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Moshe Bar is giving up programming ... too old

I thought the whole age thing only effected 2nd rate hacks such as myself.  I thought uber-programmers would ride off into the sunset, coding happily all the way.  I really respect this guy.  He has the PhD to back up all of that real-world experience (or vice-versa, if you prefer). 

"I am studying law because at my age I already see how much faster younger programmers are than me. Back when I was in my early twenties nobody could beat me at programming. Nowadays, when I sit next to people like Andrea Arcangeli, I realize that programming, too, (even considering the advantage of experience) is for the young. Perhapes extreme programming, ie good quality, high speed programming, should be considered a sport and not an art or science or a skill. Since, I do not see myself being a programmer at 60 years (which is more than years from now), I deduced that I have to find a new job between then and now.  Law is something that really goes well with progressing age. "

I know this isn't indicative of anything in particular and doesn't prove any points one way or the other, I just thought it was kind of sad.

Johnny Simmson
Friday, June 07, 2002

"I know this isn't indicative of anything in particular and doesn't prove any points one way or the other, I just thought it was kind of sad."

Well it's just the way it is. Can't expect Michael Jordan to play as good as he was when he's about 40. But, on the other hand, as a person gain more experience and $, he or she should not be doing coding. Instead, he can be a consultant, an invester, system engineer, technical management, tc..

Sam Wong
Friday, June 07, 2002

I'd say it's probably just burn out. If he doesn't feel up to it anymore than that's his choice. I'm sure there are contributions he could make without getting into some testosterone programming, or more likely hacking (not cracking), competition with "upcoming stars".

Alex Moffat
Saturday, June 08, 2002

Yes, that bit in the interview about not being able to keep up with upcoming programming stars struck me as odd.  I like the way that the previous poster described it as "testosterone programming."  I don't see programming as a hot-shot jock competition, but maybe some people do.

Sunday, June 09, 2002

>>>Well it's just the way it is. Can't expect Michael Jordan to play as good as he was when he's about 40.<<<

People do slow down with age, but I expect that software development is something that most people will be able to do quite well until rather late in life unless affected by some debilitating affliction such as stroke or Altzheimer's.  We'll have to wait until software has been around for a few more decades to tell.

The comparison to professional sports is particularly inappropriate.  There is not much fast response physical action required.  I know one 80 year old who does alright with keyboard and mouse to run AutoCAD for his mechanical drawings when he would have a bit more difficulty due to his arthritis if he had to do it the old fashioned way and hold a pencil for hours of drawing.  These days his customers require the AutoCAD files, so the choice is made for him; fortunately it works out for the better.

Sunday, June 09, 2002

Moshe Bar makes a big mistake in taking speed as a primary indicator of programming ability. There's also design quality. Right now, I'm fixing some code done by a hot-shot ...  he probably wrote the code 2x faster than I could have but he also wrote about 5x more code than he should have, so I would have done it faster than he if we'd been in a race.

Yes, it is natural for the "older and wiser" to move into consulting/architecting/etc. ... but this also means that one spends a lot of time checking things. If there's enough time, this can be used to teach/mentor; but there's never enough time. Anyway, it's good to get back into coding from time to time; otherwise, one loses track of what the technologies can and can't do (there's so much hype; and the technologies are still so immature that small details can make a big difference when integrating).

[I'm a 25+ year veteran ... and I didn't start programming when I was 7.]

Sunday, June 09, 2002

I didn't start programming when I was 7

I did.  One rainy afternoon with my ZX81 :)

Still, I only started doing it properly last year.

Ged Byrne
Sunday, June 09, 2002

I think you're overanalyzing things.  Moshe recently got married.  I can only assume kids will be on the way.  I personally think he just wants a more stable, longterm career.  Tech isn't it, at least, if you're looking for any semblance of a well balanced life. 

It's great to be an open source guru, but that won't pay his kids college bills.  He is looking to provide services that people are actually willing to pay for.  Reality strikes yet another previously unencumbered youngin'. 

