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Why Coding At Fifty May Be Nifty

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the because-that's-when-you-join-the-singularity dept.

Programming 317

theodp writes "Enough with the dadgum naysayers. Google's Vivek Haldar lists some good reasons for why you would want to program at fifty (or any other age). Haldar's list would probably get a thumbs-up from billionaire SAS CEO Jim Goodnight, who had this to say about coding when interviewed at age 56: 'I would be happy if I just stayed in my office and programmed all day, to tell you the truth. That is my one real love in life is programming. Programming is sort of like getting to work a puzzle all day long. I actually enjoy it. It's a lot of fun. It's not even work to me. It's just enjoyable. You get to shut out all your other thoughts and just concentrate on this little thing you're trying to do, to make work it. It's nice, very enjoyable.'"

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317 comments

40 (5, Insightful)

petronije (1650685) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871615)

... and still coding

Re:40 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41871715)

I like niggers.

Re:40 (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41871843)

I'm a 51 IT manager, not allowed to code at work but I code as soon as I get home. Thank goodness for OSS.

Re:40 (4, Interesting)

Ramley (1168049) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871897)

... and still coding

/ Very nice!

I'm 48, and wish I had another 24 years to do all of the things I want to do coding-wise alone. I haven't learned it all yet, and still want to know how everything works.

It's a great lifestyle after all this time. I own my own firm, work from my home office, get out to the boat on Fridays and work from there if needed (during summer), and make my own time to work on my own terms.

Coding at 48 is great!

Re:40: I'm 55... (5, Interesting)

Terje Mathisen (128806) | about a year and a half ago | (#41872159)

I've been programming since 1977, and I'm still doing it, although my job description hasn't had "programmer" in it since 1984:

(My first job out of university was writing digital signal analysis sw for a research institute, I did that from 1981 to 84.)

During the last few years I've been involved with crypto (AES) and graphics optimization, multicore computing as well as a few programming competitions:
I suspect that I'm probably 20 years older than most of the other quarter/semi-finalists at the two Facebook Hacker Challenges.

The main/only/sufficient reason is of course that I love doing it!

Solving puzzles is something I would pay to do, so getting paid is a great deal imho.

(My official job these days is to be the in-house IT troubleshooter for a very large Norwegian IT company, I manage to sneak in some programming here as well, often some Perl to analyze network trace/log files.)

Terje

Career (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41872279)

The first job out of school: Senior Software Engineer. Title twenty years later: Senior Software Engineer. Plan to retire as: Senior Software Engineer.

For some reason, the HR keeps sending out career management memos suggesting everybody should be hating their job and wanting out.

tell that to the bean counters (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41871617)

This just in, programmers would prefer to continue programming at 50.

Re:tell that to the bean counters (3, Insightful)

wdef (1050680) | about a year and a half ago | (#41872307)

This is modded -1? Why? The poster is saying that we shouldn't be surprised that people who like coding want to continue coding regardless of age but that ageist stereotypes (wrongly) insist that all coders should be scabby teens.

The Brain is Plastic (5, Insightful)

mrbluze (1034940) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871619)

And so if you keep programming, you keep learning and stave off brain rot.

Re:The Brain is Plastic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41871683)

Is that what creates PHBs?

Re:The Brain is Plastic (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41871735)

And so if you keep programming, you keep learning and stave off brain rot.

Is that why so many over 50 demand handholding for the most basic tasks? I'm talkin REAL BASIC stuff here. Tasks they somehow manage to do themselves anyway if no handholding is available?

And here I was thinking it was just their massive entitlement mentality.

Re:The Brain is Plastic (0)

Oligonicella (659917) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871747)

You posted AC because you know damned well that the roles are actually reversed from your post.

On both counts.

Re:The Brain is Plastic (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41871837)

You posted AC because you know damned well that the roles are actually reversed from your post. On both counts.

Really? Just try earning a little extra money for your family by getting a second job, a part time service job because you are lucky to have one good job in the first place in this economy and more menial work that youre not too proud to do is all you can get for a second one. See who asks you where something is when they're standing right in front of it. Hint: they're all over 50. See who just can't fathom that the big sign visible from anywhere in the store saying SPORTING GOODS is where one might find fishing gear, hint, they're all over 50. Somehow the under-50 crowd makes the connection on their own. I could give countless examples.

Now I am happy to help out and all of that but demand for my services is much, MUCH higher among the over-50 crowd. The same people who claim they should get special respect because of their accumulated wisdom and life experience, yet they seem confounded over the most basic things that no one else has trouble with.

Now really I don't think they are stupid. I think they feel entitled to be served. That is why they are so rude and impatient and unappreciative of the help they do get. I think they get their jollies from demeaning and degrading anyone expected to be subservient to them, makes them feel important, especially the ones who have a little money. Maybe it's because this is an area where older people like to move to, to retire, and they have some money enough to be upper middle class and think that makes them the Kennedies or something. But when I personally interact with the Baby Boomers and I see what they are really like, in a way that their boss does not, it makes perfect sense to me that these are people who would leave their children and grandchildren with a bankrupt nation.

