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What's the Shelf Life of a Programmer?

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the ending-the-game dept.

Programming 388

Esther Schindler writes "Why is it that young developers imagine that older programmers can't program in a modern environment? Too many of us of a 'certain age' are facing an IT work environment that is hostile to older workers. Lately, Steven Vaughan-Nichols has been been noticing that the old meme about how grandpa can't understand iPhones, Linux, or the cloud is showing up more often even as it's becoming increasingly irrelevant. The truth is: Many older developers are every bit as good as young programmers, and he cites plenty of example of still-relevant geeks to prove it. And he writes, 'Sadly, while that should have put an end to the idea that long hours are a fact of IT life, this remnant of our factory-line past lingers both in high tech and in other industries. But what really matters is who's productive and who's not.'"

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388 comments

Young people thinking they know everything? (5, Funny)

Eightbitgnosis (1571875) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887371)

And they find older people around them to be outdated and archaic?!

This has never happened before

Re:Young people thinking they know everything? (5, Insightful)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887425)

It becomes a problem when the older person can't land a job as a result.

Re:Young people thinking they know everything? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41887503)

Older workers want more pay, don't want to work all nighters every other thursday, don't want mandatory 90 hour weeks, don't want to mess with all these new fangled thingies that will be obsolete or irrelevant in 1.7 years, etc etc

Re:Young people thinking they know everything? (5, Insightful)

OhSoLaMeow (2536022) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887609)

Younger workers want the same thing.

Re:Young people thinking they know everything? (5, Insightful)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887777)

No, they don't. They want pay and opportunity. The older workers have seen plenty of people burn out, and want to avoid that.

Many of the consulting firms (IT and accounting) will work their workers until one breaks down, then hires a whole new group, fresh out of college, as you can't use someone from a team that was worked until someone broke. They know next time, it might be them. But before that, they think they and all their peers are invulnerable, and they are gaining work experience and other such things less relevant to the older crowd.

Re:Young people thinking they know everything? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41887615)

Older workers want more pay, don't want to work all nighters every other thursday, don't want mandatory 90 hour weeks, don't want to mess with all these new fangled thingies that will be obsolete or irrelevant in 1.7 years, etc etc

These are older workers who have clearly learned that working all nighters every other thursday and mandating 90 hour weeks is counterproductive.

New Godwin's Law Required (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887679)

We need a new "Godwin's Law" with respect to discussions about 'older' programmers. In this case, a person's thread becomes invalid any time they use the term 'new fangled' in their explanation on why they think older workers aren't as good as young ones.

Re:New Godwin's Law Required (2)

Qu4Z (1402097) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887769)

I don't think this was an explanation of why older workers aren't as good as young ones... I read it as why they're less appealing to management (who've just learned that the Cloud is the next big thing. Or node.js. Or something).

The whole "that will be obsolete or irrelevant in 1.7 years" makes it pretty clear to me that the poster shares the "new-fangled" opinion.

Re:Young people thinking they know everything? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41887565)

It becomes a problem when the older person can't land a job as a result.

It becomes a problem when the older person can't land a job because they fail to demonstrate the value of their greater experience.

FTFY

If an older programmer (or a worker in any field) can't find work because they failed to stay current with the industry...that's their own fault.

Re:Young people thinking they know everything? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41887697)

I think this is about false perception of older programmers. You can be the greatest programmer in the world but if everyone assumes you suck because of the last few programmers they met that were your age sucked, you are probably going to be jobless.

Depends (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41887387)

Depends on the programmer!

Re:Depends (5, Funny)

jslarve (1193417) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887433)

Depends on the programmer!

Bah. Continence has nothing to do with being a good programmer.

Re:Depends (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887711)

Depends on the programmer!

Bah. Continence has nothing to do with being a good programmer.

Disagree. My manager has told me countless times that if I'm really committed to my work, I wouldn't be taking bathroom breaks.

Re:Depends (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41887471)

Those diaper things are bulky. Try Flomax instead.

Re:Depends (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887983)

Indeed it does.

I find that they start to stink after about a week. They last a little longer if refrigerated, but they aren't as productive.

YMMV.

Depends (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41887391)

It depends on the people they work with, company they work for, and of course, their proximity to a loaded gun

5 Years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41887395)

Five.

Re:5 Years (4, Funny)

mooingyak (720677) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887429)

Five.

Even frozen, no more than a year. Eat them before then, certainly before 5 years go by. Otherwise you might get sick.

Re:5 Years (1)

Qzukk (229616) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887547)

Even frozen, no more than a year. Eat them before then, certainly before 5 years go by. Otherwise you might get sick.

