AOH :: REALPROG.TXT|
A rant about what language real programmers use. Cute, sorta
(1776) Mon 28 Feb 94 22:50
By: George Kalemanis
Re: Pt 1/2: Humor about Programming Languagues
From: email@example.com (George Kalemanis)
Organization: Youngstown State/Youngstown Free-Net
Yes I'v hear of it, and here it is!
- Real Programmers Don't Write Pascal -
. Back in the good old days - the "Golden Era" of computers, it was easy to
separate the real men from the boys (sometimes called "Real Men" and the
"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:
. They talked in capital letters, you understand. 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 (1) points out that Real
Men don't relate to anything, and aren't afraid of being impersonal. But, as
usual, times chance. 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
understand their very own personal computer. The Real Programmer is in danger
of becoming extinct, of being replaced by high school students with Commodores
and Ataris (edited for taste). There is a clear need to point out the
differences between the typical high-school junior Pac-Man player and the 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 to explain to
the employer 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 very
. The easiest way to tell a Real Programmer from the crowd is by the
programming language he or she uses. Real Programmers use Fortran. Quiche
Eaters use Pascal. Nicklaus Wirth, the designer of Pascal, gave a talk once at
which he was asked, "How do you pronounce your name?" He replied, "You can call
me by my name, pronouncing it 'Veert', or you can call me by my value, 'Worth'
". One can immediately tell from this comment that Nicklaus Wirth is a Quiche
Eater. The only parameter passing mechanism that Real Programmers endorse is
"call by value - return", as implimented in the IBM/370 FORTRAN G and H
compilers. Real Programmers don't need all those abstract concepts to get their
jobs done, they are perfectly happy with a keypunch, a FORTRAN IV compiler, and
Real Programmers do List Processing in FORTRAN.
Real Programmers do String Manipulation in FORTRAN.
Real Programmers do Accounting (if they do it at all) in FORTRAN.
Real Programmers do Artificial Intellegence programs in FORTRAN. If you can't
do it in FORTRAN, do it in Assembly Language, or its not worth doing.
1.2 Structured Programming
. The academics in computer science have gotten into the "Structured
Programming" rut over the past several years. They claim that programs are more
clearly understood if the programmer uses some special language constructs, of
course, and examples they use to show their point of view invariably fit on a
single page of some obscure journal or another - clearly not enough of an
example to convince anyone. When I got out of school, I thought I was the best
programmer in the world. I could write an unbeatable tic-tac-toe program, use
five different computer languages, and create 1000 line programs that WORKED
(really)!! Then I got out into the Real World. My first task was to read and
understand a 20,000 line FORTRAN program, then speed it up by a factor of two.
Any Real Programmer will tell you that all the Structured Coding in the world
will not help you solve a problem like that - it takes actual talent. Some
quick observations on Real Programmers and Structured Programming:
Real Programmers aren't afraid to use GOTO's.
Real Programmers can write five-page long DO loops without getting confused.
Real Programmers like arithmetic IF statements - they make the code more
Real Programmers write self-modifying code, especially if they can save 20
nanoseconds in the middle of a tight loop.
Real Programmers don't need comments - the code is obvious. Since FORTRAN
doesn't have structured IF, REPEAT... UNTIL, or CASE statements,
Real Programmers don't have to worry about not using them. Besides, all those
structures can be simulated, when necessary, by using assigned GOTO's.
. Data structures have also gotten alot of press lately. Abstract Data
Types, Structures, Pointers, Lists, and Strings have become quite proular in
certain circles. Nicklaus Wirth (the aformentioned Quiche Eater) actually
managed to write an entire book (2) contending that you could write a program
based on Data Structures instead of the other way around. As all Real
Programmers know, the only useful data structure is the ARRAY. Strings, Lists,
Structures, Sets - they are all just special cases of Arrays and can be treated
that way just as easily without messing up your programming language with all
sorts of complications. The worst thing about fancy data types is that you have
to declare them, and all Real Programming Languages, as we all know, have
implicit typing based on the first letter of the (six character) variable name.
1.3 Operating Systems
. What kind of operating system does the Real Programmer use? CP/M? God
forbid - CP/M, after all, is basically a toy operating system. Even little old
ladies and grade school students can use and understand 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. 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 a UUCP-net, and write advanture games and research
papers. No, your Real Programmer uses OS/370. A good programmer can find and
understand the description of an IJK3051 error message he just got in the JCL
Manual. A great programmer can write JCL without referrig to the JCL manual at
all. A truly outstanding programmer can find bugs buried in a six-Megabyte core
dump without using a hex calculator. OS/370 is a truly remarkable operating
system. It's possible to destory days of work with a single misplaced space (it
happens to the best of us), so alertness in the programming staff is
encouraged. The best way to approach the system is through a k eypunch. Some
people claim that there is a Time Sharing system that runs on OS/370, but after
a careful study I have come to the conclusion that they were mistaken.
(1) Fierstein, B., Real Men Don't Eat Quiche, New York, Pocket Books, 1982
(2) Wirth, N., Algorithms+Data Structures=Programs, Prentice Hall, 1976
1.4 Programming Tools
. What kinds of tools does a real programmer use? In Theorey, a real
programmer could run his programs by keying them into the front panel of a
computer. Back in the days when computers had front panels, this was actually
done occaisionally. Your typical real programmer knew the entire bootstrap
loader by memory in hex, and toggled it in whenever his program destroyed the
bootsrtap. Back then, memory was memory - it didn't go away when the power went
off. Today, memory either forgets things when you don't want it to, or
remembers things long after they're best forgotton. Legend has it that Seymour
Cray (who invented the Cray-1 supercomputer, and most of Control Data's
computers) actually toggled the first operating system for the CDC-7600 in on
the front panel from memory when it was first powered on. Seymour, needless to
say, is a real programmer.
