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What's Your Best Programming Experience?

My best programming experience was when I built this little app that saved my entire company from having to work all weekend.  It was a very simple app to design & implement, but it was a really clever way to save everyone a lot of time.  On the Monday after, I got a standing ovation in the cafeteria, and a 10% raise.  Even though this was just a little two month project I did seven years ago, it's still the highlight of my career.

What's your best programming experience?

Thursday, June 26, 2003

I was hard up for cash last year (aka eating popcorn for dinner), and I went in to a large corporate as a data entry person (this was after running my own consulting company for three years). I ended up doing programming work after an hour of data entry. It took me a week, but I wrote some code that saved the company I was brought in for $50k and 6 months of work. I also completely automated my job. So I went home :(

A day later another division of the same company called me and offered me a consulting contract for five times the amount they were paying me previously. Rumor has it that one of the VPs of this multi-billion dollar affair recommended me personally. Now, that was a good feeling.

Dustin Alexander
Thursday, June 26, 2003

This morning I got up, poured my coffee and stumbled 20 feet (6 metres) to my office and started coding.  Yippeeee!  Remove the stress and I couldn't ask for more.

Our team of programmer
Thursday, June 26, 2003

Two heart warming anecdotes:) Recognition from ahigh and saving the day. Two themes that make any good story!
The ultimate form of networking and getting to know the boss - save their company. Happened to me twice in the past (but on a much lower scale than you two!) - both times it saved my job when redundancies hit. Its not long remembered though. The problem with saving the day is that in the future, when you "mention it in passing", it reminds them more of the fact that someone screwed up in the first place. If that is the MD in the first place, then ....

Thursday, June 26, 2003

It was when I learned how to program at night school, then got a job in a bank and wrote a program to transfer all odd cents into my account.

No, wait, that was a Superman movie...

Anonymous Coward
Thursday, June 26, 2003

I brought in a big new product on deadline and on spec and everything, in a process I would never go through again.

On the launch night, before she went to the launch, the marketing VP was in development going over all the functions - checking one last time - and went sort of hysterical with joy. She told the development director to buy me a car. ( Next day the development director conveniently forgot about this.)

Thursday, June 26, 2003

When I deciced to change careers from telecom engineering to software engineering, started writing programs for my wife (a speech therapist) to use with patients.

After several years, I started a company ( ) to produce, market and sell the programs.

"Our results with your programs are miraculous. We are seeing great results with clients who are using the
software with care givers and volunteers as well as with certified speech
pathologists. "

We get a lot of email and calls like that.  It's wonderfully validating.

However, dealing with the public isn't all fun. I once had a customer complain about the price "because I know it only costs you a $1 to copy your software to a CD".  and "I hate to see you profitting from my husband's stroke".

Sighhh.... I should have offered them a free copy of Atlas Shrugged ;-)  My wife said I should have asked "why do you hate to seem us feeding our family by helping your husband?"

Friday, June 27, 2003

I've been thinking for about 3 minutes for the answer to this question, and given that after 20 years of successful commercial software development I can't answer it I'm starting to get worried.

Friday, June 27, 2003

I don't see why you can't both be right.

The woman is correct - you are profiting from her husband's misfortune.

You're also correct - without the incentive of profit, the software that would aim her husband probably wouldn't have been written.

Which one weighs more heavily depends on your world view, I don't see how either are wrong in any sort of absolute sense.

And the horse you rode in on
Friday, June 27, 2003

About 10 years ago - before I'd ever heard of traveling salesman algorithms - I wrote a program to minimize the path of an adhesive dispenser. I didn't like the path that the manufacturer's software was spitting out, and I knew a better solution could be had.

I wasn't a programmer at the time, so it took me 4-5 days to write in C, which I barely knew. My boss didn't want me "wasting" time on it, but I knew I was onto something and in the end I improved the throughput for the adhesive dispensing operation by 11%.

By itself, it doesn't sound like much of a feat.  But overall it was huge! The adhesive dispensing was the process bottleneck for a product that we were shipping as fast as we could build. I kicked Herbie's ass. We were able to ship an additional $1M in product (~ $300K in profit) that year with no other changes to the process.

The downside is that I got no great recognition for it, but it did turn me on to programming.

Friday, June 27, 2003

I co-wrote a video game that I still come across people playing. Theyre obviously having fun. I watched one couple play it for a couple of hours.

That both cheers me up - the thought that I've lightened people's lives, and depresses me because at the moment I work for a bank that's being extremely rude to me.

Katie Lucas
Friday, June 27, 2003

Which game was that, Katie?

Friday, June 27, 2003

Right now I'm working on moving my clients over to an Oracle system from an old broken 4D system.  Part of that is automating all of the reporting that they had to do by hand.  The best that the old program could do was dump the data in tab-delimited format, and they'd have to load it into excel and format.  Not to mention the much dancing around the broken 4D implementation.

Now I have much of the reports done up in Excel VB using ADO to get the data from the Oracle database.  I figure I've saved them over 2 weeks a year of secretary time so far.  I've still got another 10 or so reports to build as well.

Ignoring the fact that writing these reports is about as fun as poking myself in the eye (I have all the libraries I need written, its just copy/paste/change column names now), its rather rewarding having someone go "Oh my god, you just saved me about a day of work".

Andrew Hurst
Friday, June 27, 2003

At my last employer I wasn't in a programming position but they needed a replacement for some DOS software that managed about three hundred students. We looked at the Windows version of the same software but it wouldn't even install correctly. Since I was administering the student programme I resolved to write my own software on a part-time basis whilst continuing with my day job.

I used Access 2.0 (it was a few years ago) and after ten months and about 20 KLOC, it was done. I got them to buy the Access Developer's Toolkit so that it could be installed on machines without Access and I even wrote a proper Windows help file for it. I had been using it myself as I was developing it; there's nothing like eating your own dog food to focus the mind!

They were still using it some three years later when I left :-)

John Topley (
Friday, June 27, 2003

I was helping a friend build a website that had a fairly complicated PHP codebase that interfaced with a database.

We decided to try pair programming.  It was a blast.  We really enjoyed our time, the code was robust as a result of both of us looking at it, and the website ended up being fabulous.

Brent P. Newhall
Friday, June 27, 2003

Horse wrote "The woman is correct - you are profiting from her husband's misfortune."

Actually... I was profitting from helping her husband to RECOVER.  I didn't make a dime when he had his stroke.

And it didn't object to the word "profit" I objected to her attituted.  The attitude she had was "Something bad happened and you must be here to help me right?  I am ENTITLED to a solution.  That's why you're here. Now, why are you also profitting from this?"

It's the presumption that I'm here only FOR HER. It's an entitlement mentality.

Monday, June 30, 2003

"there's nothing like eating your own dog food to focus the mind!"

All programmers should eat thier own dog food. 

I support my own software and it makes it much, much better. And that's our key advantage over our competition.

Monday, June 30, 2003

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