That's why I keep my blessed tinning kit handy.

Re:5 Years (2)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887993)

Five.

Even frozen, no more than a year. Eat them before then, certainly before 5 years go by. Otherwise you might get sick.

Ulch! That meat was tainted!

What is there to dispute? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41887443)

Every programmer or IT "pro" over 40 is worthless. Never met one that jumped in and solved any problems. They are always talking about how they did project X in the old days. But they never contribute anything because they say Java is brain dead or some such prattle. They should be sent to work in the documentation department so we can hire some people that can get the job done. Sorry if this hurt anyone's feelings, but it is reality. Do they really need to bring up punch cards and mainframes in every staff meeting? Get a life, get a smartphone, or grab the Geritol you old farts.

Re:What is there to dispute? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41887631)

they say Java is brain dead

Probably because that's the truth.

Get a life

The kind of life you're probably talking about is almost certainly trash.

get a smartphone

Trash.

I'm fucking *19* and I can see them as more respectful than a piece of shit worthless pile of garbage such as yourself.

Re:What is there to dispute? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41887637)

Agreed. Especially that Linus guy. 42 and never jumps in and solves problems.

Re:What is there to dispute? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41887781)

Every programmer or IT "pro" over 40 is worthless. Never met one that jumped in and solved any problems.

As an over-40 engineer I'll confess that I'm less than enthusiastic about solving problems that involve new APIs, new but obscure language features, etc. I suppose It's all the boring boilerplate that I just can't get past anymore. I mentally recoil at the thought of having to trudge through pages of documentation just to get at the little piece of information I need to go forward.

When I was younger I had no problem memorizing some silly function call's bizarre name or learning the odd syntax of a new language to get something done. It was exciting and I didn't mind. But now I just don't have the time to master the 100th variation of someone's system or library that accomplishes the same thing as 100 other systems or libraries.

Solving problems still excites me, though I admit they're problems solved by using older systems, tools, and languages. Solving problems never gets old.

One day after HTML is dead and gone (it might, really!), or after the desktop dies and in replaced by a tablet (possibly not an iPad!), you might find yourself confronted by a new system that does everything the old systems did (though better).

And you'll be asking yourself, "do I really have to relearn all this crap again?"

Re:What is there to dispute? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41887923)

I think this is perhaps the biggest thing, and might explain what made my dad finally burn out (at 50).

People keep re-inventing the wheel, with the same shortcomings as the previous iterations, only with 10x the code.

Back in the day it used to be possible to actually know the code, both the code of your development team as well as the code of the tools you used to produce a product.

But today? The sheer breadth of a codebase combined with it's usually short life on-market (See every version of mono producted, and every version of java past... 1.4?) has caused it to reach a point where it's senseless to put in the time to learn the cornercases and undocumented features of a library, tool, or codebase, and rather to just work around the current issue and ignore the rest because 'it'll either get fixed when it's a glaring problem, or it'll get fixed in the next version of tool X I was using.' Only half the time when one of the bugs gets fixed a new one pops up in some existing code, or a workaround for a no-solved bug. And then the mess starts all over again. Only in 2 years time it won't matter because either the dev staff has been laid off, or you're being told to do it in .)

While it's not to say none of this happened in the past (Because it assuredly did!), the amount of different code any one person was likely to run into in a few years of development was generally less than it might be today, although the odds of any one person being overspecialized or underspecialized in a group of languages is probably about the same.

People need to look into spending less time reinventing the hammer, and more time on consolidating the numerous nails that have been produced as a result of hammer-mania. Perhaps then people can get back to focusing on good development practices and educating themselves on new platforms and tools.

Re:What is there to dispute? (4, Insightful)

Esther Schindler (16185) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887829)

There are two kinds of fool. One says, "This is old, and therefore good." And one says, "This is new, and therefore better." --Dean Inge

Re:What is there to dispute? (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year and a half ago | (#41888037)

What must your life be like, having the certain knowledge that it will end at 40.

It depends... (5, Funny)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887451)

Have you kept them out of the sun and filled them with preservatives such as redbull?

Shelf life is far longer that way.

Older workers require that old zest for the new (5, Insightful)

gtall (79522) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887453)

Older workers, regardless of the industry, come in (err....well, broadly) two flavors, those that are open to new tech, ideas, whatever, and those that are adamant they stay within their old niche. The latter is, in some sense, understandable. That niche is one that has rewarded them in the past. The problem is that it may not reward them in the future.

The ones that are open to new ideas also fall into the trap of glomming onto the latest whizzy technology to come down the pipe. That will result in no sense of perspective.

What is needed is a happy mix: developers who will evaluate new tech and adopt given experience, and who will also keep past tech that still has the right punch.