. One of my favorite real programmers was a systems programmer at Texas
Instruments. One day, he got a long distance call from a user whose system had
crashed in the middle of saving some important work. Jim was able to repair the
damage over the telephone, getting the user to toggle the disk I/O instructions
at the front panel, repairing the system tables in hex, reading register
contents back over the telephone. The moral of the story: while a real
programmer usually includes a keypunch and lineprinter in his toolkit, he can
get along with just a front panel and a telephone in emergencies.
. 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 have a single keypunch. The real programmer in this situation has to
work with a text editor program. Most systems supply several text editors to
select from, and the real programmer must be careful to pick the 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 (3). Unfortunately, no real programmer would use a
computer whose operating system is called SmallTalk, and would certainly never
talk to a computer with a mouse.
. Some of the concepts in these Xerox editors have been incorporated into
editors running on more reasonable systems - EMACS and VI being two. The
problem with these editors is that real programmers consider "what you see is
what you get" is just as bad as the concept in text editing as it is in women.
No, the real programmer wants a "you asked for it, you got it" text editor -
complicated, cryptic, powerful, unforgiving, and dangerous. TECO to be precise.
. It has been observed that a TECO command sequence more closely resembles
transmission-line noise than readable text (4). 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 into a once working subroutine.
. For this reason, real programmers are reluctant to actually edit a program
that is close to working. They find it mush easier to just patch the binary
object code directly, using a wonderful program called SUPERZAP. 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 anyone less than a real programmer to do the job - No Quiche Eating
Structured Programmer would even know where to start. This is called Job
. Here are some programming tools that real progrmmers don't use:
. FORTRAN preprocessors like MORTRAN and RATFOR. These are cui-sinarts of
programming - great for making quiche. See comments above on structured
. Source Language Debuggers. Real Programmers can read core dumps.
. Compilers with array bounds checking. They stifle creativity, destory
most of the interesting uses for the EQUIVALENCE statement, and make it
impossible to modify the operating system with negative subscripts. Worst of
all, bounds checking is inefficient.
. Source code maintennance systems. A real programmer keeps the code locked
up in a card file, because it implies that the owner cannot leave important
programs unguarded (5).
(3) Xerox PARC Editors...
(4) Finseth, C. Theorey and Practice of Text Editors - or A Cookbook for an
EMACS, B.S. Thesis, MIT/LCS/TM-165, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, May
(5) Weinberg, G. The Psychology of Computer Programming, New York, Van
Nostrand Reinhold, 1971, p. 110.
5 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-1 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 before the Russkies. Real Programmers
are at work for Boeing, designing 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 Spacecrafts by heart. With the combination of
large groundbased FORTRAN programs and small spacecraft-based assembly language
programs, they are able to do incredible feats of navagation and improvision -
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 plans for the Gali
* Origin: COBRUS - Usenet-to-Fidonet Distribution System (1:2613/335.0)
(1777) Mon 28 Feb 94 22:50
By: George Kalemanis
Re: Pt 2/2: Humor about Programming Languagues
leo spacecraft is to use a gravity assist trajectory past Mars on the way to
Jupiter. This trajectory passes 80 (plus or minus 3) kilometers from the
surface of Mars. Nobody is going to trust a pascal program (or a pascal
programmer for that matter) for navagatin to these tolerances. As you can tell,
many of the world's real programmers work for the US Government - mainly in the
defense department. This is as it should be. Recently, however, a black cloud
has formed on the real programmers 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. For a while it
seemed that ADA was destined to become a language which went against all the p
recepts 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 which
they Do adopted has enough features to make it approachable. Its incredibly
complex, includes methods for messing up the operating system and rearranging
memory, and Edsger Dijkstra doesn't like it (6). Dijkstra, as I'm sure you
know, was the author of "the Go To considered harmful" - a landmark in
programming methodology, applauded by Pascal programmers and quiche eaters
alike. Besides, any determined real programmer can write FORTRAN programs in
. Real Programmers might compromise their principles and work on something
slightly more trivial than the destruction as life as we know it, providing
there's enough money in it. There are several real programmers writing video
games at Atari, for example (but not playing them - a real programmer knows how
to beat them every time - no challenge in that). Everybody at LucasFilm is a
real programmer (it would be crazy to turn down the money of fifty million Star
Trek fans). The proportion of real programmers in computer graphics is slightly
lower than the norm, mainly because nobody has found a use for computer
graphics yet. On the other hand, all computer graphics programming os done in
FORTRAN, so there are a fair number of people doing graphics in order to avoid
writing COBOL programs.
1.6 The Real Programmer at Play
. Generally, the real programmer plays the same way he works - with
computers. The real progrmmer is constantly amazed that his employer pays him
for what he would be doing anyway (although he is careful not to express this
opinion out loud). Occaisionally, a real progrmmer does step out of the office
for a breath of fresh air and a beer or two. Some tips on recognizing real
programmers away from the computer room:
. At a party, the real programmers are the ones in the corner talking about
computer security and how to get around it.
. At a football game, the real programmer is the one comparing the plays
against the simulation printed on 11 by 14 fanfold paper.
. At the beach, the real programmer is the one drawing flowcharts in the
. At the funeral, the real programmer is the one saying "Poor George. And he
almost had his sort routine working before his coronary."
. In the grocery store, the real progrmmer is the one who insists on running
the cans past the laser checkout scanner himself, because he never could trust
keypunch operators to get it right the first time.
* Origin: COBRUS - Usenet-to-Fidonet Distribution System (1:2613/335.0)
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