Robert C. “Uncle Bob” Martin: “The Future of Programming”, 2019 edition

You’ve probably heard of Robert C. Martin, also known affectionately in programming circles as “Uncle Bob”. He’s one of the 17 developers who co-wrote an co-signed the Agile Manifesto at a Utah ski resoirt back in February 2001, Agile Alliance’s first chairperson, and author of the must-read Clean Code.

He’s also an entertaining speaker, and one of his regular talks is The Future of Programming, which looks to the future by looking at the lessons from the past. This is the 2019 edition of that talk. If you’re young or unfamiliar with the history of computing from its earliest days in the 1940s and 1950s, you’ll find it a worthwhile history lesson. This talk also includes the thesis of another talk of his — The Scribe’s Oath — in which he talks about the extreme care that ancient scribes used to put into their work, and how programmers are effectively today’s scribes.

If you take away only a couple of points from the talk, take these:

  • At the moment, “the future of programming” doesn’t look all that different from the past of programming, because programming hasn’t changed that drastically in its few decades of existence. You’d probably be able to read old code, and a programmer time-teleported from the 1970s would probably be able to read present-day code. The syntaxes may be different, but the paradigms of procedural, functional, and object-oriented programming are still the same.
  • Uncle Bob’s rough estimate of the number of programmers doubling every five years has a necessary consequence: it means that half the programmers out there have less than 5 years’ experience.
  • With software eating the world and controlling everything so that just about every activity we take part in involves a computer in one way or another, we’re going to have to more clearly define what it means to be a programmer. We will have to take better control of our profession, or better still, act like members of a profession. As with medicine, law, and engineering, regulation will eventually come to our profession, and as with medicine, law, and engineering, it would be better if we self-regulated before legislators decide to do so.

If you’re a programmer, or if you manage programmers or work closely with them, this is a talk worth listening to.

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