Saturday, March 21, 2009

Paper Pushing

Way back when I got started in programming, my high school did not have any computers, of any sort.  So the programming was done on coding sheets, which were sent into the school district data processing facility, where some data entry clerks typed them in, presumably on cards, and sent the batch job to be processed.  If we were lucky, everything was correct and we got back a result printout.  If we weren't, we got back an error sheet and had to examine the code again to see where we went wrong.  Usually it was a syntax error of some sort, so we re-wrote the coding sheet and submitted it on the next batch.  I had one program that appeared to be un-typable - every clerk managed to typo something every try I made - the teacher finally let the program pass without running.

The next semester we got 3 Radio Shack TRS-80 computers, and we were freed from having to do coding sheets - until my college course in assembler, which was on punch cards - not a fun semester.

So for many years, I've been coding at the keyboard.  But when I have a particularly hairy issue, I find myself going to a blank sheet of white paper and pseudocoding my way into the solution.  I firmly believe that there is something visceral about writing that makes us more attentive to details.  There are others who have a similar philosophy.

On the other hand, I've also fond that in some cases, typing is faster when I'm trying to get an idea out of my head and into a recorded form.

What do you think?  Is writing code a quaint habit of old-timers, or a return to the core of the discipline?


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Brian Tkatch said...

I think it is psychological. To me, writing seems to add permanence. But i'd rather type code.

Dixie Software Ninja said...

But if you have to think hard about an issue, do you do it at the keyboard, or the whiteboard?

Brian Tkatch said...


Dixie Software Ninja said...

Wow - three months - THAT'S bad network lag.....

Brian Tkatch said...


For some reason i just noticed it.

I also then had to switch to IE (thanx IE tab) so posting actually works. I ignore posting to blogger so often because of the pain.