Shrinking market for hardcore programmers?

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Shrinking market for hardcore programmers?

Postby Pixel_Outlaw » Thu Oct 24, 2013 6:14 pm

I know that many people here do not live in the United States as I do.

For a long time now I've searched for work that would take advantage of true programmers.
I've read "The Story of Mel, a Real Programmer" and I'm not suggesting we go back to assembly instruction programming.

My concern is that technicians are not making quality software.
Honestly I hate how everything is done through a browser.
People who are application programmers simply are forced to become web programmers or pursue other work.
Companies that once might have had "in house" programmers simply buy crappy middle ware so they can blame somebody else.

Anyone else feel the same?
A bit sad at the shrinking job market for traditional programmers?
Web programmer market seems to be killing it off quickly.
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Re: Shrinking market for hardcore programmers?

Postby edgar-rft » Fri Oct 25, 2013 1:04 pm

Gerald Jay Sussman (author of SICP) about Why MIT switched from Scheme to Python in their introductionary computer science course:

In 1980, good programmers spent a lot of time thinking, and then produced spare code that they thought should work. [...] But programming today isn't like that. Nowadays you muck around with incomprehensible or nonexistent man pages for software you don’t know who wrote. You have to do basic science on your libraries to see how they work, trying out different inputs and seeing how the code reacts. This is a fundamentally different job...

Software (and hardware as well) today is a low-cost business. You usually have time and money limits that you cannot exceed.

This has the good consequence that today computers are cheap. When I was a school boy in the early 1970s I still had to learn math using a slide rule and table books because even simple pocket calculators were too expensive. Computers at that time were multi-million dollar machines that only were used at the NASA and similar organisations, because normal people did not have the money to pay such machines.

This has the bad consequence that today computers (hardware and software) must be cheap, otherwise only a very small group of people will buy them. If you have deveolpment costs of say one million dollars (arbitrary amount) and you sell one million pieces, then the development costs are one dollar per piece, what is cheap. If you sell only thousand pieces, then the development costs suddenly are thousand dollars per piece, what is rather expensive. This is the main reason why the price of high-quality but low-quantity products is excessively higher than the price of low-quality but high-quantity mass products. In reality the development costs of both are not much different, it's mainly the estimated number of sellable pieces that makes the price difference per piece. The customer in the store of course only sees the price difference without knowing how it came to be, and then usually chooses the cheaper product.

This has the sad consequence that quality is (and ever was) an elitist business. The mass market consumers are either satisfied with low-level quality or they just simply do not have the money to buy high-quality products. But under the laws of economics it's not possible to produce low-cost high-quality products, because there are not enough buyers to keep the costs per piece low. Sometimes economics can have silly consequences.

If you're looking for a quality job you must look really hard and often go through a series of minor-quality jobs to find what you're looking for. I've never found a good job on the first try. Hopefully you're more lucky than me.

The increasing numer of web-based software has a different reason. Since the first appearance of home computers and digital CD-players in the early 1980s it's clearly forseeable that radio, television, telephone, and everything that has to do with audio, video, text and data transmission will end up in one single machine. This happened first via the internet and desktop PCs, and now the internet has entered the mobile phones. This has to the consequence that today GUIs must be capable to run not only on the screens of desktop PCs but also in web browsers and on the small screens of mobile phones, otherwise a GUI will have no chance on the future market, where the transmission network itself will be the main future technology, not a specific hardware platform. That's why many software companies meanwhile shy away from investing money in hardware-specific software development.

I don't really like the "new" web look of many GUIs either. At home I'm still using FVWM, one of the oldest window managers still alive. But in real life it's the mass market that dictates the business, not the developer or the repair-man. Only at home you're free to use whatever you want.

At least this is my experience of the last 30 years in the electronics business.

RFT = radio/television broadcast technician = analog and digital audio/video hardware electrician

- edgar
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Re: Shrinking market for hardcore programmers?

Postby Pixel_Outlaw » Sun Oct 27, 2013 1:04 am

Some very good thoughts there.
The reality seems to be that there are many programmers looking for work and many corporations purchasing off the shelf middleware instead of having an "in house" programmer.

Where are we headed?
I don't want programming to be something left to hobbyist and embedded system designers.
Middware is offensive to people who like to make refined software.
Their hands are bound and control is taken away in the name of hiring unskilled workers.

I'm worried that programming as a craft is being pushed out more and more in society.
Do people still know what a program is?
Now everything is an "app" that works by means of magic in the general population's eyes.
You have certain operating systems that insist on using arguably terrible programming languages as the only option? (since when did a Linux OS NOT support C directly?)

I'm very tired of the market only catering to C#/Java/PHP (and heaven forbid all the Visual Brainsick in the corporate world)

Just my 2 cents.
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Re: Shrinking market for hardcore programmers?

Postby findinglisp » Tue Oct 29, 2013 5:48 am

I agree with some of your sentiment, but I think it's a lost cause at some level. Every industry goes through the same thing. If you think about cars, for instance, they used to be produced by craftsmen, one at a time. Craft production was very expensive; every car was slightly different. There was no assembly line. If there was a "factory" of sorts, it was merely a set of craftmen, each working on their own car, one at a time. Quality was varied. If the craftsman working on your car was skilled, you got a good car; if not, well, then you didn't.

Ford came along and revolutionized the industry with the assembly line and cheap mass production. Average quality improved and prices went down. You didn't have to be a craftsman to get a job with Ford. You just had to be capable of doing the jobs on the assembly line.

Now, we're seeing most of the rote jobs handed off to industrial robots.

I think there is always a market for a skilled worker, but it won't be with most of the mass producers, and markets tend toward mass producers. In the car business, the craftsmen ended up at places like Rolls Royce and Ferrari. In the programming business, there will also be employers that will hire a good programmer. Personally, I'm seeing this at work, where we have 400 programmers working on a task that should take about 30. Frankly, if you had the 10 RIGHT people, you could do it with that. My own style is that I'm always looking for the 10 right people.
Cheers, Dave
Slowly but surely the world is finding Lisp.
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Re: Shrinking market for hardcore programmers?

Postby SoulFireMage » Thu Oct 31, 2013 4:20 am

It's funny, I've landed here because I'd like to learn Lisp - partly because I'm on a mission to cover fundamentals that old school coders and CS graduates covered as kids. I didn't start coding until about 4 years ago-even then it was off and on as work wasn't meant to be coding.

Still, I find myself a little switched off by the main stream web development world, something about it feels a lot like building prefab hen houses instead of crafting a quality, individual item. Yes, it's business sense not to rebuild everything from scratch, and it's common sense not to reinvent wheels - especially when there are excellent wheel builders out there been doing it for years. However, I'd still like to have the depth of understanding to be able to work out how to build most of my own really.

Probably a tall order, but I dislike the idea of burying my head in ignorance and relying only what has already been done to solve problems; it'd be nice to actually understand underneath sufficiently too.

As far as jobs go, I've seen some at quite high salaries for nothing more than Sharepoint work recently. To me, a somewhat abstracted, individual product by one vendor who may pull support in short years to come. Job requirements listing specific technologies seems to be the mainstream and there are hundreds, making it harder to justify specializing in the fundamentals when career wise, the market is saying I should be swallowing down the latest specific product programming.
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