This necessarily weighs older developers more than younger, you cannot teach experience. I say developer because programmer is too, what, blinkered. If you are good at development, you know your industry. If you are good programmer, it is hard to say what you are good at. Programs do something, and that something is not in a vacuum. To be a good developer, you must understand much more than being a good programmer.

Re:Older workers require that old zest for the new (4, Insightful)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887601)

Older workers, regardless of the industry, come in (err....well, broadly) two flavors, those that are open to new tech, ideas, whatever, and those that are adamant they stay within their old niche. The latter is, in some sense, understandable. That niche is one that has rewarded them in the past. The problem is that it may not reward them in the future.

The ones that are open to new ideas also fall into the trap of glomming onto the latest whizzy technology to come down the pipe. That will result in no sense of perspective.

I fail to see how this applies uniquely to older developers, younger ones are just as prone to the same behaviour. I always laugh when I see these stories though, I mean what, twenty years is a long time? Blink and its gone, the young hotshots will inevitably become the older programmers, and a hell of a lot sooner than they think.

If I Only Had a Brain (5, Interesting)

seepho (1959226) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887459)

Why is it that young developers imagine that older programmers can't program in a modern environment?

Although I'm fighting anecdote with anecdote, I've never seen this happen. The only people I and my young coworkers assume can't program in a modern environment are people who have shown that they're unable to program at all.

Re:If I Only Had a Brain (3, Insightful)

jythie (914043) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887795)

Eh, I have seen it in brogrammer environments. It isn't just older workers though, anyone who did not learn the exact development culture snapshot that was in when they were in school 'can't program'. It ends up impacting older ones the most though since they did learn at a different time and have used multiple methods over the years.

Linus is over the hill, (4, Insightful)

tempest69 (572798) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887461)

And I'd bet if asked if he REALLY understood Linux, he'd be saying nope.
There is something to be said for being comfortable with not knowing everything.

Whatever (5, Interesting)

ios and web coder (2552484) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887465)

I'm 50, and with 30 years' experience, growing up with the Software industry, I do fine.

I learn better today, than I did at 25.

Back then, I just knew how to do stuff.

Now, I also know WHY it works. Right down to the bone.

My years of experience and nonstop training (self-training, when my company didn't want to foot the bill) has paid off in a big way.

However, I have absolutely no illusions at all that I'd have much of a chance in the job market.

In the day of the "brogrammer," there's no room for gray hair. I'd have to start my own company (something that I'm quite prepared to do).

I get paid to manage younger programmers. I code for fun.

Re:Whatever (4, Interesting)

WaywardGeek (1480513) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887725)

I turn 49 in three weeks, and I still love programming. It remains my work, hobby, and passion. I think my ability to crank out awesome code leveled off when I was about 30, and since then I've had to settle for enjoying mentoring the next generation rather than soaking up knowledge like a sponge. At one point, I looked around and realized there wasn't anyone left to learn from, at least not anyone who I was capable of emulating, and that many people were looking at me to help them. I started a company back in 2000, and continue to work in the position I created for myself, and I am still having a great time.

However, I agree... If I had to go find a new job as a programmer, my age would be an issue. I intend to stick with my company as long as they need me, but after that, I'll probably start another one. I haven't become a stronger programmer with time, but the experience I've gained working in startups has made me a better entrepreneur.

Re:Whatever (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41887763)

In the day of the "brogrammer," there's no room for gray hair. I'd have to start my own company (something that I'm quite prepared to do).

I would hire you over three brogrammers, and there are other people like me. You'd have no problem finding a job, gramps.

Generalization (4, Insightful)

Verdatum (1257828) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887469)

You cannot disprove a generalization by way of counterexample. Certainly, lots of old programmers are wonderful. They read the latest developments and new paradigms, and work to understand whether they are appropriate or not, and they have lots of experience that lets the quickly detect problems or avoid paths that will become future problems...But lots of them also just get burnt out. They haven't learned a thing since college, and/or they just want to put in their hours and go home until they are able to retire. Until someone does a survey that compares age and software development apptitude (which would be a really hard thing to do well), it's a valid archetype to watch out for. I fully expect I'll have to prove I'm one of those exceptions to the "rule" when I get to be an old coder.

Re:Generalization (4, Insightful)

darkwing_bmf (178021) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887721)

You cannot disprove a generalization by way of counterexample.

That's exactly the way you disprove a generalization.

Re:Generalization (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887807)

How do you disprove a generalization? Perhaps the problem is that there are plenty of people that don't age well, but a DMV counter worker who can't form an original thought or solve a problem will not be noticed, as that's standard DMV counter-worker behavior. But put that person in IT, and there'd be a problem. But someone who ages well will age well no matter what the job.

