The View from Mt. Deja Vu

Sorry, I’ve been busy.  The books pile up, the relatives come into town, there is LEGO to build with your son, or videogames to beat.

Also, when things are going pretty well, I don’t need to vent.  So I’m not posting much.

But to get 2010 started….


You see it again and again, the same stuff over and over again: Newly clever implementations of linked lists. Somebody’s idea of what a hash table should look like, crippled with innovation. Yet another object file format, another command line option parser, another memory allocator. A thread pooler that you can’t find any /obvious/ flaws in, but that you know will expose some subtle, nasty eleventh-hour race condition that will make your life living hell just before ship.

And a shiny, fresh face pops into your cube, quivering with excitement: “Say, did you know that you can do (insert gnarly, evil thing here) with C macros?”

“Yes, but the last person to try that had his soul seized by Knthulhu, and was dragged screaming down to the Place Where They Still Use Punch Cards and Octal, and if you listen carefully you can hear –”

“Octal? What’s that?”

Your generation did not invent the facepalm. It’s probably been around since the caveman days; I can easily imagine Throg hitting his head repeatedly on a rock when Grognak tried to nasaly insert Fire again.

Deja vu, ad infinitum.

The future of computing is its own past, mashed-up and remixed by young’uns who have yet to fear the dark corners, the places where us old farts went in with similar bushy-tailed attitudes and came out with ashen-faced, eyes barn-door wide and with fifty new words for “pucker.” Heed us. The stove is hot if you touch it. The stove is not only hot, it will incinerate your soul. At some point you will want to make pancakes or wash dishes for a living rather than run another build or merge another check-in or fix another bug, and at that moment you will be worthy to take up this mantle of curmudgeonly benevolence and utter the words:

“Son, you ain’t seen nothin’ …”

[usually they start edging away when you get that wild look]

“… back in ’09…”

[they are consulting their cell phones and iExcuse generators]

“… uphill, both ways…”

[you are left alone now, in blissful silence. Code away.]

I have too many important things to type with these fingers before I retire than to waste time on another hash table. Unless it’s a really, really good one.  Or I’m bored.

Author: landon

My mom thinks I'm in high tech.

8 thoughts on “The View from Mt. Deja Vu”

  1. Oh yes, too true.

    I get that same look when I launch into a tale about why something is, or is not, or is a bad idea…

    People do however learn by their own mistakes, and don’t really like being told, they’d rather find out the hard way. I guess that also allows them, in 20 years, to be the grumpy old fart telling tales to young ‘uns.

  2. So true! I remember doing a lot of that when I was younger, now I don’t have the time or the inclination….

    And yes, I do tell people to get off my coding-lawn nowadays 😉

  3. Man, I’m part of that generation and even I understand Ain’t broke/Don’t fix. There are only certian situations where someone could come to me with a fix that sounds evil and I would even consider it (Like, On a mobile platform.) simply out of my do it right or don’t do it policy. We’re all not insane, but keep in mind, we are the ones who are going to come up with the next iteration of programming that drives all the old people insane (I’m hoping I’m old by then… I don’t want to be responsible for what comes next. I’m already part of making Java Popular. I know. I’m sorry)

  4. Yes, keep away from the evil c++ overloaded operators and all the other things you don’t need to do to get the job done, but seemed cool when first starting out.

  5. So what is “Octal”?

    Okay, sorry. Brings back memories of working with Easycoder on a — room-filling — Honeywell Mod I with a whopping 24K.

    And, to those who will “come up with the next iteration of programming that drives all the old people insane,” I am reminded of when I realized I, too, could create something (clever and useful) that other people found hard to figure out and, then, realized, after doing this a few times, that it really would be better to create clever and useful things that others could understand.

  6. I really liked the Knthulhu reference…. pure Kthulhu evil, but with a bit of Knuth sophistication in it. Genius!

  7. At least it’s a good thing that people don’t need to know octal any more…

    (Octal is IMHO a relic from the days when computers had word length evenly divisable by 3 and hexadecimal hadn’t been invented)…

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