Wednesday 24 November 2004

My career as a programmer

Way back in the olden days men would use pencils to enter numbers in columns on lined paper and, with the aid of black magic, get the debits to equal the credits, thus producing a bona-fide set of accounts. As time went on young ladies would be hired to operate new-fangled devices known as "computers". Mere males were not allowed to touch these machines. We were allowed to stare at the resulting printouts.

Eventually my then boss decided that the two of us should attend a course on computing and get one over the ladies by learning how to program the infernal things. After a week we had a basic knowledge of BASIC and shortly afterwards I was bold enough to answer the optional computing question in a statistics exam. I wrote a program that purported to calculate the standard deviation - not a skill that I've ever needed since I must say. My program had about a dozen lines of code.

And so it was with great interest that I read in the December issue of Aircraft Illustrated magazine an article about the latest upgrade to the RAF's Nimrod maritime reconnaissance aircraft. This plane is a souped-up version of the Comet that made its first flight way back in 1949. I don't suppose that the first Comet carried much in the way of computing power but the new Nimrod more than makes up for that: its on-board Tactical Command System utilises 5,400,000,000 lines of coding. What the hell it all does is a mystery to me but I suspect that it's not good news if you're on a hostile Russian/Iranian/North Korean/French (Oops!) submarine somewhere off the west coast of Lewis.

It's reassuring to know that some of our taxes are spent on protecting us against foreign foes although previous versions of the Nimrod have been known to go ever so slightly over budget. As for myself, twelve lines of code were enough - I'm quite comfortable with the occasional use of Excel and lots of lined paper.

1 comment:

David Farrer said...

Comments made on previous template:

Defending a racist does not make you a racist: 
adj 1: based on racial intolerance; "racist remarks" 2: discriminatory especially on the basis of race or religion [syn: antiblack, anti-Semitic, anti-Semite(a)] n : a person with a prejudiced belief that one race is superior to others [syn: racialist]

10 December 2004, 00:49:51 GMT
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Another sub-human pops up their ugly head. Defending a racist makes you a racist. 
-Having or showing those positive aspects of nature and character regarded as distinguishing humans from other animals: an act of human kindness.  
-Subject to or indicative of the weaknesses, imperfections, and fragility associated with humans: a mistake that shows he's only human; human frailty.  
-Having the form of a human.  
-Made up of humans: formed a human bridge across the ice.  
An entity like Verity which always shows the ugly face of the human, and never the kind and gentle is less than a full human. They lack the rounded beauty of a true person. Hence they are less than the whole, they are incomplete, they are below their potential. They are a sub-human.

28 November 2004, 14:45:01 GMT
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"Equating people (who are often from non-white ethnic groups) needing shelter and protection from violence, rape and torture with "foreign foes" is a deeply racist statement. I consider the person making it to be sub-human." 
Stuart, you are equating criticising 'people' who are only "often from non-white ethnic groups", and therefore include white ethnic groups, with racism. I suggest you look up 'racism'. Moreover the term sub-human is abusive and offensive in much the same way as racism is. It looks to me like a case of the pot calling the kettle dirty.

28 November 2004, 13:39:09 GMT
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Equating people (who are often from non-white ethnic groups) needing shelter and protection from violence, rape and torture with "foreign foes" is a deeply racist statement. I consider the person making it to be sub-human. 
It is not less than an incitement to racial hatred and is completely beyond the bounds of civilised discourse. 
A second group of immigrants are not seeking asylum. They perfectly legitimately move to Scotland to work; and they come overwhelmingly from fellow EU countries, mostly England. They are not "foes" either: they are a vital input in to our economic expansion. 
David, you cannot allow your website to publish promotional material from the British National Party.

28 November 2004, 06:55:02 GMT
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The only foreign foes are the ones who come in on the backs of lorries and claim 'asylum'. For this, you don't need a computer. You need the will and you need a fleet of jumbo jets.

28 November 2004, 00:42:01 GMT
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Rob Read
On average there is "One bug every 10 lines" so 540 million bugs... 
I think thy're programmers were cr4p because the best code is generally the shortest code! 
Programs = Algorythms + Data-Structures 
Defense Programs = Beurocrat + Contractor + other peoples money

25 November 2004, 22:34:27 GMT
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David Farrer
5.4bn lines is what it says!

25 November 2004, 18:15:13 GMT
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I had no idea the old Nimrod was still flying. They must have done some powerful mods on that old girl. 
Sadly, the Brit military is in a poor state of affairs. But I do so love the names they attach to their machines of war.

25 November 2004, 16:26:03 GMT
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Andrew Duffin
Five BILLION lines of code? Did you add a few noughts on there? 
I think at least a million of those lines are Windows OS's which is a tad worrying.

25 November 2004, 12:27:26 GMT