Developer divide: 19 generations of computer programmers

If you've been coding for any amount of time, you will probably recognize many of these generational traits in yourself, your coworkers, and the programming community at large.

By Peter Wayner, InfoWorld |  Software, programming

IBM 1620

This IBM 1620 was where most of us learned to program a computer. Under the tutelage of Professor Nimitz, we wrote code in Fortran on punch cards, which the computer compiled into an enormous stack of cards, which held the commands in machine language. To execute the program, you fed the big stack into the computer, and if there was a single error, you had to throw out the entire stack and start over. An entire corner of the computer lab was fenced off as a disposal area for the waste cards.


If you're searching for a fountain of youth, the easiest way to get that feeling of continual rebirth is to hang around a few tech product launches. Every new rollout comes with the fresh, unabashed feeling that this has never been done before. Ever.

[Programmer picks: 6 tools for rapid mobile development and Microsoft C# named programming language of 2012]

But it has. Apple has been bringing us "one more thing" for more than 30 years. Even the iconic commercial introducing the Macintosh is nearing 29 years old. Newness has never been so old.

[ Get paid for your IT war stories. Send your tale to; if we publish it, you'll receive a $50 American Express gift cheque. | Learn how to work smarter, not harder with InfoWorld's roundup of all the tips and trends programmers need to know in the Developers' Survival Guide. Download the PDF today! | Keep up with the latest developer news with InfoWorld's Developer World newsletter. ]

Hype notwithstanding, the computer industry has already been through a number of generations. IBM has roots in tabulating companies that began about 130 years ago. That's three 40-year generations of tabulation and computing work without overlap.

In practice, new generations overlap quite a bit. The Internet is easily more than 30 years old, but it wasn't widely open to nonresearchers until about 20 years ago. During those 20 years, there have been at least three different bubbles, each with a feeling all its own.

Originally published on InfoWorld |  Click here to read the original story.
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