As the saying goes, you want to see what a man is really like, don't look at how he talks to his boss. Look at how he treats the waitstaff. That will reveal his true character. Honestly before I swallowed my pride and took a second menial job to provide for my family, and had to serve these old people, before then I never thought any less of them. Now I know, in a way that you don't if you have never done the same. All you see of them is sweet old Grandma baking cookies or something, well let me tell you that is not the whole story.

Re:The Brain is Plastic (4, Insightful)

Count Fenring (669457) | about a year and a half ago | (#41872121)

I was born and raised in FLORIDA and I still think you're being kind of an ageist jerk here.

I've seen that behavior in over-50s, I've seen it in under-50s. Entitlement isn't an age issue, it's a class issue, or sometimes just a personality issue.

Re:The Brain is Plastic (3, Informative)

Terje Mathisen (128806) | about a year and a half ago | (#41872201)

The reason that over-50 crowd is asking for help is almost certainly due to deteriorating eyesight and glasses!

First of all, a 50 year old needs 3X the light level as a 20-30 year old, second the progressive glasses most of has to start wearing at this time takes a huge slice out of the normal visual field:

I used to be able to easily locate things that were near the edge of my visual field, with my current (very good/expensive) glasses I need to turn my entire head, not just flick a glance sidewise.

This does mean that I find it far harder to locate items in the Supermarket/grocery store, unless it is the local one where I know where everything is located.

It also means that I will ask store attendants for directions to stuff that I would simply find on my own 15 years ago, simply because I know it will probably save me a lot of time.

Terje

Re:The Brain is Plastic (1)

wdef (1050680) | about a year and a half ago | (#41872341)

Right! I dunno how many times I have told UX designers (nearly always under 30 and just babies, really) that I cannot read their tiny crap on tiny devices. Cannot. Have to get out glasses. They always ignore it. Considering throwing away my crappy phone for this very reason.

Re:The Brain is Plastic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41872349)

The thing is, you are correct specifically in reference to the baby boomer generation. I work at Walmart and people of that age are much more likely to be pricks. However, I had a guy who later told me he was 85 looking to get stuff to do his own oil change and he was one of the most polite people I've ever encountered.

Re:The Brain is Plastic (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41872363)

I see your points now, but I have a story from my own life that I hope you consider.

I used to manage a self storage facility. People from all walks of life used it, but some people were become such a problem (couldn't pay their bill on time, got mad that we auctioned their stuff off after not hearing a peep from them for a few (4 to 6) months (no payments at all), had no valid means to contact them, etc. It was very easy to start to feel anyone who used that sort of business was a low-life after a while. But when I actually looked at the numbers, the vast majority of people paid their bills (and most on time), and never got auctioned off. Some ven used it for years faithfully. But those people I hardly ever talked to because they weren't trying to cause any problems, so it was easy to forget they even existed. The problem cases were only around 5%, but I spent 90% of my time dealing with them, so my gut instinct made them seem to be the majority. And yes, those people were usually poor, but most poor people still paid their bills, or removed their stuff to prevent being a problem.

In short, don't get into the trap of thinking because most people who treat you like crap are over 50 that most people over 50 will treat you like crap.

Re:The Brain is Plastic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41872407)

I long for you to be their age. What you said that old people are grumpy isn't something revolutionary or new, it's that way. They have Vitamin D deficiency, pains everywhere, and much more. And if you can't differentiate between bad personality and age mechanics then you shouldn't be working with older people both for their sake and yours.

I never heard of it before, but polarizing between humans of different age. WTF, I bet you are the 80:s generation. The fucking entitled generation, just as you described the oldies, maybe you are just "jealous". Twat.

Re:The Brain is Plastic (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41871847)

Is that why so many under 30 demand handholding for the most basic tasks? I'm talkin REAL BASIC stuff here. Tasks they somehow manage to do themselves anyway if no handholding is available? And here I was thinking it was just their massive entitlement mentality.

Re:The Brain is Plastic (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41871875)

Is that why so many under 30 demand handholding for the most basic tasks? I'm talkin REAL BASIC stuff here. Tasks they somehow manage to do themselves anyway if no handholding is available? And here I was thinking it was just their massive entitlement mentality.

Entitlement is ugly as hell no matter who has it.

It's just the old people with this attitude of "I've paid my dues!" so now we owe them. Well, maybe you have paid your dues, but not to me. I'll be paying down your debts long after your generation is dead and gone, so the least you could do is leave me alone.

Re:The Brain is Plastic (4, Informative)

JustOK (667959) | about a year and a half ago | (#41872041)

Who paid for your schools, medical care, transportation and all the other infrastructure that you use? Not you.

Re:The Brain is Plastic (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#41872207)

Is that why so many over 50 demand handholding for the most basic tasks?

You know you're right? I still have to ask how you turn off the damn computer.. But I'm fully Y2K compliant [tburke.net]

Good for you! (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41871635)

As for me at 48, sitting in front of the computer all day just pains me - literally. No matter how often I take breaks, I have a lot of tension that runs down from my neck to my ass. Yoga doesn't help either.

It also pains me intellectually and emotionally - it's boring. Its' just a tool to solve some other problem I have. I can't wait for the day when I can tell the computer verbally or draw a picture the algorithm and never ever have to type another line of code - ever.

