes a difference. I'm not going to spend much of my valuable time on something that I don't believe is going to last, and after 20 years, I'm pretty good at picking those things out.

I have a very long list of things I want to have a deeper look at, but I'm not going to waste my time on technology that won't last. Oh, I'll have a look at those things (the high level that you mention), but that's as far as it'll go. There's far to much on my plate.

On occasion, I do get it wrong. That thing I thought would be a fad, ends up becoming important technology, and I have to play catch-up, but that doesn't actually happen much these days.

I guess my point is, it may appear that we, older developers, lag behind, but really, our experience allows us to make better decisions about what technology to spend our time on.


And the young ones don't know the math behind why iterating over a list is slower than doing a lookup in a map. I don't care what new-fangled, whiz-bang language/framework is cool. If you don't grok data structures and when to use what, you're screwed when you try to scale.


Maybe that's the stereotype, but I'm more interested in what technology came out in the last 2 weeks than the last 2 years. Have fun in the slow lane, sonny!


>Young founders don't trust you because you don't know the latest technology that has come out in the past 2 years.

This would be a really silly assumption. There seems to be little correlation between age and acclimation to new technologies.


I think a big part of it is that the "young founders" are naive and don't know what they don't know. This allows them to strike out in unexpected directions and try things that no one with experience would actually do. Usually, they will fail, simply winding up older and wiser. Occasionally, however, they will succeed, possibly through nothing other than luck, and that makes them look like a genius.

Now, I don't mean to belittle the inexperienced young founders; we were all inexperienced once. Also, a few of them probably truly are visionary geniuses (but I suspect most are not). All that said, many of the start-ups I hear about sound ridiculous to me, and most will fail. The few that are destined to truly succeed, however, probably will also sound ridiculous to me. And perhaps, that is why "young founders" are occasionally going to change the world.


I think the young founder trope persists for social reasons, not technical. The average 25 year old "understands" the internet on a very different level than the average 35 year old- simply as a consequence of having grown up around it.


That's probably the meme, but being around during construction and occasionally being the one building it might get you a deeper understanding imho.


A deeper understanding of how it works, etc sure... but not necessarily a deeper understanding of how the younger folk interact with it.

I remember reading a discussion of how some technology (lets go with smart phones for lack of my memory) was going to make newer generations lives so much different. They'll be focused around them because they're so amazing and useful. What <the folks that said that> didn't really understand was that, to the younger generation, the smart phone wasn't some wonder, amazing device that can do lots of things. Rather, it just WAS.

It's like a door. If you lived before doors, they would be amazing... you'd think everyone younger than you would be amazed they have it and love it. But they don't. To them, it has always been that way, the door just IS.


I also think it's social reasons, but not really about understanding the internet. More relevant imo is that younger people more often have flexible lifestyles where they can take a year or two off from "real life" to eat ramen and live in the office starting a company that's statistically likely to fail. Even if it does fail, it's an interesting learning experience, and they can always get a regular job afterwards. Some older people can also do that, but more are in situations where for family or other reasons they aren't likely to find that appealing.


I disagree. Ask them what "recursive queries" in DNS are. Ask them to explain the difference between a forward and reverse lookup. DNS is fundamental to "The Internet" and hardly any young person I have met can answer these basic questions about how it works. Now they do "understand" how to post pictures on Facebook, but Facebook is not the Internet.


Well, I disagree with that fundamentally. You don't found a successful tech company because you know what a recursive DNS query is. You do it because you know your market and you understand your customer.


Maybe because it doesn't matter


Bah. It's mostly for business reasons. You can milk young developers (and founders, if you're a VC) much more efficiently, and you can trick them into business deals that hurt them much more easily.


Can't argue with this. I pulled some crazy hours in my more naive days hoping to get a payout from my "equity."


