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Nov 07

The Four Programmers

With apologies to Monty Python

The Scene:

  • Four strangely dressed men are sitting together at a vacation resort.

First Programmer

Now that’s a good cup of coffee.

Second Programmer

Nothing like a tall cup of Sumatra-Arabica blend, eh Dennis?

Third Programmer

You’re right there, Ken.
Fourth Programmer

Who’d have thought thirty years ago we’d all be sittin’ here drinking Sumatra-Arabica blend, eh?

First Programmer

In those days we were glad to have the price for a can of Jolt.

Fourth Programmer

Without ice or a glass.

Third Programmer

Or caffeine.

First Programmer

In a shaken up warm can.

Fourth Programmer

Oh, we didn’t have cans. We had to drink it out of rolled up greenbar.

Second Programmer

The best we could manage was to spill it on our shirts, and then suck at them.

Third Programmer

But you know, we were happy in those days, though we were programming in Assembly.
First Programmer

Because we were programming in Assembly! My old Boss used to say to me “Fortran won’t bring you happiness, Dennis.”

Fourth Programmer

Yeah, that’s true. I was happier then, and I had nothin’ but Emacs and a VT102.

Second Programmer

VT102!? You were lucky to have a VT102. I used to have to program on a VT52, in VI. And every other day the server would have to go through a scheduled reboot.

Third Programmer

Eh, you were lucky. I had to program in TECO
First Programmer

I used to dream of getting to program in TECO! It would have been so much better on my carpal tunnel syndrome (shakes his wrists and grimaces). I used to program in edlin on a teletype, and the server would crash three times a day without notice.

Fourth Programmer

Well, when I said Emacs, it was really only sed and some fancy shell scripts I wrote, but it was Emacs to me.

Second Programmer

I wasn’t allowed to use sed. My Boss said we couldn’t afford the license for it. I had to use echo.

Third Programmer

You were lucky to have echo! I used to have to punch holes in cards and stick em in a shoebox.
First Programmer

Cardboard shoebox?

Third Programmer

Yeah.

First Programmer

You were lucky. I had to carry around my punch cards in a grocery bag, and stick into a server that would give back to me all crumpled and torn. I worked 15 hours a day for a dollar an hour and when I got back to my apartment the roaches would skitter around the room singing to me.

Second Programmer

Luxury. I had to carry my cards in a wet napkin, stick ’em in a machine that rebooted every 4 1/2 hours and eat every 15th card. At night I had to sleep in the computer lab, cause my Boss insisted that I was receiving school credit, and I had to support all the wannabe programmers all night long.
Third Programmer

Well, of course, I had it tough. I had to carry my cards around in a flaming barbecue pit, stick ’em into a machine that would fail every 30 minutes and spent 10 minute rebooting. My boss made me do his laundry for free every week, and I had to sleep in the machine room.

Fourth Programmer

Right. I had to wire the computer by hand, carry around a bag of vacuum tubes to fix all the ones that failed. The heat from the computer would set my clothes on fire, and I had to spend 12 hours a day picking moths out of the wiring. My boss forced me to write all his papers and raise his children, and I lived underneath the floor of the machine room and spent the whole night listening to the drives go thumpety-thumpety-thumpety.

First Programmer

And you try to tell the young people of today that – and they won’t believe you!


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