Typing code isn't that far away from the days of moving jumper wires around to program the computer. Programmers stopped that in the 1950s and here we are still typing?!? If programming technology moved as fast as hardware tech, we'd be programming with brain waves or something. Coding is just so - backwards.

Typing! Give me fucking break!

Re:Good for you! (5, Insightful)

kwikrick (755625) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871647)

If coding is like typing for you, you've never done any real programming. Coding is about thinking out elegant solutions to interesting problems. I don't think that's boring at all.

Re:Good for you! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41871731)

To listen to you, we'd be surrounded by nimble, flexible, elegant software. That's far from the reality. So tell me, where is all this elegant software?

Re:Good for you! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41871809)

So tell me, where is all this elegant software?

Waiting for some old guy to fix all those "elegant" solutions.

That NOT what I said. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41871757)

If coding is like typing for you, you've never done any real programming. Coding is about thinking out elegant solutions to interesting problems. I don't think that's boring at all.

If coding is like typing for you, you've never done any real programming.

I said I HATE typing - NOT that programing was like typing! Geeze!

I developed operating systems, dude. I think that would count as "real" programming.

Sometimes I really hate Slashdot!

Re:That NOT what I said. (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871849)

AC's stating their creds are similar to teenagers listing their conquests - laughably ignorable.

Do you also HATE writing, HATE speaking, HATE singing? Typing is just another form of communication. If you HATE it, you probably don't type well. Learn.


By the way, if your programmatic abilities match your cut and paste abilities..... learn to edit. It's necessary in programming as well.

I'm going to defend him against that (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41872517)

See subject-line, Mr. "ne'er-do-well". What have YOU ever done in the art & science of computing that did well in the eyes of others in publications in the art & science of computing in books, magazines, newspapers, technical trade show contests, or commercially sold wares?

Hmmm??

"AC's stating their creds are similar to teenagers listing their conquests - laughably ignorable" - by Oligonicella (659917) on Sunday November 04, @09:29AM (#41871849)

Oh, I see - so being a "registered 'luser'" on /. (home of trolls online) makes YOU "superior" to him? Get real you fucking "ne'er-do-well" little PUNK! Little shits like you make me laugh...

* I am going to show everyone that YOU are the "laughably ignorant" one as well as a "ne'er-do-well" I'd wager with this post..

APK

P.S.=> I've done all of the things I've noted & as far back as 1996 (when my first freeware went into commercial code from a certified MS partner, reviewed GREAT in Windows IT Pro magazine (then Windows NT magazine), & lastly, being a FINALIST @ Microsoft TechEd 2000-2002, 2 yrs. in a ROW, in its hardest category: SQLServer Performance Enhancement, and myself being only 1.5 yrs. out of my AAS degree work in CSC!

Nice part? Well - I can easily prove it.

Thus, let's see what a "big talking" SNIDE & SMARMY jackass like you has done by way of comparison... I strongly wager it's ZERO based on you *thinking* that being a registered 'luser' on /. makes you "superior" (if anything, chump? It makes YOU very, Very, VERY INFERIOR)... but, we'll see!

... apk

Re:That NOT what I said. (4, Insightful)

kwikrick (755625) | about a year and a half ago | (#41872031)

OK, granted, I misread you on purpose, go for the easy mod points.

Still, do you really think talking to your computer, or drawing pictures for it, is going to make programming easier or more fun or less work? I very strongly doubt that. When programming becomes repetitive, you should find some way to automate that part; code it differently, develop a tool or invent a new language. And ultimately, it would be great if some AI would just write programs for our problems. Before that, there will be some typing. But not too much if you do it right.

Re:That NOT what I said. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41872127)

If the time spent on software development is spent on typing to the extent it's a problem or the majority of said time, as opposed to other things involved, you're doing it wrong.

Re:Good for you! (2)

narcc (412956) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871775)

. Coding is about thinking out elegant solutions to interesting problems.

On very rare occasion.

The rest of the time it's tapping out boring and obvious solutions to depressingly uninteresting problems.

Salt in the wound: The longer you're at it, you'll find that more problems that once would have been interesting are simple and terrifyingly dull.

My advice? Switch fields as early as you can, write code as a hobby. You'll want to kill yourself after a few years otherwise.

Re:Good for you! (2)

Green Light (32766) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871803)

How sad for you! I'm 50+, and still find coding to be "thinking out elegant solutions to interesting problems"

Re:Good for you! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41871949)

In general, the more elegant a solution, the more rigid it is. Coding is more like engineering, whereyou have to come up with solutions that are robust and can be further costumised if need to be.

Re:Good for you! (1)

Dan9999 (679463) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871699)

Sounds like you just don't like the language you're using to program. Understandable, I'm sure you're not the only one.

Although many enjoy the challenge and have gotten past language issues long ago. That, I think, is also one of the perks of experience.

Re:Good for you! (4, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871709)

As for me at 48, sitting in front of the computer all day just pains me - literally. No matter how often I take breaks, I have a lot of tension that runs down from my neck to my ass.