You're right that it's social, in that a lot of 25 year olds think that they understand the Internet better because they grew up with it. What it usually really means is that they take a lot of things on faith because it's all they've ever known. I can't tell you how many 20-something "social media experts" have had a hard time answering specific and detailed skeptical questions.


i dont think the 25 yo understand the internet "on a different level" because they are born with the internet. Using something early doesnt mean you understand how it works at all. Young people may learn faster though, but older people are supposed to know more already.


My point is that "how it works" isn't that important. "What it changes", is. I was in college in the pre-Facebook era, so I don't really have a handle on how different it was to have access during college years. Now teenagers are Snapchatting each other, and I don't do that either- so I don't understand the behaviour as well as younger people than myself.


It took me almost 20 years of hardcore programming to realize it wasn't the programming that was interesting to me. I didn't give a whit about new languages and frameworks and new design patterns. What I cared about was the creation of something from nothing. What I cared about was the ability to conceptualize and immediately materialize: ideas leading to moving digits on a keyboard leading to product.

Starting my own company, releasing my own software, interacting with my own users and reveling in their praises or reeling back from their complaints: that's software brought to life and that's what keeps me going.

Programming is just the canvas for getting my ideas out in the real world in the hands of real people.


Exactly this, except I've only been developing for 8 years and don't have my own company. I find myself getting into new hobbies because of the actual creation. I've built my own redwood planter boxes for tomato plants this week and it's my first year planting tomatoes. I have 8 plants and I'm obsessed. Golf is similar, but instead of creation, it's about troubleshooting what I did wrong and fixing it. My handicap has dropped from 18 to 13 and that's before buying new wedges (I've only used sand and pitching if any of you are golfers). My self-taught mentality is holding me back from going out and getting a golf lesson, much like how I teach myself new frameworks.


I'm not old yet [only 51, software dev. since 1985] but I still enjoy developing software. I compared myself to a golden retriever in an interview once: "You know how you throw the ball and he brings it back? If aren't familiar with retrievers, you'd think. 'He'll get tired of this in a while.' but it never happens. That's me and programming."

Admittedly I've been very lucky, I've never had to do "maintenance", write CRUD apps, had horrible bosses or worked with bad developers or unpleasant people.


    > I've never had to do "maintenance", write CRUD apps,
    > had horrible bosses or worked with bad developers or
    > unpleasant people.
I wondered what you have been doing, so I checked your profile.

    > I spend my week days working on
    > Windows/WPF/C#/C++/machine vision applications for 
    > aiming lasers
Sounds pretty fucking cool!


What's wrong with CRUD apps?

Has CRUD become a derogatory term, or do you just personally feel that they're boring to work on?

Tons of useful applications involve Creating, Reading, Updating, and Deleting database records at their core. Facebook and Twitter are essentially giant CRUD apps, so is every CRM system ever. Rails and similar frameworks provide scaffolding for automagically building functioning bare-bones CRUD apps with just a few keystrokes, relieving developers of the boring, repetitive part and freeing them to work on the unique business logic.

I dunno, maybe I'm a dork, but I guess I kind of think CRUD apps are cool.

Edit: OK, I admit that they're not nearly as cool as machine vision for aiming lasers, though. :)


I think CRUD apps have become a bit of an in-joke because they are common and often superficially differentiated. Every non-technical client with an idea for a product talks about building a platform for X, but at the end of the day, they're usually "just" asking for a CRUD app. It's a bit unfair because there's nothing wrong with CRUD apps--you can build a pretty solid business off of them. Maybe that's why the HN crowd isn't a fan ;-)


>What's wrong with CRUD apps?

They are full of boilerplate, unimaginative uses of computing, the re-invent the same bloody wheels again and again, and that should have been automated much more already.

>Has CRUD become a derogatory term

Yes, for at least a decade.


While the tone of your comment comes across as a bit negative, I appreciate it because it got me thinking about ways to automate CRUD apps even more than Rails already has.