Your so naive grasshopper (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41887473)

But what really matters is who's productive and who's not.

Your so naive grasshopper. Management is taught that a good manager is one who is able to manipulate their subordinates to make themselves look good. Old timers are much harder to manipulate because they typically have too much experience in this area.

Ageism etc (4, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887477)

hostile to older workers.

Hostile to expensive workers. Combine with the notorious inability to evaluate programmer productivity, and ...

how grandpa can't understand iPhones, Linux, or the cloud

I'm technically old enough to be a grandpa, in fact in the inner city I'd almost certainly be one by now (its a cultural thing, "my people" tend to get married a bit older, vs some cultures its all about the teenage/highschool pregnancy, etc) The funny part is despite my apparently grandfatherly age I've been there the whole time for all three examples, and that's not even all that unusual. Great grandma might have some issues, but not my generation.

Now pick a fad that I am the wrong age for social reasons, that I intentionally skipped because I thought it was dumb, like SMS text messaging, or twitter, or myspace, then you've possibly got a point...

At the ripe old age of 38... (2)

turgid (580780) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887493)

...let me be the first to say that these young whipper-snappers can't code their way out of a wet paper bag. They don't know the difference between C and C++, they've never heard of FORTH and they can't write makefiles. And they think a 2GHz CPU is slow!

Re:At the ripe old age of 38... (2, Funny)

seepho (1959226) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887509)

Does your UART traffic go uphill both ways?

Re:At the ripe old age of 38... (1)

jythie (914043) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887813)

Not only does it go uphill both ways, but my processor runs so cold it is snowing.

Re:At the ripe old age of 38... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41887815)

I'm 35. I've been programming since I was 6.

I've recently discovered how to write a working programming language in about 15 lines of Python code, which is to say, I've recently learned Forth.

I'm shocked and amazed nobody every showed me how to do this before. I'm shocked and amazed I've never seen ANYBODY do this before.

I've been showing everyone I know: "Here's how to do this thing!"

Re:At the ripe old age of 38... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41887927)

I don't get the bit about the makefiles. Is there some kind of software tool the cool kids are using that creates makefiles automagically?
No, I don't code for a living.

Thank G-d I don't do much programming any longer (2)

jacobsm (661831) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887499)

I've been in IT for 33+ years, mostly as a zOS Systems Programmer. A little assembler language programming now and then though. There are several programmers in my age bracket still programming full time though, but they've had to reinvent themselves several times over the years.

Data Structures and algorithms (5, Insightful)

StillNeedMoreCoffee (123989) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887511)

After working for 40 years in IT and 27 years teaching CS at Northwestern part time I would say that a lot of the young programmers don't have a real sense of programming. They feel that knowing a particular framework is programming, or using a particular package is programming. But the deep programming comes from the Data Structures and algorithms used and the patterns used. There is an art to programming much of which comes with time, experience and study. So you may not be fashionable if you don't have all the latest acronyms on your resume but if you don't know the DS and Alg. you are just window dressing.

Re:Data Structures and algorithms (3, Interesting)

Gramie2 (411713) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887841)

Just a small correction: I'd say that programming is a craft, more than an art. I'd liken my skills to that of a master cabinetmaker or metalworker, except that I rarely get to create the same thing (or a similar one) more than once.

Re:Data Structures and algorithms (4, Interesting)

StillNeedMoreCoffee (123989) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887949)

Ah, There is the difference, just as you might say that a novelist is a craftsman rather than an artist. There is a level of understanding and experience that transforms the craft to an art. If you only think of it as a craft then for you it is a craft and will always be a craft, but as the best engineering is invisible, the same is said for an artfully crafted program, with all the considerations and degrees of freedom handled, with the flow natural and maintainable. As there is an art to poetry which is just words and sentences pieced together , there is an art to programming as well. In the construction world there are carpenters, builders and architects. The architects are the artists at the top. The craft is below. It is much easier to do the art when you have wide ranging control. So not all environments allow the practice of that art. I hope at some time in the future you have that opportunity.

Re:Data Structures and algorithms (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887969)

Never mind the basic computer programming fundamentals you mentioned (and very good points made). I see things that boggle me like far too many "young" Java programmers whose code is deployed on an app server in a *nix environment while they have only the barest understanding of Linux/Unix. They might know ls, grep, and a couple of other commands (I did say server which usually means command line only). I just can't understand when programmers aren't well versed in the environment in which their code is going to run in.

