Are programming skills fading?

For several years i thought i noticed that the programming skills of the majority of ones around me was fading.

I talked with some college professors, with other managers/IT professionals and they confirmed the same. Then I thought: “Maybe I’m (we’re) wrong, and looking at it too influenced by my generation (i really believe we could rocked mountains).” I pushed the idea to the back of my head.

Recently a news on shlashdot caught my attention. It basically points to an article written by 2 professors and discusses exactly what I was experiencing.

I’ll not go into detail since the Slashdot post has a lot of comments and the article is very good it itself. No particular value i can add there.

One thing I can say: I am in not in US. I am in Europe. I am in a country which is quite proud of its programming professionals and i have a lot of success stories on that side. We tend to ‘export’ a lot of engineers and almost half (really!) of my college generation is now working for Microsoft, Google and others in top positions. And the problem happens also here. So it must be universal.

What happened? Well, since I’m a C++/Assembler originating guy i think Java is one problem :). Or the similar programming environments. It makes things too easy. Generally, programmers will forget / not learn the fundamentals of computer programming (yes, assembler, memory, pointers, cpu time, pipeline, IPC…) and they will natively program poorly. Yes, there are excellent Java developers out there. I know some. I’m not talking about them (praise to you guys and galz)! But I’m talking about the majority (i might start a storm coming to me right now).

I keep wondering where are the programs which ran in 48K of memory? Or even 640 K. I remember playing 3D games on a Spectrum computer. Why do i need right now 4 GB of memory for a full text index server? I remember building a similar one to run in less than 8 MB.

Why it takes ages for a Java portal to startup? On a dual core server? With Gigs of memory to spare?

Why do i see NullPointerException so many times? Who the f… is writing that code? (in my opinion NullPointerException is clearly a developer error and should not appear to the user. Ever!)

I’ll stop ranting right now. I simply want to know if you feel the same thing.

Are the programming skills fading? Why?


3 thoughts on “Are programming skills fading?

  1. I agree with you, I am a student in faculty of Engineering (alexandria,egypt) , My teacher teaches me fundamentals but he keeps telling me that knowing these fundamentals hasn’t become important at all due to great development in IDEs which disappoints me.
    I feel that now any one can be a programmer and it doesn’t require effort as it was before.
    I blame IDE developers

  2. Hi Mohamed. You should/must learn and understand the fundamentals. No matter what the IDE “says”.
    I am managing a team of almost 100 developers and i see this everyday: no matter in which programming language you develop, if you don’t “feel” the fundamentals then you cannot be a senior developer. Even with native talent.

  3. It is a problem that I have seen. I blame the web. People don’t have to work to develop something simple that works. They think that they can develop. They go to college, get a degree, but most of those programming classes are easy enough to get through without “getting it”.

    They then get a job, perform adequately, and then hop to a new job for more money. They keep this up until they land somewhere where they are so bad they get assigned O&M, and then they jump again.

    No frustration on my part. None at all.

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