That's exactly how I felt at age 19 as I was stacking 80 pound salt bags on pallets for roughly $5/hr. About a week after I got my first "real" desk job, the most surprising observation I had, other than the obvious "now I take a shower before work rather than after work" was that I wasn't in some level of constant pain. Getting old is no fun but it beats the alternative, and I'm not thinking there's anything that can help once you get old enough, by that I mean that stacking 80 pound salt bags would probably just kill me at my current age, not make my back feel better. I had back problems a couple years back until I (re-)started serious (as in, need a shower afterwards) weightlifting during lunch hour, the key being if your physical therapist says do X Y and Z do exactly X Y Z no improvising or excuses.

I can't wait for the day when I can tell the computer verbally or draw a picture the algorithm and never ever have to type another line of code - ever.

The bandwidth for that is almost infinitely low compared to typing. You'd basically have to invent your own glyphs and language, or spend hours drawing thousands of pictures. You may want to look into the CAD drafting profession, where you get to spend hours drawing the equivalent of a couple lines of text. Another fun one is wedding photography.

Also try a less verbose language. I've seen 1000+ line java programs replaced by about 5 lines of Perl/CPAN... two use statements, two cpan calls, and an immense line noise appearing regex between them. Unsurprisingly, neither extreme is healthy.

Re:Good for you! (3, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871711)

It also pains me intellectually and emotionally - it's boring.

I'm the same age as you, and it sounds to me like you're working on things that don't interest you. I like coding, as long as what I'm writing is solving an interesting problem.

-jcr

Re:Good for you! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41871825)

jcr... jcr... Are you THE John C. Randolph, of Apple fame? I'm guessing that you could be, given your email address, username and low UID.

Can you tell us all about the interesting problems that you've worked on during your long and illustrious career (subject to whatever NDAs you may have been forced to sign, of course)? Go company-by-company, project-by-project if need be. I think you could teach us a lot.

Regards,
Fred

Re:Good for you! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41871727)

If I had an account, I would mod this troll.

Re:Good for you! (0, Troll)

Oligonicella (659917) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871797)

Poor baby (I'm 64). Just last year I wrote an English->language translator. The five languages were those I developed for my story series. I needed consistency and doing it by hand was virtually impossible, time-wise. I found that doing it programmaticly was fun, intellectually stimulating and downright easy, both mentally and physically. It also included turning the Romanized language into a custom cursive with tonal indication, floating letter attachments indicating hierarchial nuances and simply looked good. Explain how that would be boring and tedious.

By the way, I have arthritis in my knees, back and hands. Typing is easy if and only if you have learned blind typing. If you have to hunt and peck, sure it's tedious. But that's your shortcoming, not typing per se.

Oh, pardon, I just noticed you're AC (bad eyes). Troll.

Re:Good for you! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41871953)

It's a good thing that you're posting here using your full real name, Oligonicella. Otherwise, we'd have to think that you're using a pseudonym, and thus posting anonymously, like some sort of a coward.

Re:Good for you! (1)

lattyware (934246) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871873)

Try using Python - it's about as close to writing down what you mean, rather than telling the computer what to do, that we have.

Re:Good for you! (2)

DuckDodgers (541817) | about a year and a half ago | (#41872187)

Nonsense. Python is an excellent language, and its syntax is pretty terse for getting things done. But __init___(self, foo, bar, baz, fuzz) is no more "tell the computer what I mean" than any other modern language.

Re:Good for you! (1)

wdef (1050680) | about a year and a half ago | (#41872409)

Perl has an "English" module (I've never used it):

The English module increases the readability and understanding of Perl code, and it is a big step toward alleviating the boggling effect that raw Perl code sometimes has on new programmers. The English module provides a mapping between Perl's eclectic punctuation (special) variables with an English name corresponding to each one. The regular-expression variables that correspond to the three components of a matched string, for example, are often difficult to remember, even for the experienced Perl programmer.

http://www.brainbell.com/tutors/Perl/Usability_and_Simplicity.htm [brainbell.com]

Re:Good for you! (4, Informative)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about a year and a half ago | (#41872113)

Its' just a tool to solve some other problem I have. I can't wait for the day when I can tell the computer verbally or draw a picture the algorithm and never ever have to type another line of code - ever.

well, the good news is that you can do this today, it's been around for at least ten years. Its called UML. what happens in your fantasy is that you draw your code layouts in boxes with various types of lines to link the objects together, then click a button and the whole thing gets generated into your favourite language. you then fill in a few of the details (ie the implementation inside some of those objects) and you're done.

I also wrote a system that did something similar - you wrote objects that could be dropped onto a canvas designer like a flowchart and wire up inputs and outputs (yes, a lot like biztalk, only we did it before biztalk came out, though I guess taking our product to MS for performance testing in their labs was a mistake).

Ok, you can stop reading here, the rest of us... I think everyone knows the problems with UML - write the big diagram, put it somewhere for management to look at, then ignore it as you work on code. It simply wasn't expressive enough to use for real work.
As for our product, it worked quite well, you could drop GUI components (html-based) onto it too and it would all magically make an application the user worked through and a business analyst could update when business requirements changed. Trouble was, the complexity of the thing increased exponentially. An app with a dozen components was easy, once you started work on a real-world app, the complexity meant you needed a couple dozen BAs working on it, It would have been more efficient just handing it to programmers and telling them the initial requirements are that the back-end rules will change.