Perhaps it could be a framework or application that would allow a non-programmer user to create basic CRUD apps with some sort of "app builder wizard" GUI by simply defining the record fields and their data types. Then it would automatically generate the tables and the corresponding models, and the create/edit views just like Rails does. It could also expose basic access/permissions configurations and have a bundle of CSS files to select from for the GUI styling, and a drag-and-drop interface for selecting GUI elements.

Basically, I'm picturing something like a cross between Rails and a version of MS Access with a more user-friendly front end a "real" database behind it. Or just a GUI version of Rails, bundled with some HTML/CSS view/style templates, really. Or "the Wordpress of CRUD apps." (Maybe this exists already and I don't know about it?)

Of course, if someone made something like this and got business users to actually use it to build their CRUD apps themselves, it could put a lot of CRUD app developers out of business!


>While the tone of your comment comes across as a bit negative, I appreciate it because it got me thinking about ways to automate CRUD apps even more than Rails already has.

Well, it's a little negative, but I've made my fair share of CRUD apps at one time.

>Of course, if someone made something like this and got business users to actually use it to build their CRUD apps themselves, it could put a lot of CRUD app developers out of business!

Hmm, I have a friend that attempted something like that -- his startup was featured on TechCrunch IIRC: http://app2you.com/site/index.html


Cool.. Is this still an active project? It says © 2011 but it's still in beta and there isn't much on the site.

What I'm thinking of is like an open source project for a "one-click" installer that deploys a default/pre-configured Rails application, with a GUI wrapper (similar to Wordpress) that allows you to visually design the database schema, generate the scaffolding with the click of a button, and swap out themes for style and plugins for added functionality.

I don't think this idea (RailsPress?) is so original that no one's thought of it before, but it doesn't seem like anyone's really executed it yet. I'm thinking about starting a Github repo for this if there isn't already an existing one I can contribute to.

Edit: It looks like there is a repo called "RailsPress" but it's just a port of WordPress to Ruby on Rails, not a framework for allowing non-programmers to generate generic RoR applications.


>Cool.. Is this still an active project? It says © 2011 but it's still in beta and there isn't much on the site.

Not sure, I'll have to ask him. There are some 2012 updates on the site, but I thing he moved on to something else now.

>I don't think this idea (RailsPress?) is so original that no one's thought of it before, but it doesn't seem like anyone's really executed it yet. I'm thinking about starting a Github repo for this if there isn't already an existing one I can contribute to.

Sounds like something that, if executed well, can have a real market.

I'm surprised there isn't any SaaS offering something similar for SMEs. Like the way WooForms let's you make, well, query forms.


CRUD apps are boring. Even if the process of development is made less boring, the final product is still just a CRUD app. :)


My vast naivety may be showing here but isn't every web app essentially a CRUD app?


Not necessarily. A CRUD app is an app whose primary capability is allowing the user to interact with a relational database for storing and retrieving records.

Google Search is one obvious example of a web app that has absolutely nothing to do with CRUD. It uses a search algorithm to search a massive priority-ranked data structure that represents an index of many millions of popular web pages.


ok good point, thanks. I don't know why I didn't think of search....


A lot of them are, but they are differentiated by the run-of-the-mill database front-end CRUD app by their concept.

E.g, is Twitter a CRUD app? At the programming level maybe, but the core idea behind the service is quite different.

And there are the more interesting non CRUD apps. Google Docs. Google Maps. Photoshop.com. Multiplayer online Games. Online Editors. Online Validators. Real-time collaboration apps. Etc etc.


I don't know what is wrong with CRUD apps (never worked on one). I just see people complaining about working on them so I felt lucky to have never worked on one. I meant no offense.


> I'm not old yet [only 51, software dev. since 1985]

I love your attitude! I am still half your age, but I expect to be rolling and rocking like you do when I am your age, and beyond ! :)


Over 50 here. You have to create your opportunities. Want something interesting to work on? Create the project, work on it in stealth. If it works out, it may become an official project and you increase your status.

