The de-nerdification of programming

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2024-03-30 06:00:07

The programmers at the dawn of computing were nerds. They had no abstractions. They dealt with raw hardware – switches, circuits, currents. Binary code. Punched cards. Assembly language was a respite.

The next step up were high-level languages like FORTRAN and C. Imagine having mnemonics like FOR and variable declarations, after futzing with assembly.

The arc of high-level languages was a long one. Of course, the languages, theory and tools have taken massive leaps over the last few decades. But they’re still languages, still authored by and debugged by human programmers.

The people who found this activity appealing were nerds. They were attracted to the unforgiving yet clean logic, the relentless detail, of the machine. Even after hitting the depths of despair during debugging, emerging on the other side was cathartic because while the solid ground of reason was obscured, you managed to find it! And most importantly, it existed.

The platonic universe of pure reason was manifested in a bunch of circuits, and your messy utterances to make the current dance through them. It was solid ground, unassailable, its rewards and comforts showered upon those willing to endure the hardship of – first, thinking clearly and logically, and second, expressing it in executable form.

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