The mind is like a parachute. If it doesn't open, you're meat.

From Pac-Man kid to Programmer Hybrid

22 Mar 2006

I am forced to write Object Pascal code in order to accomodate an obscure in-house testing tool. Obviously there is no way I still remember all the constructs of the language after 15 years. panicky parenthesis Oh, my god, it’s been 15 years since I last coded in Pascal! Oh my god, I have coded in Pascal! end of panicky realisation So I looked around for references (found them too).

While looking I stumbled on the classic “Real Programmers Don’t Use Pascal”.

Having been a ‘junior’ Pac-Man player and a 12 year old who blew Real Programmers out of the water in Pac-Man and Asteroids (at about the time the article was written too) I just had to compare. I can only conclude that I am some strange (d)evolutionary hybrid:

  • I write self-modifying code just like a Real Programmer.
  • I programmed IBM 4371 VM/SP and used AS/400 instead of OS/370, but I love that 'video-game' Unix.
  • I have a line-printer printout with ASCII art taped on the wall. It's not a calendar and it's from 1991 (same year I last coded in Pascal).
  • I have coded in Assembly (6502, 68000 and x86) but also in Pascal, while my Fortran contribution does not exceed 30 lines
  • A language with structure, a language with data types, strong typing, and semicolons makes me shiver. Give me untyped, dynamic Ruby and I will do the job
  • I definitely use source code maintenance systems, although I still have code in 5.25'' floppies (sorry, too young for punch-cards).
  • The language I adopted is dead simple but it's interesting features do include "methods for messing with the operating system and rearranging memory"

Where I definitely do better is the no neckties, no high heels, no 9 to 5, ‘arrive at work in time for lunch’ (when I get to go to the office) list. Being able to cook is something attributed to a non anglo-saxon origin more than anything, and I cannot remember the EBCDIC character table but I bet I am one of few who know what it was. A 12 year old Counter Strike player doesn’t even know how to pronounce it, let alone what it is.

But most important of all, there are “ill-defined goals, bizarre bugs, and unrealistic schedules” where I had to jump in, Solve The Problem, and save the documentation for later. Not bad for a Pac-Man kid.

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