Cultivate your interests. Learn something new. Coursera is pretty awesome - I wish I had more time for all the courses I'd like to take. The courses at MIT's OCW (and edX) are great. Download lectures to your mobile device. Search iTunes U for classes.

Write short programs for fun. Check out Project Euler, fer instance. Don't forget why you started programming in the first place.

Gear up and get a new job. Don't accumulate too much dust. Crack open a book about interviewing, get off your high horse about what people consider fair game in an interview.


As a developer, I find that designing the web app that I'm developing for makes the effort/project much more enjoyable.

Web app development is the type where you do things differently for every project. Going from writing ajax handlers on the client and server, to using KnockoutJS (or Backbone or Angular), is extremely fun because it lets me focus more on the UI.


I think the blogger has an Indian background, because in that culture you're seen as a failure if you're still developing software after a decade of programming. You're supposed to be at least a manager by then. Maybe the author reinforces this sentiment by disallowing himself to find enjoyment in programming when he grows older.

I'm 48, programming since 10, and it hasn't bored me one moment. I can't really relate to the problems the author poses in his article. The IT field is continuously shifting and very broad, look a bit left and right and you'll discover new things. And if you've reached your Blub Ceiling [1], try out some language which is more powerful than Blub.

[1] http://www.paulgraham.com/avg.html


Agreed. A manager is not a promotion, it means you can't/don't code anymore. As long as I have my wits I'll be programming.


My problem is that my company (and I don't think I'm alone in this) is ill-equipped to handle the career path for programmers in any other way than to force them into management. I've been resisting it as hard as I can, but I'm already growing weary due to factors such as the "team lead" title which instantly gives extended benefits -- like an added week of vacation -- among others. My path also upsets the existing chain of command, since I'm outside the norm, and so I'm treated like floater that just kind of gets bounced around.


These days if you graduate at 21 and want to work until 65, the encouraged retirement age in much of the world, that's about 44 years of work. They're trying to slide things up to 72 now, and who knows, by the time anyone starting out today gets there we may live much longer or even forever.

My point is, expect to work a LONG TIME. It's not about pulling a few all-nighters for finals, collecting a piece of paper, and waving goodbye. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Do what you gotta do to keep it interesting, because no one else is going to do that for you and the "end" is so far in the future it's not even worth thinking about. Take vacation time, take on new challenges, go back to school and start a new career, stop and smell the roses once in a while. It's your life, choose it.


Why let someone else prescribe your retirement age?!


Because it is how it works in many countries?


Your ability to retire is tied to your financial situation. What does that have to do with the government?


And your financial situation is, for many people, tied to your age because pensions, 401(k)s/IRAs and the like offer tax exemptions that are conditional upon waiting until you hit a certain age before collecting distributions. If you withdraw early from a retirement account, you face something like a 10% haircut in addition to the income taxes. If your money is outside of such a tax shelter, well then you just need more of it to retire because you have to pay income tax plus capital gains tax.


I think his point was that, for at least some of the readers here, the goal of "retire early" means that one has enough wealth that even without tax breaks, one has the resources to live or work or play as you see fit -- whether that means continuing to start new companies, or raising llamas.


I know what his point was. I was just pointing out that when you retire, for most people, does have something to do with your age and with the government, because the government offers tax shelters that are tied to your age, and these are what most people use to fund their retirement.

Of course if you're rich enough, you can just pay the taxes and still be rich enough. But that's a circular argument. The point is, the bar for "rich enough to retire" is much higher the younger you are--and not just because you have more years of life ahead of you, but also because of the taxes.


A sizable chunk of our paychecks have been stripped away over the years, with the promise of a return after the governmentally decreed retirement age. Therefore, our financial situation has something to do with the government when it comes to retirement. It's quite possible that we can retire earlier or must wait until later in spite of this, but it's a clear and frequently unavoidable connection for most of us in at least the US and I think most other developed countries have something similar.


