[thelist] OT - do programmers/designers know *everything*?

Jonathan_A_McPherson at rl.gov Jonathan_A_McPherson at rl.gov
Tue Jul 23 13:49:01 CDT 2002


> 1. Are most of the folks on this list (for example) actually making a
> living programming, coding, design etc? Whether it be free-lance, or
> for other companies etc?

I do Web applications for a living, and while I'm not terribly wealthy, I am
making a decent living at it.

> 2. For the folks that ARE doing well enough to not have to work a 'real'
> (you know...as in retail, services...etc etc,...anything NOT to do with
> their web passions)...do you folks actually know in your head most of the
> skills you need to perform? For example, PERL/CGI programmers...can you
> actually, basically write working code that without having to rely on your
> notes, code snippets, manuals, etc? Or is that just silly? Do almost ALL
> hardcore designers/programmers use some sort of 'help' when working on
> projects?

I stay away from Web development books for the most part -- they are
expensive, heavy, time-consuming to use, and often outdate themselves in
months, if not sooner.

I write the vast majority of my code without using reference works at all. I
use ColdFusion, JavaScript, (X)HTML, and CSS, among other languages. I do,
however, keep an extensive collection of online documentation that I can
look up functions (etc) in quickly.

Anything that you use frequently enough will become ingrained and automatic.
You don't have to think to remember every digit of your address, or each
turn on the route to your job.

When you first start seeing some of the code some programmers can whip up
off the top of their heads you, like me, probably stare in slack-jawed
wonder. But remember: These people do this *for a living.* The expertise and
knowledge they have is the result of hours upon hours of research and
constant use. No one (well, _almost_ no one) memorizes languages "on
purpose;" they simply become fluent in them as a result of the amount of
time spent in them.

I started programming when I was 10. I'm 21 now. That's 11 years of
(on-and-off) experience. I've tutored new programmers in introductory
programming courses and they lament that they'll never "get it." Of course
they will, if they keep at it -- it just takes more than a few months; it
did for me. Some people have the ability to pick up programming quickly.
Most of us don't.

If you love programming and designing, and you're willing to put in the
time, you _will_ become better and more fluent. It'll happen slowly, and
you'll barely notice it while it's happening, but it will happen.

What's more, many programming concepts are general enough to be applied to a
wide variety of languages and environments. Therefore, the more you learn,
the easier it is to learn _more_. My first language took a long time to
learn, the second, less so, and so forth.

And rest assured that even the most seasoned programmers regularly use
reference manuals -- I would have little respect for a programmer who
didn't; anyone who runs entirely off memory is going to miss a lot of
valuable data in the documentation that simply cannot be memorized.

Okay, back to work with me. (-:

Jonathan McPherson, LMIT/SD&I
Software Engineer & Web Systems Analyst
email / jonathan_a_mcpherson at rl dot gov

More information about the thelist mailing list