Hovedsiden Tekster om programmering Real Programmers Don't Use PASCAL
Back in the good old days - the "Golden Era" of computers, it was easy to separate the men from the boys (sometimes called "Real Men" and "Quiche Eaters" in the literature). During this period, the Real Men were the ones that understood computer programming, and the Quiche Eaters were the ones that didn't. A real computer programmer said things like "DO 10 I=1,10" and "ABEND" (they actually talked in capital letters, you understand), and the rest of the world said things like "computers are too complicated for me" and "I can't relate to computers - they're so impersonal". (A previous work  points out that Real Men don't "relate" to anything, and aren't afraid of being impersonal.)
But, as usual, times change. We are faced today with a world in which little old ladies can get computers in their microwave ovens, 12-year-old kids can blow Real Men out of the water playing Asteroids and Pac-Man, and anyone can buy and even understand their very own Personal Computer. The Real Programmer is in danger of becoming extinct, of being replaced by high-school students with TRASH-80's.
There is a clear need to point out the differences between the typical high-school junior Pac-Man player and a Real Programmer. If this difference is made clear, it will give these kids something to aspire to - a role model, a Father Figure. It will also help explain to the employers of Real Programmers why it would be a mistake to replace the Real Programmers on their staff with 12-year-old Pac-Man players (at a considerable salary savings).
Rules of Thumb
Real programmers don't write specs. Users should consider themselves lucky to get any programs at all and take what they get.
Real programmers don't comment their code. If it was hard to write, it should be hard to read.
Real programmers don't draw flowcharts. Flowcharts are, after all, the illiterate's form of documentation. Cavemen drew flowcharts; look how much it did for them.
Real programmers never work 9 to 5. If any real programmers are around at 9 am, it's because they were up all night.
Real programmers don't write in BASIC. Actually, no programmers write in BASIC, after the age of 12.
Real programmers don't document. Documentation is for simps who can't read the listings or the object deck.
Real programmers don't write in Pascal, or Bliss, or Ada, or any of those pinko computer science languages. Strong typing is for people with weak memories.
Real programmers know better than the users what they need.
Real programmers like vending machine popcorn. Coders pop it in the microwave oven. Real programmers use the heat given off by the cpu. They can tell what job is running just by listening to the rate of popping.
What kind of operating system is used by a Real Programmer? CP/M? God forbid - CP/M, after all, is basically a toy operating system. Even little old ladies and grade school students can understand and use CP/M.
Unix is a lot more complicated of course - the typical Unix hacker never can remember what the PRINT command is called this week - but when it gets right down to it, Unix is a glorified video game. People don't do Serious Work on Unix systems: they send jokes around the world on UUCP-net and write adventure games and research papers.
No, your Real Programmer uses OS\370. A good programmer can find and understand the description of the IJK305I error he just got in his JCL manual. A great programmer can write JCL without referring to the manual at all. A truly outstanding programmer can find bugs buried in a 6 megabyte core dump without using a hex calculator. (I have actually seen this done.)
OS is a truly remarkable operating system. It's possible to destroy days of work with a single misplaced space, so alertness in the programming staff is encouraged. The best way to approach the system is through a keypunch. Some people claim there is a Time Sharing system that runs on OS\370, but after careful study I have come to the conclusion that they were mistaken.
In some companies, text editing no longer consists of ten engineers standing in line to use an 029 keypunch. In fact, the building I work in doesn't contain a single keypunch. The Real Programmer in this situation has to do his work with a "text editor" program. Most systems supply several text editors to select from, and the Real Programmer must be careful to pick one that reflects his personal style. Many people believe that the best text editors in the world were written at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center for use on their Alto and Dorado computers . Unfortunately, no Real Programmer would ever use a computer whose operating system is called SmallTalk, and would certainly not talk to the computer with a mouse.
Some of the concepts in these Xerox editors have been incorporated into editors running on more reasonably named operating systems - EMACS and VI being two. The problem with these editors is that Real Programmers consider "what you see is what you get" to be just as bad a concept in Text Editors as it is in women. No the Real Programmer wants a "you asked for it, you got it" text editor - complicated, cryptic, powerful, unforgiving, dangerous. TECO, to be precise.
It has been observed that a TECO command sequence more closely resembles transmission line noise than readable text . One of the more entertaining games to play with TECO is to type your name in as a command line and try to guess what it does. Just about any possible typing error while talking with TECO will probably destroy your program, or even worse - introduce subtle and mysterious bugs in a once working subroutine.
For this reason, Real Programmers are reluctant to actually edit a program that is close to working. They find it much easier to just patch the binary object code directly, using a wonderful program called SUPERZAP (or its equivalent on non-IBM machines). This works so well that many working programs on IBM systems bear no relation to the original FORTRAN code. In many cases, the original source code is no longer available. When it comes time to fix a program like this, no manager would even think of sending anything less than a Real Programmer to do the job - no Quiche Eating structured programmer would even know where to start. This is called "job security".