This is getting a bit off topic, but agreed it's a factor. My point is mostly about the mindset. You don't have to wait until some government prescribed age to do what you want. We make our own future.


Agreed. People should do actual financial planning based on their actual situation.


I personally don’t know a programmer who successfully survived the boredom, disrespect and disregard that comes with age and experience.

I've been actively programming for 30+ years. Whenever I get a "Hello World" running on a new system or language I get the same excitement as I did the first time on my Apple ][. It helps that I work for a company that values experience and has a technical track so I don't ever have to become a people manager if I don't want to.


Back in the day, when the boomers were 40, they called this the "midlife crisis"

It affects accountants and carpenters and all sorts of people.

That said, I definitely recognize some of the feelings he's having.


Exactly. Programmers are not some magical subset of people that go through life differently than anyone else. It's an incredibly arrogant mindset that is rife throughout HN and technologists in general.

It's a midlife crises. Go buy a Corvette or something!

Source: None, because I'm 26. But I'm looking forward to that Corvette in a few decades.


Wait till you're 30 like me and you'll feel differently about the "midlife" bit ;) . If you're like a vast number of people (not just on HN of course, but anywhere really) there's something similar to a "premature midlife crisis" of sorts http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quarter-life_crisis

It's just part of growing up actually. I think programmers in particular tend to frame that into something a bit different, but the reality is that it's the same thing for all mere mortals. It's just perceived differently.


Overall people have a crisis every 7 years or so in their adult life. Gail Sheehy talked about a "Catch 30" in the book "Passages" and my friends who believe in Astrology believe there a "Saturn Return" between the 20's and 30's.



"Programmers are not some magical subset of people.."

Now that's just crazy talk!


Just turned 52. I just started a new job at a great company, after 11 years with Microsoft (7 of which were my "dream job"). The new work is fantastic, and I'm learning a ton of new stuff.

I see programmers get trapped into thinking they are too old and have to manage. After a couple years of no programming they've often lost the knack and all they can do is tell other people what to do. It is incredibly hard to recover from this.

In fact, there are lots of ways to get trapped. I won't enumerate them, but "getting into management" and "not learning new stuff on a continual basis" are classic ones.

If you become the expert on something; if you're the "go-to" person in a large group for a particular piece of technology, my advice is to find something else to do, within a year or two, or you're gonna be stuck. Nothing lasts forever in this industry.


Started programming at age 5, professionally since 15, now 35. I admit I've gone through short phases of this sentiment, but to me, this attitude says a lot about tolerating a crappy environment (fluorescent lights, big companies, bad clients) and how that can grind down your enthusiasm for just about anything. I'm guessing the problem isn't that you've been programming for too long, it's how you've let the situation become stale. So you've got the 'what' down? Great. Now challenge yourself on the 'how'. You're a software developer, it's literally your world right now. Work from a cabin in the mountains, a ship on the sea, or the top floor of the Ritz.


I know someone who just retired from a career of software development and is in his late sixtys. He has never stopped learning new tech and innovating on behalf of his employer. He, even in retirement, is well compensated, respected and sometimes even consulted.

Watching him, I think the key is being bright and choosing where you make your career carefully.


Does that mean if an older person has a problem in this industry due to their age, it is because they weren't bright?


Maybe, but it could also mean they're too bright.

People whose brains are good at generalizing from data eventually realize that the vast majority of "new technology" in computers is really 40 (or more) year old technology with a new paint job. Once you realize that it's very hard to get excited about these things.

There are still things to get excited about : machine learning, AI, etc but they tend to be orders of magnitude more difficult to understand than the technology stuff you've spent a couple of decades working with.


For me, I see echoes of conversations I had ten years ago.

CSS preprocessors? Server-side Javascript? Anybody who proposed those in the past was flamed into submission by the community for deviating from standards or, worse, being "lazy". There's nothing new there. What's new is the community's openness to doing things differently, to accepting that web templates don't need to be written directly in the languages sent to the browser.