I personally don't have a problem with frameworks per se, they can be considered libraries in some sense and can cut time in developing solutions. Where I tend to get leery is when they obfuscate the language they are based on. Or are so rigid they make it hard to think outside of the framework box, possibly truncating novel solutions. Done right they are a very good thing. For example JEE is really a kind of framework that allows programmers wide latitude for the most part.

Because young people are stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41887513)

Young people are stupid and don't know anything.

They buy into every fly-by-night shiny that come in; remember MySpace?

Even the iPhone is in decline.

Older developers have seen all that shit before.

Re:Because young people are stupid (1)

Gary (9413) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887695)

Young people are stupid and don't know anything.

And they walk all the fsck over my grass!

Re:Because young people are stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41887771)

Because they were young and stupid once.

5 years (1, Interesting)

eGuy (545520) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887515)

IMHO, In five years your skills will be antiquated. While your skills are in demand, demand 4-8 hours a week to keep up on new stuff.

Just keep learning and you'll be fine (3, Informative)

NinjaTekNeeks (817385) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887517)

IT is always evolving and there is always new stuff. If you choose not to evolve and learn new things then you will become out dated and have problems finding a job. This is not unique to programming, demand for NT 4 Server and Exchange 5.5 admins is probably pretty low these days.

Re:Just keep learning and you'll be fine (1)

Timmy D Programmer (704067) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887825)

Agreed, I'm 43 with 20 years of development behind my belt, but I'm always studying something. To choose what to study I actually look at hiring trends and salary amounts for particular skill-sets to help me decide what is worth my time to learn.

I'm still a code machine but fear perhaps the day will come when I'm no longer in my prime, but I'm going to hope I'm one of those old guys that stay sharp until the end.

mathematicians (2)

ThorGod (456163) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887519)

There's a similar thought process in mathematics. Many really amazing mathematicians died young (Srinivasa Ramanujan, for instance), "and therefore any old mathematician can't possibly be a good one." Well...that's a load of crap. The truth is, mathematicians of all ages contribute importantly to mathematics. CS probably faces a similar thought process because computational technology is still very new. (It wasn't long ago that algorithms were primarily researched as a mathematical curiosity.)

Re:mathematicians (2)

pieisgood (841871) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887773)

Particularly more in mathematics since even the fields medal can't be handed to anyone over 40 years of age.

?HUH? (1)

araczynski (265221) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887525)

that's the dumbest thing i've ever heard, especially about programmers. unless your skillset is limited to some ancient unused language, i'd take a 50 year old programmer with real world understanding of architecture and code flow over half a dozen college squirt outs any day.

Teaching tricks to old apes (4, Insightful)

Kergan (780543) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887533)

Youngsters with magic coder fingers are far in between. I'll take a coder with 20+ years of experience over a half dozen near-rookies any day, thank you very much. The senior will typically be cheaper, much faster, and will invariably produce much less bugs.

Re:Teaching tricks to old apes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41887641)

Fewer, unless your bugs are uncountable.
Though this does leave me at a loss as to the adjective to use going from uncountable to countable quantities. (which may be the case in your example)

What I've seen (4, Interesting)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887537)

I'm of the younger generation, but I've worked with all the age groups at some point or other on multiple occasions, and what I've found is... older devs tend to be more encompassing, think their approaches through, and have the jist of how to tackle a wider range of techniques / fixes (experience). Younger devs tend to be faster coders, better out-of-the-box thinkers, and more motivated to do the work (typically, comes from having something to prove), as well as try various approaches at solving a problem. There are high & low programmers in all age groups, I've met people 40+ who rattle code off methodically without external references, and those that can't rewrite a render method. A lot of "newer" code is "older" code optimized, all AJAX is is javascript more or less, insanely complicated javascript at that. A lot of big wig types find it easier to deal with somebody that is more their peer also. Another thing that comes to mind is "culture", bringing a 20-something year old into a team of 50 year olds has some serious cons to consider. There's a ton more factors, but there's a reason age isn't listed on resumes, and that's because it's the shoe that fits that you'll wear.

Re:What I've seen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41887975)

Don't confuse out-of-the-box with "more willing to employ the fad language/framework du jure". Out-of-the-box is more often a label affixed after the fact; as in, after the scheme has proven not to blow up in the persons face. The fails just get forgotten.

What I tell other engineers when they bitch about using some new tech: just do it. Don't ask for permission. Just fscking do it and present it. But don't half-ass it and say "we can fill in the gaps later".

Young programmers often still have the mentality that requires their elders permission and affirmation. Worse, they also often expect their boss to be lenient when their projects comes up short of the mark. Actually, older programmers are similar, except they're more jaded and don't actually expect people to patronize them. That makes them fearful, which in turn inhibits their motivation for just doing shit

Perception is reality (2, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887561)

Whether or not there is an avalanche of contradictory evidence, most people will remain true to their beliefs and will ignore and deny facts that don't agree with them until they die.