Sunday, June 09, 2002


Well, I think my post is quite clear. I didn't mean, say, an 80-year-old couldn't do anything related to a computer. I just meant people at different ages do different jobs. Just like an NBA player can turn to coaching. The analogy is not that bad. :)

Sam Wong
Sunday, June 09, 2002

There is one large difference between programming and sports.

Lets consider some companies that build fences for a living.

The company that builds fences for a living might be the best fence building company in the world. They might even do things like taking in account the acids in the soil, and mix the cement for each post in a special fashion. However, that fantastic fence building company will not in general do two times the amount of fence in a day when compared to the next fence building company. As mentioned, they might have twice the quality, and the resulting fences will probably last more than twice as long as the company that does not build quality fences.

However, what is the difference between software and building fences? Hum? The difference is that you can only run to the truck so fast to pick up the building material, and then bring it back, and then place the fence pole in the ground. In other words, there is a physical limitation to fence building.

In software, the product is the result of the mind. There is no physical limitation. In fact, this is why some books mention that a good programmer can have 100 X the output of another developer.  We are not going to see a golfer lower the score against Tiger Woods by a factor of 10x. In fact, not even close. In software these kinds of differences IS TYPICAL ON a given group of people.

While physical ability peaks around the mid to late twenties, many sports people can go further due to the increased mental ability that they gain over time.

Most studies show that mental abilities continue to improve to at least 40 years old, if not later. You can see this in the chess masters. After 40, the effort required to beat the young pups does start to take its toll. In general however, after 40, then experience will let one coast, and run circles around the young pups coming up. The reason here is that we are talking about a product with no physical attributes. Hence, I don’t buy the age thing at all.

However, what I do buy is that things are a good deal more difficult today, then say 15 years ago. I used to know all of kinds of dbaseII/FoxPro developers back then (I was one too...but I also went to University and took computing science). It was real easy back then. Just design some files, and write some code. As soon as some server type software started being used, most of the dbaseX developers quit this profession, and moved on. In fact, a good many stopped when windows came along. Today for commercial applications you need to know sql,, sql-server, ADO record set objects etc etc. In other words, today you need to know *way* more, and have to master *way* more complicated technologies just to write software for a average business. In fact, you need to know more in general just to accomplish a simple task. Those dbaseII programmers did not have the ability, or did not want to make the effort to start learning new environments that were more complex.  Fact is, that every 3, or 4 years you have to learn a new development environment. I guess some get comfortable with their current environment, and don’t have the desire to move on to the next environment. When that happens, it is time to leave.

Fact is, folks...this industry is becoming something for non faint of heart.

Lets not confuse the lack of desire with the lack of mental ability. Software is a mental product, and not one with a physical compound like sports. In fact, this is why I love software:

    “There is a big differacne between the good and the bad!”

Much larger than any profession one can think of. I like this very much.....

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada

Albert D. Kallal
Monday, June 10, 2002

Was I "faster" 20 years ago? Hell yes! I even drove faster ...
I did not have to tout 'round that old drag called experience!
I've learned the hard way the 100's of "issues" that can and will pop up, and my mind immediatly compensates by building in safeguards and assertions for al these. So, this makes that the foobar() that now takes me two days to finish, only used to take me one hour ... excluding the week of rewrites, bug tracking and predictable extention requests of course ;-).

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, June 10, 2002

Tests show again and again that, barring illness, people don't start losing their mental acuity until their seventies.  So, why the preoccupation with youth?  I think anyone with an ounce of common sense realizes that junior isn't going to outcode a serious veteran no matter how talented he is.

Here are my thoughts.  Everyone knows a couple of old-timers who, because of sloth and laziness, haven't kept up their skills.  They somehow get entrenched in the bureaucracy and don't seem to produce anything except for headaches for the rest of us who are at the top of our games.  I think idiots like that give the rest of us a bad name.