So I don't think there will ever be a shift away from typing code, although practically every app I've seen in recent years has tried some form of configuration replacement (like .net, where everything you used to write in code is now in .config files, and everything you used to put in config is now hard-coded) or custom rolled ones that implement configurable business logic.

Re:Good for you! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41872195)

> So I don't think there will ever be a shift away from typing code

Yes, it's not like we could just drag&drop javascript blocks to generate code. That would be just impossible:
http://code.google.com/p/blockly/

Hell, I'd love to code now (1)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871639)

But with all the requests I get for tech support(including how do set up this 3rd party USB device) because we don't have a help desk, requests for installation support since we don't have any release engineers, and meetings on top of this I'm lucky to do 2 hours of coding a day.(Suffice it to say I never get into the zone, did I mention I'm a software engineer?)

Re:Hell, I'd love to code now (5, Insightful)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about a year and a half ago | (#41872053)

tech support! I used to dream of tech support interruptions!

Now I'm doing a bastard child of agile that the company has brought in and I cannot do anything for longer than 2 hours without having to go back to the scrum board for more work. Don't they know they can just point me at a problem and I'll get it solved - it is what I've been doing for several decades after all.

I guess the agile stuff is for the kids who can't concentrate on a task for longer than an hour and have to keep being told what to do or they'll just start looking at facebook and twitter all day.

Oh god, not agile (1)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | about a year and a half ago | (#41872137)

Let me ask, do you have that problem because both QA and managers think it's ok to just add new bugs to the board mid iteration? (Damn it, it's only 2-3 weeks. We can look at that shit at the next iteration.)

Re:Hell, I'd love to code now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41872229)

> I guess the agile stuff is for the kids who can't concentrate on a task for longer than an hour

Majority of the programmers suck. Agile methods usually provide pretty good methods to spot the problems early, compared to the old water wall, where problems are revealed only at the end.

But you have missed the point of agile. Agile is not about 2 hour tasks on board, agile is anything that works for the best. YOU can decide the rules with your teams. You can try something and if that doesn't work, you can go back to the old or try something else. You should use the default rules only at the start so you understand the point and become able to make smart adjustments to your daily work. Instead of keep doing the work like it has always been done.

So yes, agile allows you not to split the problem into 2 hour tasks. But you obviously need to be pretty good programmer in order for that to be more efficient. So don't dream about that with anything below 10 years of experience.

Re:Hell, I'd love to code now (1)

Clubbah (1796660) | about a year and a half ago | (#41872503)

There were/are other methodologies other than waterfall before agile. Cinnibun was very efficient. It was waterfall broken into smaller pieces and adjusted at every interval, which is pretty much a sprint. No one really implements a true waterfall, it was borrowed from construction company management and quickly morphed into other methodologies when people realized that users couldn't conceptualize an entire system up front. Waterfall is really a baseline to compare other methologies to.

Coding at 50? Why even ask?!? (5, Funny)

grcumb (781340) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871643)

Asking whether geeks should still be coding at fifty is like asking if people should still be having sex at fifty. The answer is stupidly obvious. OF COURSE we'll still be coding at fifty! It may seem revolting to younger folks, and lord knows it does take a little longer to get going. But once we've hit that groove, baby, we're not done in 30 seconds. No, we work that algorithm, and we know how to do it, too. None of those stupid mistakes we made during the frenzied, sweaty all-night coding sessions of our youth, blindly swapping pointers and hoping to avoid another premature segfault. Oh, no. And none of that I'm-too-hot-for-you arrogance, either. We leave our customers satisfied, because - take my word for it - that's the only way they're coming back for more.

... Tragically, of course, if you're a fifty year old geek, coding is as close as you're getting to sex for the rest of your life....

*SOB*

Re:Coding at 50? Why even ask?!? (5, Funny)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871697)

... Tragically, of course, if you're a fifty year old geek, coding is as close as you're getting to sex for the rest of your life....

Boy, are YOU doing it wrong....

Re:Coding at 50? Why even ask?!? (1)

ByteSlicer (735276) | about a year and a half ago | (#41872519)

... Tragically, of course, if you're a fifty year old geek, coding is as close as you're getting to sex for the rest of your life....

Boy, are YOU doing it wrong....

Yes, someone needs to introduce him in the field of advanced robotics.
My FemBot3000 will be finished any moment now!

Re:Coding at 50? Why even ask?!? (2)

GigaBurglar (2465952) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871841)

So true - Fuck personality. If you're a 50 year old doctor you will live alone.. If you're a 50 year old physicist you will live alone.. If you're anything but a red convertible driving buffed up football watching meat-head who can't let go of his twenties - you will live alone. The fact of the matter is - programmers don't usually fight over the telly remote and have a capacity to learn and understand - but fuck that because you will live alone. It's not programmers that scare women off - it's socially awkward nerds. God I am DOOMED.