This is a human failing. And it is pointless to blame humans for being human. It's hard if not impossible to change the thinking of a single person. Now imagine the scale of impossiblity it would be to change the thinking of the whole human species?

Pretty darned impossible. So what do you do about it? Well? Sometimes there simply NOTHING you can do about it. Unfortunately, the economy no longer makes "retirement" an option for everyone. And if you don't have it, you're destined to end up somewhere miserable in your twilight years hoping for death to take you when you're sleeping. Why? Because there is simply no chance of changing the world of people and their ideas that older people are incapable. Best hope is comfortable retirement if you can... ...and people need to start planning for their retirement in their 20s these days. And are 20-somethings thinking about retirement in their immortal years of adulthood? No. What about 30s? Yeah, sometimes, but often times not... they are thinking of buying bigger and better things all the time for the most part. And 40s? Oh crap... now it's definitely time to think about retirement and if you're not making a lot of money to invest in your retirement, then you are either going to have to put almost all of your extra cash in there (that's money after paying your bills and buying food on a tight budget) until that fateful day arrives when you simply can't get any more work... and then... ...then? ...Then hope that a bunch of wallstreet assholes don't tank your retirement with ponzi schemes. This is what happened to a lot of people with the economic crash.

TL;DR?

You can't change the world. Change what you do in it and hope for the best.

Re:Perception is reality (1)

bug1 (96678) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887989)

most people will remain true to their beliefs and will ignore and deny facts that don't agree with them until they die.

There are no facts, there are just other peoples experiences. Someone elses experience will never be as real as our own.

One of the reasons we dont accept other peoples experiences like we do our own, is that they have an unknown context. Because 'we dont know what we dont know', it would be plain stupid to give other peoples experiences as much weight as our own.

If you want to convince someone of something, stop telling them the answer, start telling them the context, and wait.

Quite the opposite... (4, Insightful)

Ami Ganguli (921) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887571)

I find younger programmers don't know how computers actually work. They've never used assembler or C for anything. They can't use SQL properly. They don't have the range of experience that lets you attack a problem from all angles and find the best solution.

That's not to say that I use assembler or C for anything nowadays, but the understanding I gained way-back-when gives me a feel for what's actually happening behind the scenes when write in Javascript, Python, etc. And the addiction to application frameworks among young programmers seems to have inhibited their ability to come up with creative solutions to unique problems. They just apply their favourite framework to everything, regardless of how well it actually fits the problem.

Sorry for the rant, but the lack of technical breadth in younger developers is a real pet peeve of mine. I guess part of the reason I get annoyed by it is that experience isn't given that much weight in hiring decisions, so you have inexperienced people in roles of responsibility that they're not ready for. Us old farts who do know better end up having to deal with with the mess afterwards.

Re:Quite the opposite... (5, Insightful)

kestasjk (933987) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887931)

I'm a 25 year old, I use SQL all day and used C for my personal projects and as part of my computer science course. (And not just hello world, but UNIX threading / network programming / signalling and network stack emulation.)

I also work with a 38 year old who is a much better coder than myself, not in all ways but certainly in all but a few niche areas, and a 42 year old who does fit the stereotype of old people being afraid of new technologies (but who will readily learn if he wants to).
That's our dev team; a 25 year old, 38 year old and 42 year old.

Basically these stereotypes are just bullshit. I cringe just as much hearing about how "younger programmers can't do this" as when I hear how "older programmers can't do that".

Productive? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41887583)

Productivity is hard to measure. Salaries, however, are very easy. When you can get 3 24yos for the price of one 40yo, good luck convincing an MBA the latter is the better choice, all else be damned.

I don't believe that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41887589)

I'm 29. I've interviewed, managed and been on successful teams with people from ages 20-50. It really comes down to whether an **individual** is adaptable to change or not. I've actually encountered quite a few younger engineers that have no motivation to learn anything that has evolved in the CS landscape within the last decade outside of what they learned in school. That being said I'm not blind and I know this does happen. However, in my humble opinion, stereotyping that "young engineers" believe this perpetuates the very problem that you are bringing up.

They are good as long... (1)

zentigger (203922) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887605)

...as you leave them in the wrapper, but once the seal on the shrink-wrap is broken they start to decay within seconds.

follow the money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41887613)

It's not about age per se. It's about money. Experience costs more, because programmers who have been through the fires and fought the wars and climbed the learning curves feel like they've earned more than entry level wages. Because they have earned it.

