Friday, January 15, 2021

How No-Code Solved My Quest to Become a "Real Programmer"

[Note: I'm adding this post because of a secret shame of mine; namely that I once programmed in BASIC.  Apparently, according to experts, that fact alone can make it impossible for you to ever be a “real programmer”].  

I started out learning to program in Commodore BASIC and FORTRAN and then moved on to a simple symbolic programming language at Litton ABS.  I (and many others) managed to crank out quite a few useful and marketable programs using those languages.  Soon though I realized that “real programmers” worked with serious business-oriented languages like COBOL.

Fortunately, I got my chance to step up to developing in COBOL when I snagged a job at a large local company.  Once I got up to speed with the language I managed to turn out some decent software for the company's service bureau operation.  I even took some pride in my status as an accomplished COBOL programmer.  

However, as time went on I began to hear that COBOL was a dinosaur and “real programmers” used much more sophisticated languages like C or C++.  So I dutifully began studying C and created a few programs.  Before I got too far though I read that the new frontier was Windows and I needed to get up to speed quickly on Windows programming if I wanted to be a “real programmer”.

Visual Basic was relatively new back then and seemed to be the fastest way to get started in Windows.  I immediately acquired a copy of Visual Basic 5 and began writing some programs in VB.  Unfortunately, about the time I got comfortable with VB, Microsoft decided to dump Visual Basic in favor of VB.NET.  Since all “real programmers” were jumping into .NET I bought a copy of VB.NET and went to work learning that. 

No sooner had I managed to fire up VB.NET and write an application or two than a friend assured me that “real programmers” used C# or Java and that VB AND VB.NET were primarily for “hobbyist” or amateur programmers.  To write an enterprise-level application you HAD to use C# or Java.  AND you had to be sure you were using object-oriented programming – old school “action-oriented” programming was for senile old codgers who couldn't adjust to the new frontier of programming.

After mumbling a bit to myself I acquired a copy of C#, read a couple of books on object-oriented programming, and took a BrainBench exam to assure myself I was up to speed on C#.  It took some doing but I finally felt like I was ready to start working with C# - only to find out that “real programmers” were moving from desktop applications to web programming.  So I detoured away from .NET and launched into PHP, PERL, and Python.

Before I could even get well started on any of those languages I read that if you were serious about web programming you should be working with ASP.NET.  Great – I already knew VB.NET and C#, the main languages used in ASP.NET.  About that time I found out that I had to whip together an ASP.NET application in a big hurry, so I bought an ASP.NET code generator, let it build the framework and just modified the code it generated.  Then I discovered that only the pitiful and incompetent used code generators - “real programmers” built everything from scratch.

Gritting my teeth, I resolved to do all my coding in C# from then on no matter how long it took and found myself at peace at last, my race to keep up with “real programmers” finally won.  And then I read that C# and all the commonly used programming languages were becoming obsolete.  The new thing was “functional” languages like Haskell and Scala that let you approach programming in a completely different way - and there were a whole host of these new languages that you needed to be familiar with if you were going to be a “real programmer”.  

At that point, I more or less gave up - but now, finally, I can stop worrying about keeping up with the latest programming trends and just take advantage of the no-code frameworks that have sprung up in recent years. I'm writing (drag and dropping) programs again, creating all kinds of applications just like I did all those years ago. I may not be on the cutting edge of software development, but I'm  definitely back in the game - thanks to no-code platforms. 

 - Paul E. Love (posting as "nocoder")