Let’s just start off with “programmers rock”. Tomorrow (September 13) is International Programmer’s Day (it is always on the 256th day of the year, which is somewhat of an inside joke for us programmers), and I’d like to take a step back from the technical intricacies and appreciate how much we’ve achieved.
Modern cell phones have more than 10 times the computing power of the first Cray supercomputer. Most modern electronic toys (like my daughter’s stuffed dog that plays songs and says her name) are more powerful than the computer systems that sent us to the moon. There are days when I am still blown away by the fact that I can video conference my mom so that she can see her grandkids without having to fly to visit. The technological power that we have at our fingertips every day, and the ease with which we use it, is absolutely astounding. And yet, I am as guilty as anyone of taking it all for granted—thinking of technology as a tool, something not to think about, just there to make things simpler. I am just as guilty of being frustrated when something doesn’t work exactly the way I think it should, or as fast as I want it to.
So, when I am frustrated that I can’t find the exact, specific, perfect piece of software that does exactly what I want the way I think it should be done (at the moment, because what I think I need might change by tomorrow), I have to remind myself of the reality. I have to remind myself of the massive amount of talent, energy and very hard work that has gone into every one of these technological tools that I use every day without even batting an eye. The alarm that wakes me up in the morning and snoozes for nine minutes (Nine minutes, really? Why nine?)—someone had to program that. The electronic toothbrush? Chances are there is a chip inside that someone had to program. The annoying “ding ding ding” that tells me my keys are still in the ignition—yep, someone had to program that. The radio transmitter in my garage door opener, and in my car door remote—programmed. The digital monitoring of my engine, the red traffic lights that only seem to happen when I am running late (How do they know?), the gate in the parking garage… Yep, all done by programmers. All of this before I have even fired up my computer and hit the ground running for the day.
From the convenient to the really important—from the camera I used to take pictures of my newborn children to the medical equipment that helped keep them both alive—an army of programmers is behind it.
I take it all as a given, but I also know from experience that programming is hard work. Programming is thinking of all the normal uses of a thing, and all the likely irrational uses. It is problem-solving and stress-inducing, boundary-breaking and community-building. Programmers work every day to connect us all in ways that our forefathers couldn’t have even imagined. It is not an easy profession, but it is one that brings new challenges, new ideas, new ways of communication and new solutions and successes every day.
If you know a programmer, take a minute to thank them for all the really hard work that they do. If you don’t know a programmer, just take a moment to appreciate what all of the anonymous programmers out there have given you. The world you know wouldn’t exist without them.