But that doesn't mean that management wants to pay it. Many companies would rather pay less and "file to fit" and "paint to match" than to do it right the first time. No matter what it does to the total project cost.

And that, my friends, leads us to the myth of the "tech. shortage". There is no shortage of programmers, engineers, or scientists. What there is a shortage of, is *cheap* programmers, engineers, and scientists.

Think about it.

Examples (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887617)

Citing a few counter-examples doesn't disprove claims about a general trend.

Re:Examples (2)

Zalbik (308903) | about a year and a half ago | (#41888003)

Citing a few counter-examples doesn't disprove claims about a general trend.

They do when no proof is offered for the opposing position.

I've seen no evidence that this "general trend" or even the "agism" apparently so prevalent in IT even exists.

Sweeping generalizations (3, Interesting)

michaelmalak (91262) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887639)

Since everyone is putting forth their sweeping generalizations, here's mine:

From the late 90's up until 2008-2010, there were two camps: the old school and the web crowd. But now the old school is learning web, and the web crowd is finally learning OO, design patterns, etc. So now everyone's the same.

What is the shell life of a dentist ? (1)

JonySuede (1908576) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887671)

Do you know what is the shell life of a dentist ?

Re:What is the shell life of a dentist ? (3, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887855)

Do you know what is the shell life of a dentist ?

Same as a programmer: 3-5 days unless watered. 3-5 weeks unless fed.

Shelf life of a programmer? (1)

gman003 (1693318) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887683)

Roughly the same as the stuff they eat. I think some of my ramen will last until the 2038 Problem hits.

Re:Shelf life of a programmer? (1)

camperdave (969942) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887909)

Don't count on it. I had some MrNoodle the other day that had been sitting on the shelf for a really long time. It had a bit of a plasticine smell to it, but I ate it anyways. I was sick for a couple of days from it.

Old programmers are like old wine (4, Funny)

Chemisor (97276) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887691)

Jesus told them this parable: âoeNo one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, âThe old is better.â(TM)â - Luke 5:36-39

Old programmers are like old wine; we have no shelf life. As we age, we get better. We also get more expensive. If you pour us into the new wineskin of long hours, low pay, and other kinds of abuse, we burst your bubble and leak out. Put us in the old wineskins, preserve us with reasonable working hours, pay us well, and we'll reward you with the best patches you have ever seen. Keep away the patches coming from new wine, or you'll tear your garment and your hair. After trying us, you'll too say "truly, the old is better", and then continue "however, our shareholders demand higher profits this quarter and prefer 'cheaper'".

wtf? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41887723)

"The truth is: Many older developers are every bit as good as young programmers,"

Whew! Glad to know that folks with experience are as good as those without...wtf?

A better question: (3, Interesting)

briancox2 (2417470) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887785)

How long before the myth that you must be 20 to be a good programmer dies out?

One reason comes to mind .. ego! (4, Insightful)

johnlcallaway (165670) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887793)

I am 53, been in computers since I was 18 years old, cutting my teeth on a TRS-80 at home and HP mini's at the college I dropped out after one semester. I've had jobs writing assembler, COBOL, C++, FORTRAN, perl, Java and who knows how many proprietary or niche programing languages. On HP, Burroughs, Tandem, IBMs and Windows boxes. Reading ISAM files at first, switching it up to Oracle, Sybase, Informix and even a few Access database. Even wrote a COBOL program that did communication via RS-232 ports. Spent 5 years as a system administrator/manager because of my Unix skills, learning Linux from a floppy disk install and dual partitioning. Spent time on HP, Burroughs, IBM, NCR, Sun and Windows computers. Even spent a year programming a phone system with my phone admin got himself fired. I sincerely doubt that I've been left behind.

But I have known several developers that have gotten left behind. For some of them, it's just because they got stuck in a rut and didn't try to learn anything new or take on new assignments in new tech. Others just wouldn't speak up and let their boss know they were getting bored with what they were working on and would like to work on something new. Happened to me once, I got passed over because my boss didn't know I was interested and I vowed to never let it happen again. If someone is willing to sit at their desk and only code in COBOL or Java or C++ or C# all day, in a few years they will look around and notice things have changed and they didn't keep up. If they wait too long, they may not be able to catch up.

But there is one batch of old IT people that are the worst -- the old programmer who absolutely refuses to learn anything new because "programs today just aren't elegant' or "these new programmers and their fancy languages today use way too many resources to get something done!". They have all kinds of reasons to not learn something new, but it all comes down to they think they know the best way to do things, and expect everyone else to change to their way instead of giving new things a chance. (My personal opinion is that many of them are just to insecure to admit they don't know something.)