Re:Coding at 50? Why even ask?!? (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | about a year and a half ago | (#41872015)

So - marry one. Plenty of women are socially awkward nerds, and the Internet means it is now possible to meet them. Mind you, as a socially awkward nerd married to a woman who does all the social stuff for both of us and likes to have someone dependable who ensures that all the infrastructure just works and brings in good money - I recommend this too.

most coders are too inexperienced (5, Interesting)

korpique (807933) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871645)

Many people move on from programming to management or entirely other careers because it is so hard. What makes most existing systems hard to develop is the unnecessary complexity, lack of or overabstraction and negligence of test code. Management coming from such mess and never seeing anything better can not strive for anything better. It is hard to navigate such an enviroment and stay sane and become productive. Once you succeed it is highly rewarding to coach younger team members. I'm living proof of that and there are plenty more at least in the Finnish agile circles. Career age would be of essence to anyone looking for real successful team leads.

Re:most coders are too inexperienced (4, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871773)

I wouldn't say coding is hard. However, it does require a certain level of mental discipline and the ability to organise one's thoughts. The problem with older coders is that they tend to just get the job done. Quietly, without fuss or drama. (At least, I do) Whereas the young 'uns make a big deal about working late, pulling all-nighters ('cos they're on FB all day) and turning a project into a crisis. That means they get all the attention and the spotlight, which makes them look like superheros when they squeak in with a clean compile just milliseconds before the delivery deadline.

Re:most coders are too inexperienced (2, Interesting)

Velex (120469) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871891)

This is my strategy. I tell my employer: "Do you want to pay me overtime or do you want the account to slip its deadline? Your choice." If that's drama, get your head out of your ass. If you're not paid by the hour to code, you're doing it wrong. I keep hoping my employer will answer "yes, we'll pay overtime" but they never do.

What, is that somehow unfair. Well too fucking bad. My time is worth money.

Re:most coders are too inexperienced (1)

der_joachim (590045) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871957)

I wouldn't say coding is hard.

Coding is not hard. Being the one to do the grunt work is. You'll always be on the bottom of the corporate ladder and in the middle of the shit storm, regardless of skill and experience. You can either stop caring or switch careers. At 36, I am still in doubt which one it will be.

Another thing making it hard to be a (non-freelance) coder, is that most of the time is spent on either trivial stuff or uninteresting problems. I know several coders who would love to work in innovative projects, but are forced to do something spirit crushingly boring like generating excel sheets from a software package from 1997 or something.

Re:most coders are too inexperienced (3, Interesting)

mattpalmer1086 (707360) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871831)

There seems to be some truth to this, in my own experience. I find the solutions my younger colleagues invent are just too complicated and gnarly. They haven't yet found how to see the underlying simplicity in the problem and solution - and more importantly, they don't even understand that they should be doing that.

Mentoring is very satisfying, particularly when someone has a "got-it" moment, and their code improves forever thereafter. But I find that is rare. Many people I've worked with - even really, really bright people - just aren't interested in seeing a bigger picture. In fact, I'd go further. Most people will never do this - they will just solve the problem immediately in front of them, without any regard for how the whole thing hangs together, or the semantics of their construction, or the future ease of maintenance of their code.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'm not sure it's really about inexperience, or hardness of career. It's the difference between being a journeyman or a master, and very few it seems have a genuine desire of mastery in what they do.

Re:most coders are too inexperienced (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about a year and a half ago | (#41872075)

I'd agree totally with that, but I also blame the languages we use - there's often been a discussion concerning whether the "easy to use" languages and their "handholding" IDEs are corrupting the youth by making them turn coding into an exercise in snippets, or cut&paste, or click and its filled out for you.

Its no longer a problem to solve, its a problem that has 1 solution that you have to find. Coding might have turned from a puzzle game where you have to think of how it all fits together, into an adventure game where you have to discover the right words to progress to the next level.

Frameworks in particular are a problem here, as you never know what's happening under the hood so you're discouraged from finding out, instead you have to just know how to work the system.

There a few things like this that have a knock-on effect to the rest of the work we do, and the interest in it.

Re:most coders are too inexperienced (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41872135)

I moved on from programming to management because I'm a problem solver, and the problems weren't in my code but the idiots in management.

Not Plastic, Infinite (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41871649)

Still churning it out at 57 years young, though middle age is getting closer. May call it quits in 15 or 20 years.

age has little to do with it though (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41871651)

"What he said" is always how I felt about coding, but in terms of age I have countervaling feelings.

Getting older, I look back at younger me and wonder where I found all that time, and I've also lost the thrill of discovery. I really can't stand looking things up that I've looked up before (if it didn't stick, it's not important, if it's not important, why is it taking me time), and wondering why programming never seems to change, why can't I learn/develop my one favorite brand of syntactic sugar and code in any language just the way I want, and while we're at it, how about semantic sugar, why don't all the semantic paradigms that we like become available in all the languages we like?

coding used to feel like freedom because of all the possibilities, and now it feels like chains because of all the same old hurdles..

I still love the puzzle aspect (and for me it's in n-dimensional space, like hyperrogue or something)

Re:age has little to do with it though (4, Interesting)

turgid (580780) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871777)

coding used to feel like freedom because of all the possibilities, and now it feels like chains because of all the same old hurdles..

I'm starting to have fun finding cunning ways of working around the hurdles now that I didn't have the experience to make work in the past.

I try to make time to try out my own ideas and to explore away from work. I find it keeps me refreshed and interested.

Can I ask the programmer who did this (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41871657)

Can I ask the programmer out there, who did the code that rigs elections in the Diebold Tabulator (now owned by ES&S).

