A Reader Explains Why Programmers Are So Grumpy
September 12, 2018, 09:23 PM
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Re: John Derbyshire's blog post Government And The Installed Base: "It's Complicated"

From: An Anonymous Philosopher [Email him]

I enjoyed John Derbyshire’s comments on programming and the installed base in his last podcast. It brought to mind a question which has puzzled me and plagues my working life: “Why are programmers (developers/software engineers) invariably such unhappy, grumpy a**holes?”.

My theory turns on the idea that programmers ought to be called “software engineers”. Derbyshire doesn’t like the label nor do I, but it reflects an important truth, viz. that the kind of people who are programmers today (at least the good ones) are exactly the kind of people who, in an earlier age, would have been real engineers. Civil, Electrical, Mechanical, Aeronautical….  In those roles, they would have been leaders of men. They would have been the only guys in a tie, walking around the shop floor or the construction site with a clipboard and a slide rule, directing the guys in coveralls. And when they had finished a project—the new bridge, plane or skyscraper—the world would marvel and applaud at what they had wrought.

Now that same guy sits in a cubicle all day. No one talks to him. He is the boss of no one. No one, including his boss, has any idea what he does or how hard it is. The systems he constructs are taken for granted by everyone, except when they fail, and then everyone yells at him.

From Isambard Kingdom Brunel to Dilbert.

No wonder they are ticked off.