Coders at WorkMar 27, 2021
I just finished reading Coders at Work by Peter Siebel. There’s a ton of things I could quote from it, but here’s a few that resonated with me:
Because the problem with object-oriented languages is they’ve got all this implicit environment that they carry around with them. You wanted a banana but what you got was a gorilla holding the banana and the entire jungle…if you have pure functions—all the data comes in its input arguments and everything goes out and leaves no state behind—it’s incredibly reusable.
I sometimes feel a bit afraid about the commercial world with, on the one hand, the imperatives of getting it done because the customer needs it next week and, on the other hand, the sheer breadth rather than depth of the systems that we build…Systems are filled with so much goop—in order to build an ASP.NET web service-y thing you need to know about this API and this tool and you need to write in three different languages…and each of them has a fat book that describes it.
[On the desire for interactive environments]: I think anything where you get immediate gratification feeds on itself by definition…I had a chance to work with a semi-interactive PL/I. And a friend of mine was working at an IBM where they had an interactive APL environment. I can’t remember which of those was first. I really remember the APL one. That affected me in a number of ways because of both the immediacy of interaction—seing your results come back—and the expression evaluation, which is really different from Fortran’s statement-oriented programming.
My belief is still, if you get the data structures and their invariants right, most of the code will just kind of write itself.
Some other notes:
- Most of the interviewees use print statements for debugging.
- Several recommended trying to implement something yourself in order to understand it better.
- Several missed the ability to fit the entire system (both OS and application layers) in their heads.
- Several were interested in using literate programming, but I think none actually wrote any (except Knuth, lol).