Computer Programmer

This is probably the most satisfying job I have ever had. It is creative and one can follow a project from inception to completion. Also, It's not too physical, which is important for anyone more than forty.

One of the problems of construction you often have to work alongside those who are not the brightest. The IQ level of those involved with programming is above average. One of the concerns of getting old, is the knowledge that the average IQ declines with age. Thankfully this decline is not spread evenly over the population. It seems to be concentrated in three sub-populations:

  • People who abuse alcohol and drugs.
  • Those unfortunates who have had an illness or accident.
  • And those in whom it has atrophied because of lack of use. Use it or lose it.

Age slows all activities down. including thinking. If I take an IQ test with no time limit then my decline is only a few points over the last twenty years. If there is a time limit then the drop may be as high as 15 or 20 points.

Becoming a good programmer does not happen overnight. There is much to be learnt. Only a good programmer is qualified to judge the abilities of another programmer. The managers by and large can't do it.

Moving from construction seems a major departure, but many skills are common to both occupations. A major part of programming is the analysis phase. This means breaking a job down into its smallest pieces, I have been doing this for 30 years, first as a planning engineer, then building as a contractor.

The cost of entry as an independent programmer/consultant is fairly low when you consider premises and tools. Compared to setting up a cabinet shop this in nothing. Programming can be done from home without upsetting the neighbours. Hardware requirements have increased over the years. Now, you need one top notch computer and a few older computers networked together, a printer, suitable software, and a fast Internet connection.

Rent is a relatively minor cost of staying in business. Hardware and software should not be regarded as capital costs but annual expenditures. Both constantly need to be upgraded and this is expensive. A high speed Internet connection is a new expense. The industry is constantly changing and books and magazines are a necessity. The cost of staying current can match the rent. Salary is the biggest cost, assuming it gets paid.

The biggest problem of developing a program is that income can lag expenses my many months if not years. It takes a long time to produce a worthwhile program. The easy programs were written a long time ago. Today's programs are complex and potential customers are demanding. Microsoft's windowing environment requires a lot of work. Independents rarely make it.

Programming is an anti social activity. You spend long hours sitting in front of a machine rarely talking to humans. I can handle long days provided there are long breaks between periods of work.