WHAT THE HELL DID YOU THINK YOU WERE DOING?

http://www.themoneyparty.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Republican-Primary-Election-Results-Amazing-Statistical-Anomalies_V2.0.pdf

Did you really lose your moral compass so much that your side should win at any cost??? Even at the cost of democracy? Seriously? You wrote a program to rig the vote on an Central Tabulator, its not like you didn't know what you were doing!

Or was it money? Did they shovel a load of money into your pocket and you just shrugged your shoulders and said, what-the-heck I'm only selling out democracy here!?

The statistical tools will identify the vote flipping, we can always compare it to the manual counted districts and rigging is always visible then. I see the graphs showing it was used in 2008, so I know it will be used in 2012. But now we have the tools to identify it. YOU WILL GET CAUGHT.

Nifty, for sure (3, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871721)

I hope I'm still solving little puzzles like that when I'm 50 but I also solved those when I was 25. There's nothing wrong with that, but if that's all you do then you're probably going to be at the same point career and pay grade-wise at 50 as at 25. If you've become the CEO of SAS, that's probably because you're solving a lot of other issues that you couldn't solve as a 25 year old. If you have experience, you have to find positions where that gives you leverage and not all of them are like that. It doesn't matter if you've been flipping burgers for 30 years and perfected your burger flipping technique, you're still very replaceable by a newbie. If you want to be a coder specialist, make sure it's a specialist job and not just writing your average glue code. It's easy enough for the CEO to say that, he can pick whatever problem he finds complex and interesting to do as a hobby, the actual employees don't have that luxury. Unless you're talking about working on an OSS or pet project outside of work.

Re:Nifty, for sure (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871789)

Problem solving doesnt get better, you take less stupid risks at 50.

20 year old - Server is down? let's try jump starting it with a pair of jumper cables from the other server!

50 year old - Server is down? Fine, I'll go grab the spare from the closet, you get the backup tapes just in case. I told you the spare should be online all the time as a hot failover...

and yes I have jump started a server back to life again. the power supply had failed and could not recover from a power outage. jumping the 12V from another one gave it enough guts to spin up the hard drives and it came back to life to boot up and run. and it was a stupid move. I could have damaged 2 servers, and all I did was encourage corporate to NOT replace the server in a timely manner.

Re:Nifty, for sure (1)

Gorobei (127755) | about a year and a half ago | (#41872213)

I hope I'm still solving little puzzles like that when I'm 50 but I also solved those when I was 25. There's nothing wrong with that, but if that's all you do then you're probably going to be at the same point career and pay grade-wise at 50 as at 25..

Exactly, at 50, you will still be solving those little puzzles, but you're going solve them with 30 seconds thought and 10 lines of code that runs first time: they are just that, little problems that you have encountered a hundred times before.

But, if you want to be at a different career/pay point, you're also going to be solving big puzzles. Many of these are so big that people don't even see them as puzzles until you implement the solution, then man-years of work and confusion just melt away.

The problem, is, of course, that most people never get to a career point that trains them for the big puzzles. A few years of apprenticeship at Google, Facebook, Wall st, Xerox Parc, etc, can be a big help. Being the smartest guy in the room implementing web backends tends not to be a great growth path.

"SAS" Coding? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41871745)

Obviously this is a joke post...

Coding and meditation (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871761)

Two great pleasures of life you can still enjoy at 55. Other things, not so much.

Sorry, no (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | about a year and a half ago | (#41872029)

I am over 60 and I disagree. A lot depends on how you lived in your twenties and thirties. If you have stayed fit all your life, maintained correct weight, avoided alcohol, tobacco, conspicuous consumption (and possibly firearms), your fifties and sixties is when you suddenly reap the benefits as you now have the money to do things and the kids have grown up,

Re:Sorry, no (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about a year and a half ago | (#41872087)

I actually did all that and I reaped plenty of um, err....benefits. Current changes are both hormonal and psychological. I just don't feel as needy for sex, affection or anything else. The obsessive sexual fantasies of my youth have also disappeared. Everyone is different, of course. I certainly wouldn't quarrel with anyone at any age enjoying romantic interludes of any nature.

My problem at the age of 45 with coding.... (4, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871763)

Switching between languages takes time. Programming Java, then C, then Assembler... It takes me a solid 4 hours to switch between languages if I have to do anything complex. If I have been coding in C for months and then Oh here's a new embedded project we need done in assembler... My brain doesn't have the drivers loaded for assembler and it has to search the tape backup archives for that driver and load it into operating memory.

Then I hit the ground running full speed.

Back in my 20's I was able to switch language sets at random within a moment's notice. In fact I was at one point writing in 3 languages at once. 4GL for the accounting system, C writing printer drivers for that Xenix 386 OS we were running at the office, and assembler for my 68hc11 wyse terminal multiplexer. I figured out how to get 16 text terminals to communicate uber fast speeds over a single pair of dry copper wires from the main store to the second store location. But then I also did not need coffee and drank an epic amount of beer and rum every day...

Re:My problem at the age of 45 with coding.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41871827)

Maybe the epic beer and rum contributed to your slower context switch speed of late.... Hmm. Not that I'm a fine one to talk as sometimes inebriated coding can be productive. I'm 55 and have been working in numerous startups over the past few years with the 20 something CEO and crew. Just have to keep learning new skills as you go and it doen't get stale for me.