I've been writing Javascript pretty much since there WAS a Javascript, so I love node.js. But I'm just getting my feet wet and I'm three years behind the game because I expected it to be written off as a "toy", just like every other time someone suggested running Javascript on the server.

I know I need to get over this skepticism, but I'm having a hard time figuring out which horses to bet on anymore. I feel like I'm close to just saying "screw it" and becoming that crazy graybeard who uses a completely off-the-wall technology stack because that's what he enjoys and to hell with everyone else.


The one thing that I want to counter people who complain about the whole nothing new in heaven and earth issue is that the reimplementations are typically removing historical cruft that made the old versions untennable for contemporary development or have solved a hard problem that made things work poorly.

Now, that doesn't mean the new version is tennable, but it means that it's probably time to re-evaluate the old idea.


> reimplementations are typically removing historical cruft that made the old versions untennable for contemporary development or have solved a hard problem that made things work poorly.

Oh, definitely. Node.js wouldn't be anywhere near as popular without V8 behind it. Also, without the strides Javascript has made in recent years. I was messing around with a MacOS 7.6 machine last night and Netscape 3 was throwing Javascript errors all over the place when it hit modern code.

I think another part of it is cultural. Since I brought up CSS preprocessors as my other example, a lot of the animosity toward them "back in the day" was driven by the web standards movement. We finally had sane standards that worked across the big browsers, and then some upstart was trying to introduce something proprietary and the community reacted. Now, we have little hiccups once in a while but things are pretty much standard across the board and that makes a stable platform for innovation.


Programming can soak up any amount of intelligence you throw at it. Whether or not you get bored is an orthogonal concern.


As he said, it may also mean that they made their career in a poor place, and maybe that's more to do with luck than with brightness. My Dad, for instance, has been very frustrated lately as an aging engineer, but it's more because he's had some really crummy managers than anything to do with his ability.


No, you are picking and choosing my words, what I actually said was: "being bright AND choosing where you make your career carefully"


When I joined my most recent company, one of the people on the team was a badass, grey bearded developer who used to work at Sun. He is basically a Tech Lead or Architect now, and is AWESOME. He has tons of experience and taught me quite a bit just by pairing with him. I'm glad he kept up the programming career!


This takes humility. Some people don't have enough to survive contact with a grizzled veteran without coming away bitter.

By the way, this is why many self-preserving large companies use humility as a filter for new hires. They want knowledge to pass down effortlessly from the veterans to the noobs (and others) without creating unnecessary internal battlegrounds.


Developing career is like starting up a business, you need to have a competitive advantage.

In early stage of your career, your competitive advantage is cheap and fresh. But at some point, that advantage goes away, and you need to find other advantages -- domain knowledge, industry reputation, connections, management skills, anything that can distinguish you from other developers.

Once you get that competitive advantage, you will get the desired respect and people will start to value your opinions. And hopefully, you will not find it boring anymore.


Still loving it after 20+ years.

> I personally don’t know a programmer who successfully survived the boredom, disrespect and disregard that comes with age and experience.

I think to some extent, you get what you give.


In the end though we have to accept that programming is a repetitive activity.

No.

Would you also say that writing is a repetitive activity? I do think I saw you repeating a few letters in your post, after all.

Should we view living as a repetitive activity? All that breathing of air and pumping of blood can be so monotonous.

Rather than fretting that programming has become tedious, look up the stack to the limitless opportunities that applying your hard-earned skills now affords you. Build on what you know; don't wallow in it.


The guy is depressed. Anybody can burn out on a job, at any age. He needs to get help, not rationalize how he's too old for this.


If you don't get bored doing the same thing, you haven't mastered it. In all professions, one must level up to keep things interesting.

