When hiring, I was very skeptical of the guy over 40. His CV showed that he had spent most of his time building boring information systems for government agencies. This did not feel cool and startuppy at all. Also, he's gray-haired and he looks a bit dorky. We really liked him in person though, and he seemed to know what he was talking about, so we hired him anyway.
Only a few weeks later, I was already certain that he was the best hire we made up until now. Hypothetically, when forced, I would fire any two other team members to be able to keep him on the team (and he's on only half weeks). He's experienced, very much down to business, he cuts through the crap and through technical fads, and currently ensures that we're building the most lean and simple backend that I've ever seen. In a programming language that he's never seen before, and with a database engine that he's never used before.
For me, the general takeaway was that the wisdom to "not only hire copies of yourself" is very true indeed. More specifically, "older" guys (for tech industry standards) often have a lot more fundamental skills to bring to the table than perfect command of this year's technologie du jour.
Hire older people!
I just did a prototype demo for someone - took about 6 hours - and it was more fully functional than something they'd had a team of people working on for weeks. It's rare that there's that much of a difference, and to be fair there were weeks of communication and discovery going on that I didn't have to deal with. But the other team was also using an older PHP framework which they were painfully not comfortable with (I later found out mandated for bad reasons). Judging by their code, they wouldn't have been comfortable in any framework, but that's another story.
This is far less about how great I am, and more about understanding common problem domains, knowing your tools, knowing when it's OK to cut corners and when not to, and how best to communicate with people. Some of that comes with passion and dedication, but some of it only really comes over time, and the more the better, usually combined with the passion and/or dedication for maximum results.
This is a great anecdote, though I don't fully understand why it surprises people.
Most people in their early 20s are still "kids", both socially and work-experience-wise. Give me a hungry 30+ any day.
It surprises young people. 30+ isn't all that old.
Of course, everything I've done in my life has been late. Graduated college and grad school late, married late, had a kid late. So I'm about 10-15 years behind my age peers and experience-wise have more in common with people in mid-late 30s.
When it comes to having ideas... I feel as though I'm bubbling with ideas these days. Maybe it's just too anecdotal to mean anything, but it seems to me that everyone blossoms in their own good time. There's no such thing as over the hill, until you decide that you're over the hill.
 Your profile indicates that you might be based out of Europe.
The problem highlighted by the article is relatively SF-specific indeed, but you see the same vibe in Dutch startups (less so in older tech businesses here, but there it's just that 50 is considered old instead of 40 - the difference isn't that big).
I don't see how that makes the anecdote less strong though. Why wouldn't there be similarly competent 40+ year old people in SF? I feel that startups that are open to hiring older people in a climate like the one described in this article have a competitive advantage on the job market. It makes me anecdote only more applicable to SF, not less.
Personally I've had great respect for the 50+ yr old programmers that've worked on modern teams with me. They've always been great augmentations, and I prefer to hire more experienced people where possible, especially if that experience predates the web.
Are we so far now that we have to think about formulating our HN comments so that someone can't take parts out of context? Lovely.
In fact none of the sentences you list are real evidence of discrimination, especially in the context of a discussion where it's necessary to separate candidates or hires into categories based on age/sex/religion/etc.
I was skeptical of the guy from China... because we was unable to answer any of the technical questions we asked him during the interview.
You'll note that the parent did not specifically say his skepticism was due to age. Instead he listed standard employment history features that are more common among older programmers.
Discrimination against tech workers over 40 is a very newly discovered issue. So it's unfair to say he's on par with racial or other more thoroughly discussed areas of discrimination.
If more founders were in their 40's, would reverse discrimination happen? "So, you lack systems analysis and operations skills and you've only used one flavor of *nix...(phone reminder goes off)...Quite sorry, I have to end this interview early to pick up my daughter from daycare, she's vomiting. Oh, you'll go early to SXSW...is that a new airline?"
Is it illegal for a start up to discriminate against me if I have the technical acumen? Sure. But the hiring person doesn't have to consciously discriminate. It can happen just by placing greater emphasis on the lack of experience in a particular framework when the real reason is that the hiring person just didn't relate to me as a 46 yo in any way.
1. I'm not implying that it's a problem having a large number of 20-something start up founders. People with time and energy to solve cool problems is only a social benefit.
(EDIT: Changed asterisk to 1.)