CSCI 6448

Object Oriented Analysis and Design

Course Location
   ECCS 1B12

Course Time
   TR 12:30 PM - 01:45 PM

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MacLeod Quotes

This page contains two quotes from Ken MacLeod's book Cosmonaut Keep, that I mentioned in Lecture 2. These quotes capture one person's thoughts on how the job of a programmer or software engineer will evolve in the future. The book contains additional comments/insights on this topic but they are too embedded in the story to stand on their own. I'm a big fan of science fiction and I highly recommend this book! Note: the quotes below are taken from a character who lives at least 100 years in the future, perhaps more (no specific dates are given), in Edinburgh, Scotland. As such, I like the second quote's implication that Slashdot will still be around!

FAIR WARNING: Some of the language and/or ideas contained in these quotes is considered offensive by some. These quotes are not required material for this class and they can be safely skipped. Having said this, I have elided one expletive below denoted ....

All quotes are © Ken MacLeod, 2001.

On being a software engineer...

Software project management has always been like herding cats. So I've been told, anyway, by old managers, between snorts of coke in the trendy snow-bars where they blow their well-hedged pension funds. In their day, though, the cats were human, or at least the kind of guys who are now code-geeks. These days, the programmers are programs, as are the systems analysts. My job as a project manager is to assemble a convincing suite of AIs—not untried, but not too far behind the curve, either—then let loose marketing strategy webcrawlers to parade their skills before the endless bored beauty-contest of the agencies' business 'bots, take the contracts and ride herd on the whole squabbling mob when a deal comes in.

You need something almost like people skills to do it, but you need to be practically borderline Asperger's syndrome to develop these skills with AI. And when you need code-geeks for the bottom-level stuff, you need to be something of a sociable animal after all. It's a sufficiently rare combination to be worth more than the average wage. I'm an artist, not a technician. It pays the bills.

On being an old programmer...

Old programmers never die. They just move over to legacy systems.

They even look that way. Early adopters to the last, they don't pop telomere tabs and mitochondrial mixers like the rest of us—no, they have to try out untried biotech, so they tend to look a bit patchy: gray skins-and-smooth beards sort of thing. Jadey, Jason, and I circle cautiously around the edge of a raucous, twenty-strong clot of the old villains, all quaffing beer and talking at the tops of their voices.

"What's with the ... news?" someone's saying, shaking his head and blinking hard. "I can't get CNN, can't even get Slashdot..."

This particular clique aren't all programmers. Sometime half a century ago, back in the nineties, their social circle overlapped that of the Scottish literary intelligentsia. Neither group's fashion sense has exactly moved with the times. The writers wear variously distressed jackets in fake-prolo denim or fake-macho leather; the coders go more for multipocketed waistcoats laden with the hardware for hardware fixes—Gerber and Leatherman multitools, Victorinox Swiss Army knives, Maglite torches, and over-faded trade-fair T-shirts: Sun, Bull, SCO, Oracle, Microsoft... This isn't irony, this is advertising—not of the products or the companies (most of them long gone), but of the skills, not at all redundant, of hacking their legacy code.

© Ken Anderson, 1998-2003.
Last Updated: 2/4/03; 12:12 PM