Also, when I was twenty-five, I didn't have to worry about teenage children, and teenage children's fender benders, and college tuitions, and mortgages, and retirement funds, and a bad back, and whether or not to send my elderly father to a nursing home, and taxes, and a wife who's just been laid off etc., etc., etc.  It's a heck of a lot easier to code when computers are the only thing on your mind!

Carpe Diem
Monday, June 10, 2002

It's impossible to know if or how age affects programming without actually doing research to find out. Most likely the effect is not the same for everyone or for every type of programming.
I had read some research on the effects of age and it said most mental abilities do not decline until very late in life, as long as a person is healthy and stays mentally and physically active. In some ways, the brain might actually become more efficient, while in other respects it might slow down somewhat. One thing, as I remember, that tends to keep on improving all through life (as long as you keep using it) is verbal ability. It seems to me that learning and using programming languages is mostly a verbal skill. (But that would depend on the type of programming, as some types are more mathematical than others.)
Two factors that might be likely to decrease a programmer's skill are health problems and boredom/burnout, and motivation might be one of the most important factors. It's probably easy to burn out in this field because however hard you try, you can never know everything and you can never be perfect. In my experience, people in other fields (everything else being equal) are appreciated a lot more.
This is my 3rd career and I am not starting over again. I love programming and it's a creative craft, similar to other kinds of writing. You never hear of writers getting too old and having to switch to something less strenuous.

Monday, June 10, 2002

Dang, PC!  What were the 2 previous careers?

those who know me have no need of my name
Monday, June 10, 2002

Writing is different than programming, though, and has a very different structure.  Writers (as a whole) stay at home and write independently whatever they want to, while programmers (as a whole) go into a workplace and program software that they're told to program.  There are exceptions on both sides of that example, but the general rule holds true.

Brent P. Newhall
Tuesday, June 11, 2002

I'm not suer If I will get better with age but I certainly hope so. I'd bet good money that he wants to leave programming because of burn out. Besides, exploring new things, like law, are good for the mind and keep you fresh.

Western thinking does tend to stereotype the growth of a man to peak out at a certain age. I like to look at it from the Eastern approach where the growth of a man is never ending, getting wiser with age. If programming was a race to the finish it might be different, obviously the faster mind would get the reward. But experience and wisdom play too large a roll in development. A product is not finished if it is full of holes, incomplete, or the customer isn't satisfied.

I think he just wants to find something new and fresh to keep his mind happy and growing.

Ian Stallings
Tuesday, June 11, 2002

My two cents:

- I guess Moshe is too tired of competing with other guys. While competition is good, when you wear out a brilliant genius like Moshe you're doing something wrong.
- I would hire Bill Joy over Andrea Arcangelli anytime, any price. Only, of course, if I had a company that designed operating systems or programming languages. For gaming, I'd stick to John Carmack :-)

I sincerely hope Alan Cox and Linus are trying to convince Moshe into continue contributing. It's really sad when programming for fun makes you despise what you do.

Dario Vasconcelos
Friday, June 14, 2002

Moshe can't code for shit, and never could

I mean really, just take a look at this absolute pearl:

from the article...:


#include <stdio.h>
void main( void ){ 
int x;
long y;
y = 28.2839281;
x = 339829;
y = x / y;
printf("Content-Type: text/html\n\n");
printf("Hello, world ");

Notice how I included some simple floating point arithmetic in the C program to make things just a tad tougher.  "

this is the sort of mistake nobody makes.

moshe must have gotten his phd from an incredibly slutty university, but if any of you have been to Israel, you'll quickly see that their tech industry is like a tiny silicon valley, but minus the talent, and with even more money (seriously)

David Maneghan
Tuesday, October 29, 2002

I know many Israeli programmers. Many of them are very talented. Moshe Bar is an exception: He makes a lot of noise and PR, but his prgramming sucks.

So check the facts before you make generalizations. Check out the programming in the real , for example. Not the forked openMOSIX, which has no history but public relations.

An Israeli Programmer
Saturday, April 03, 2004

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