John Carmack: still learning about programming

Credit: flickr/Official GDC

After Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Quake, and Rage, you might think Carmack has programming figured out. He doesn't think so.

During his keynote presentation during QuakeCon2012 in Dallas earlier this month, John Carmack spent three and a half hours discussing a range of subjects (YouTube). Andrew J. Ko on the University of Washington blog transcribed the parts he called, “John Carmack discusses the art and science of software engineering.”

Ko's surprise? That “software engineering is actually a social service.” Carmack admits “programers are making mistakes all the time and constantly.” He runs all code through static analysis to get it “squeaky clean” but would like to “restrict programmers even more because we make mistakes constantly.”

Good for Carmack

That’s the voice of an older pro­gram­mer, some­one who’s been through a lot of work and whose clas­sic younger-programmer self assur­ance has gone. It’s com­fort­ing to know that it hap­pens even to Carmack.

Byrd on

Part of it is that he really does spend 8+ hours per day coding, every weekday, and has done so for 20 years. You'd think his experience level there is about as high as you can get, so it's always cool to hear him talk about the new things he's still learning at his work.

adastra on

I have a lot of respect for Carmack. He is down to earth and knows what he is talking about because he actually does the work. Also he is legitimitely excited about things and can admit making errors

pastyfaced on

I really do believe software is a scientific (and mathematical) exercise. The problem is most of industry does not treat it as such, and hence we end up in the mess we are in.

nightski on

Restrictive languages

Imag­ine an IDE where you lit­er­ally can’t write a bug — per­haps all of NASA’s strict bug check­ing is auto­mat­i­cally imple­mented as you write code

Technohazard on

NASA's software isn't the most complicated stuff in computing. But they are designed to be bug free. It's not as hard to? produce very complicated software, as it is to make something correct and reliable.

HornetBlack on

As an industry, we really need to bear in mind that different business domains need radically different approaches to software engineering.

HeyLaughingBoy on

However …

as a researcher who’s well aware of the past 40 years of research on this topic, I’m not opti­mistic. Most of these approaches only work well in a small num­ber of sit­u­a­tions and are com­pletely use­less in other sit­u­a­tions.

ajko on

As much as I respect John Carmack, I have to say that I'm a little disappointed that he is rehashing this meme of software development not being a science.

benthumb on

Is programming art of science? If both, what's the ratio of art to science?

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