Whatever the opportunity that comes up for me, you can bet that I'll dig in and learn anything new that I have to. My boss told me that the reasons she hired me was I was the only person she interviewed that basically said "I may not know it, but I can figure it out". Today's tech changes too fast, and people who rely on the excuse "But I don't know how to program in XYZ" or "But I don't know how a firewall works" will surely see their usefulness decline.

Just like so many old programmers before them.

Re:One reason comes to mind .. ego! (1)

johnlcallaway (165670) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887809)

And before anyone makes a comment about my ego .. I readily admit I'm not an expert in any of these things and there are many people that are much better than I am.

Problem of interviewing (2)

AwesomeMcgee (2437070) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887837)

Techniques for interviewing are still so jacked. That's really what it comes down to. I think ageism does occur, but I think if interviews were structured to allow people to flex their technical muscles and show their technical weaknesses we would end up with a fairer treatment across the board. As it stands, interviews are usually a practice of the interviewer trying to prove his hypothesis bias rather than disprove it, and therein lies the problem for young and old.

Young and old (2)

GrahamCox (741991) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887857)

Young programmers don't usually have a full grasp of how things work, and haven't the experience to apply the correct solution to a problem. What they do have, much more than older programmers, is energy. They can turn out a LOT of code (and usually do, most of it irrelevant to the problem) in a given time and work long hours. They're cheaper too. An effective team is therefore an older programmer that can guide and mentor the younger productive units.

The thing about it (1)

andrew2325 (2647845) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887903)

Not every programmer thinks they know everything, even young ones. The shelf life of one depends on if he gets the training he needs, and whether or not he gets shot for snitching on dope dealers by crooked military officials who allowed the crap to get here. That's all I've been trying to say. That's the thing. That's what I've been trying to tell yas.

co`3k (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41887911)

'Yes' to any Raadt's stubborn th1s very moment,

Depends. (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887917)

If the mature programmer has spent the last 20 years firmly entrenching himself in the bureaucracy and making an uninspired living providing grudging maintenance on the systems he created in his much more productive youth, then yeah, his status in the company is "obstacle to be overcome".

If the mature programmer has spent the last 20 - 40 years sharpening his skills, trying new things, learning from his mistakes and adding to his experience, then he truly becomes a force to be reckoned with, a mentor sought after by the smarter of the new employees.

Which you become is up to you. The former takes less effort and skill. The latter is more rewarding.

not fad/fanboy-ish enough (1)

dltaylor (7510) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887971)

I've seen so many fads come and go that I don't get very excited about the new one. Even persistent things like smart phones don't attract me much; I have a phone, and a small tablet, because I prefer to separate the uses. Causes a bit of ribbing from the fanboy crowd, but, when they cannot figure out why what they're doing isn't working well on an embedded system, or just want to bounce a few ideas around (and they do often have good ones), they're at my cubicle.

Too many younger programmers and managers mistake buzz for value, but the good ones also recognize the value of experience.

it's the US health care system that hurts older pe (0)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year and a half ago | (#41887981)

it's the US health care system that hurts older people as they are the ones that need to use it and 20 years old's mostly don't need it.

Reality is more about love of the work... (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | about a year and a half ago | (#41888013)

... your health and energy levels then anything else. A person who has no energy or health is not going to remain a good programmer as they age since it is demanding profession. Like any other jobs there are those who are just there for the paycheck and those who grasp programming as a craft and it is a part of who they are.

As someone who's seen and done a lot, the problem with young programmers is lack of perspective - just because you can put in a lot of hours or make the computer do things does not mean you know how to code. Especially when it comes to large projects. This is a huge problem in the game industry with 'rock-star' young programmers many of whom hack together awful code to get games out the door. So many projects are giant screw ups because of inexperience. Learning how to build anything non-trivial is a learning experience.

Like always potential + hard work = rewards.

It basically depends on the job market (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41888015)

Where I live companies basically scramble to hire new young people fresh out of college (and sometimes middle school) as fast as they can and give them short-term contracts. The maximum length of these is declared by law to be three years; after that you have to give someone a permanent contract. And that determines the maximum shelf life of programmers: three years and that would work out to be about 26 or so. But if there are more new recruits that term can shorten dramatically; mine only lasted a year because there were more graduates than average in the year after mine. I know my trade and know it well, but I know the law creates an insurmountable barrier against hiring me, so I'm thinking of giving up my trade. My next job may be repairing bikes or cooking for all I know.

because many young developers (1)

wardk (3037) | about a year and a half ago | (#41888019)

are for the most part idiots?

now you kids get off my lawn

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