Re:My problem at the age of 45 with coding.... (2)

Nerdfest (867930) | about a year and a half ago | (#41872017)

... but the code your wrote; more maintainable now, or then? That's really the important part of software development in most cases. I used to aim for code that ran as fast as possible, and was frequently so complex I had trouble debugging it myself. Now I aim for "fast enough", generally error free, but maintainable by someone with far less skill. When you know a language well, you can write beautiful poetry.

Coding is great, but usually work gets in the way (1)

JohnnyDoesLinux (19195) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871793)

Second start-up, the issue is that the other hats you have to wear constantly code-block.

Coding is like constantly solving puzzles, that is why after playing suduko, I was more interested in writing a solver than doing the puzzles.

As far as the "nerd and sex" correlation goes: Marry a nerd (she hides it well). 30+ years seems to be doing just fine

Starting at 12 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41871869)

My son is 12 . Any thoughts on how he should get started.

Re:Starting at 12 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41872523)

I started with basic and wrote a pacman clone (without any walls). I would recommend him to start with Java and do the same. I would pick Java, because it includes the graphic libraries and thus makes game programming a lot easier. Not to mention e.g. Eclipse and other tools that work nicely in Java. And it is also cross platform.

Hiring a 50-year old... (5, Insightful)

seven of five (578993) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871925)

The flip side of that is, who'll hire a 50-year old coder, or even keep him or her on the damn payroll? Even at reduced wages it's a crap shoot.

Re:Hiring a 50-year old... (3, Insightful)

Simon Brooke (45012) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871979)

The flip side of that is, who'll hire a 50-year old coder, or even keep him or her on the damn payroll? Even at reduced wages it's a crap shoot.

I don't have any problems getting hired. I keep myself up to date with what's current, and I have thirty years experience so I know what not to do; and so I can produce higher quality code faster than people half my age. I can't work as long hours as I used to - I can't hold concentration for seventeen hour days any more; and I value my free time more. But I'm good, and I'm productive, and I'm never short of work.

If you get worse at your craft as you grow older, you're doing something wrong.

Re:Hiring a 50-year old... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41872163)

I don't have any problems getting hired either. I'm on the wrong side of 59 now and am earing more than ever.
I'm also enjoying my current gig more than any I've had over the past 15+ years.
I write code but there is far more to being a competent developer than simply writing code. I estimate that over a 6 minth period only about 20% of my time is writing code. 30% testing and the rest split between documentation, end user training and writing specs for the next project.

People hire the likes of me for my experience (and for calling a spade a spade and not a garden implement). My boss appreciates my honesty.
I've been there, done than, got the 'T' shirt several times over.

and I get head hunters callng me up every month. Sadly most want me to do 'management stuff'. I'm not a manager and never will be.

Re:Hiring a 50-year old... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41872191)

I'm in my 50's, and rarely have had much of a problem finding a job. My current gig I was hired into when I was 51. I refuse to go into management and still sling code most days. I had a four month spell once where I was jobless, but that's been the worst of it my whole career. Though honestly, I worry a fair amount about my _next_ job. Not that I'm afraid of losing my current one, but I realize that it does get harder to get hired the older you are. I'm hoping (and working hard to make happen) that my current gig lasts me until retirement (read: until I stroke out or die of heart disease :-\ )

Re:Hiring a 50-year old... (2)

rundgong (1575963) | about a year and a half ago | (#41872227)

It's only a crap shoot if you suck at hiring people.

But then obviously it is going to be a crap shoot no matter what age they are...

I've done management and all that stuff... (4, Interesting)

Simon Brooke (45012) | about a year and a half ago | (#41871951)

... and I've gone back to coding. I'm good at it and I know I'm good at it. I'm only 56 now, but I expect to be still coding for a living when I'm 70.

All I have to do is see what my Dad did... (2)

metaforest (685350) | about a year and a half ago | (#41872051)

He was designing and troubleshooting analog and digital hardware.... radio and battery systems until the day he could legally tell his employer to fuck off and collect his Navy retirement and SSI...

He knows more about practical engineering than I ever will. And we still kick ideas around. He retired but did not stop being an Engineer.

I'm 46 and still writing code, and back at school for Biz Admin. I got to go back to my roots focusing on bare metal, and more recently embedded LINUX.

I'll stop writing code when you pull my cold, dead fingers off the keyboard.

Aging sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41872125)

We have enough software and computers now. Can we PLEASE start working on anti aging now? It's obvious that aging is a horror and turns brains into Jell-O.

Grumpy Mode ON (1)

florescent_beige (608235) | about a year and a half ago | (#41872179)

May I paraphrase?: "That silly stuff engineers do? Fun and easy compared to the really hard important grown-up job us executives do."

Programming? Math! (2)

tulcod (1056476) | about a year and a half ago | (#41872387)

Programming is sort of like getting to work a puzzle all day long. I actually enjoy it. It's a lot of fun. It's not even work to me. It's just enjoyable. You get to shut out all your other thoughts and just concentrate on this little thing you're trying to do, to make work it. It's nice, very enjoyable.

You guys should get into math.

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