Pragmatic programming, redefined

Flashback a few decades to when this programmer pilot fish is on the team developing a large, complex turnkey business system running on PDP-8 minicomputers.

"I had a pair of two-year degrees from a local technical college, but two of my co-workers who were hired at the same time as I was had masters degrees in computer science," says fish.

"Needless to say, my hands-on degree program that included mainframe assembler classes prepared me for this near-bare-metal programming environment much better than the advanced, theoretical classes prepared these two co-workers."

And when one of them falls way behind while working on a major module for the project, it's not pretty -- he spends weeks of 12-hour days feverishly writing low-level code in a last-ditch attempt to get the project back on track.

But it's pretty clear that the project is foundering. So fish isn't surprised one Friday morning when he hears through the grapevine that managers have decided to shelve the new module.

Hoping to give his overwhelmed colleague a break, fish approaches him and tells him he can stop torturing himself -- word is that the project is being cut.

"But I must work as hard as I can to finish by the deadline!" the programmer says.

Fish tries again, explaining as gently as he can that, despite the programmer's best efforts, the project is being shelved, probably for good, so he might as well stop what he's doing and move on to something else. Any further work on the project would just be wasted effort.

"He just waved his hand at me and went back to his soon-to-be-dead code," sighs fish. "A few hours later, the announcement went out that the module had been shelved and all development and testing work on it should cease.

"When word reached him around lunch time to stop development on the project, he turned off his monitor and went home. A month later, he found more suitable work at another company."

Don't quit now -- not until you tell Sharky your story! Send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll get a stylish Shark shirt if I use it. Comment on today's tale at Sharky's Google+ community, and read thousands of great old tales in the Sharkives.

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