Unfortunately, for software developers (and mathematicians) leveling up starts to become difficult as the mind ages--and there's only so much computer science stuff out there before it all becomes repetitive. Fortunately this occurs at just about the time one begins to realize that they're in the middle of the pyramid, working primarily to enrich someone else, and thus follows consulting, entrepreneurship, or, if you don't care about enriching someone else, management.


If my age becomes an issue for clueless employers, I will work only remotely, join the matrix, and become my github account.

My face will not be old and haggard, but digital, expressive, cleanly coded, and handsomely tested.


I'm over 40; I started late (after studying music for over a decade) and then spent some time in QA, so technically I've only been doing "pure" development for 6 years or so, and thus perhaps haven't been doing this long enough to face the burnout. But thus far, the more I do it the deeper my interest & passion. There's an explosion of interesting stuff to learn these days -- functional languages like clojure, scala, javascript, ruby, python, go, cloud, etc... -- and even if my day to day work is crufty old java, learning new things keeps me engaged. Even learning new java tricks is pretty fun. Github makes this so much easier. I feel pretty lucky. I believe that if you enjoy learning for its own sake, you'll remain engaged by this profession.

Now, eventually, I figure I'll hit barriers. I expect these to be mostly physical. How long can one take sitting and typing? I've had bouts of back pain and rsi, and these have been more demotivating than anything else. But even here, I think life is getting easier. More companies are coming around to the importance of decent ergonomics, sit/stand desk options, etc... Voice recognition is coming along nicely.[1] So I'm mostly optimistic.

[1] http://pyvideo.org/video/1706/plover-thought-to-text-at-240-...


I've been told by several of my mentors that there are precious few grey haired programmers (probably because of issues like the OP is pointing out) but seeing people like Jim Weirich (local Cincinnatian and inventor of Rake) who are still passionate about programming and going strong gives me hope that I won't burn out (I'm 34).


OP here. Sorry for joining late. Reading the comments on HN here was an uplifting experience! Thanks for all the feedback and encouragement! Can't reply to everyone but I will try to write a few follow up articles addressing the issue in further detail and depth. Thanks again!


I wonder how much of the 'programming is a young person's profession' is due to relatively banal explanation like programming being a relatively young profession and other "demographic" reasons.


Anyone else find that cartoon a bit odd - I tend to start the day a bit grumpy and generally find that my productivity (and mood) improves almost linearly throughout the day...


I was that way when I was younger. As I hit my thirties I found myself becoming a "morning person." Anecdotally, I find this is super common.

I actually enjoy early-morning coding (before the rest of the world wakes up) more than late-night coding now!


Started programming at 12, didn't stop until now and I like it more and more (getting close to 40).

The author seems to jump to generalizations. For example, from "I can’t find the enthusiasm to program anymore" he goes on to "we try to discover new sources of inspiration". Who's this "we" he's talking about?


As I try to explain to my kids - life is what you put into it.

When my work life gets boring, I do something about it, so I'm starting a saas. If you sit around and moan and groan, life's gonna groan right on back ;-).


Started at the age of 10 and still enjoying it with 36, while trying to stay away from management tasks as much as I can.

Having fun to see youngster always jumping on the technology of the day every few years.


In Europe you can be 49 years old and still doing what you love. How, because I bailed from the US 10 years ago!


I'm 45, and started programming professionally only 15 years ago or so. Am I counted among the old ones? ;-)


25 years of programming and I am still loving it, especially building tools.


Badly thought out and badly phrased.


I'm young (upper 30s), but I've been programming since I was 10 and I still love it.

What I don't love is being forced to work on project after project by employers that don't have the slightest idea what they are doing.

At my current job, I've been stuck in the cycle of:

-boss will give me the specs -right before I finish, boss decides to change his mind (redesigns, functionality, etc) -There will then be pressure on me to get all of the new changes done in a specific time frame (often not even close to reality).

This cycle has repeated 5 or 6 times. I still haven't had one release of the project I was hired to complete. It has pushed me to leave and start my own company.




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