So last Monday I talked about how frustrating programming can be and how important sheer bloody-mindedness is if you want to be a programmer. If that made you wonder why on earth someone would choose to do this, I couldn’t blame you :)
I love programming because I love building things. It’s just fun to make stuff – who doesn’t love LEGO? But even better than LEGO, if you mess up when you’re programming you can just revert to an earlier version, and if you want to experiment with an idea that might not work out you can create a separate branch for it.
While programming can be frustrating, there’s no physical material I know of that’s anywhere near as easy to work with. Buildings, machines, and even sculptures need to obey the laws of physics where the biggest restriction on programmers is our own ability to design a system. There are certainly things that are likely to get you into trouble, but with code as with writing, you can break all sorts of rules if you’re good enough to get away with it.
Programming is also a lot like solving a puzzle, something else I’ve loved since I was a kid. One of my favourites was the IQ block – I had a plastic one that came in a little case and it was so satisfying to get all the pieces to fit back inside it. I get the exact same satisfaction out of fixing a bug or getting a new feature working, but even more so because programs have so many moving parts. If you enjoy puzzles, code is about as complicated of a puzzle as you can find.
I get bored pretty quickly if I feel like I’m doing the same thing over and over, so the constant learning when you’re programming is great for me. There’s always something new to learn whether it’s another language, a design technique, a new tool, a new technology, or just a new way to do something. If you go into programming, you may get frustrated but you’ll never get bored :)
While professional programming is a generally a team sport, it’s amazing how much one programmer can get done on their own. It takes a factory to build a car and a team to build a house, but one programmer can knock out app after app if they want to. It’s just cool to look at something that’s actually useful to other people and be able to say “I built that.”
And yes, if you’ve read The Mythical Man-Month, my post was indeed inspired by Fred Brooks’ explanation of the joys of the craft.