The Real Programmer at Work
Where does the typical Real Programmer work? What kind of programs are worthy of the efforts of so talented an individual? You can be sure that no Real Programmer would be caught dead writing accounts-receivable programs in COBOL, or sorting mailing lists for People magazine. A Real Programmer wants tasks of earth-shaking importance (literally!).
* Real Programmers work for Los Alamos National Laboratory, writing atomic bomb simulations to run on Cray I supercomputers.
* Real Programmers work for the National Security Agency, decoding Russian transmissions.
* It was largely due to the efforts of thousands of Real Programmers working for NASA that our boys got to the moon and back before the Russkies.
* Real Programmers are at work for Boeing designing the operating systems for cruise missiles.
Some of the most awesome Real Programmers of all work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. Many of them know the entire operating system of the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft by heart. With a combination of large ground-based FORTRAN programs and small spacecraft-based assembly language programs, they are able to do incredible feats of navigation and improvisation - hitting ten-kilometer wide windows at Saturn after six years in space, repairing or bypassing damaged sensor platforms, radios, and batteries. Allegedly, one Real Programmer managed to tuck a pattern-matching program into a few hundred bytes of unused memory in a Voyager spacecraft that searched for, located, and photographed a new moon of Jupiter.
The current plan for the Galileo spacecraft is to use a gravity assist trajectory past Mars on the way to Jupiter. This trajectory passes within 80 +/-3 kilometers of the surface of Mars. Nobody is going to trust a PASCAL program (or a PASCAL programmer) for navigation to these tolerances.
As you can tell, many of the world's Real Programmers work for the U.S. Government - mainly the Defense Department. This is as it should be. Recently, however, a black cloud has formed on the Real Programmer horizon. It seems that some highly placed Quiche Eaters at the Defense Department decided that all Defense programs should be written in some grand unified language called "ADA" ((C), DoD). For a while, it seemed that ADA was destined to become a language that went against all the precepts of Real Programming - a language with structure, a language with data types, strong typing, and semicolons. In short, a language designed to cripple the creativity of the typical Real Programmer. Fortunately, the language adopted by DoD has enough interesting features to make it approachable - it's incredibly complex, includes methods for messing with the operating system and rearranging memory, and Edsgar Dijkstra doesn't like it . (Dijkstra, as I'm sure you know, was the author of "GoTos Considered Harmful" - a landmark work in programming methodology, applauded by PASCAL programmers and Quiche Eaters alike.) Besides, the determined Real Programmer can write FORTRAN programs in any language.
The Real Programmer is capable of working 30, 40, even 50 hours at a stretch, under intense pressure. In fact, he prefers it that way. Bad response time doesn't bother the Real Programmer - it gives him a chance to catch a little sleep between compiles. If there is not enough schedule pressure on the Real Programmer, he tends to make things more challenging by working on some small but interesting part of the problem for the first nine weeks, then finishing the rest in the last week, in two or three 50-hour marathons. This not only impresses the hell out of his manager, who was despairing of ever getting the project done on time, but creates a convenient excuse for not doing the documentation.
What of the future? It is a matter of some concern to Real Programmers that the latest generation of computer programmers are not being brought up with the same outlook on life as their elders. Many of them have never seen a computer with a front panel. Hardly anyone graduating from school these days can do hex arithmetic without a calculator. College graduates these days are soft - protected from the realities of programming by source level debuggers, text editors that count parentheses, and "user friendly" operating systems. Worst of all, some of these alleged "computer scientists" manage to get degrees without ever learning FORTRAN! Are we destined to become an industry of Unix hackers and PASCAL programmers?
From my experience, I can only report that the future is bright for Real Programmers everywhere. Neither OS\370 nor FORTRAN show any signs of dying out, despite all the efforts of PASCAL programmers the world over. Even more subtle tricks, like adding structured coding constructs to FORTRAN have failed. Oh sure, some computer vendors have come out with FORTRAN 77 compilers, but every one of them has a way of converting itself back into a FORTRAN 66 compiler at the drop of an option card - to compile DO loops like God meant them to be.
Even Unix might not be as bad on Real Programmers as it once was. The latest release of Unix has the potential of an operating system worthy of any Real Programmer - two different and subtly incompatible user interfaces, an arcane and complicated teletype driver, virtual memory. If you ignore the fact that it's "structured", even 'C' programming can be appreciated by the Real Programmer: after all, there's no type checking, variable names are seven (ten? eight?) characters long, and the added bonus of the Pointer data type is thrown in - like having the best parts of FORTRAN and assembly language in one place. (Not to mention some of the more creative uses for #define.)
No, the future isn't all that bad. Why, in the past few years, the popular press has even commented on the bright new crop of computer nerds and hackers ( and ) leaving places like Stanford and M.I.T. for the Real World. From all evidence, the spirit of Real Programming lives on in these young men and women. As long as there are ill-defined goals, bizarre bugs, and unrealistic schedules, there will be Real Programmers willing to jump in and Solve The Problem, saving the documentation for later.