Today’s your day, devs.
The international Day of the Programmer is celebrated annually on the 256th day of the year (on 13 September in non-leap years). Why the 256th day? I mean, you already know, but I’ll explain it to your non-tech friends who are also reading.
The number 256 – which is 28 or hexadecimal 100 – is the possible number of distinct values represented by a byte. It’s also the highest power of two that’s still less than the number of days in a year, so there’s that.
For this year’s Day of the Programmer, I interviewed two members of the Developer Advocate team here at Couchbase: Aaron LaBeau (@biozal) and Elliot Scribner (@ejscribner).
Let’s hear what they have to say about the changing realities of the profession as they reflect on the past, present and future of what it means to be a programmer and developer.
[This transcript has been lightly edited for length and clarity.]
What Drew You to Become a Programmer?
Aaron LaBeau: I saw the Atari 2600, and that forever changed my life.
I was amazed at what it could do, and after that, I became interested in all the hardware that made it work. In fifth grade, I checked out a book on BASIC programming for beginners as I wanted to learn how they made games on the Atari.
I’ve been working to be a better programmer ever since. I consider myself extremely lucky to get paid to do my hobby.
Elliot Scribner: When I was in the tenth grade my geometry teacher – who also happened to be a programmer – wanted to try something a little different and tried to teach us about trigonometry and angles through code.
We learned how to write simple programs to simulate balls bouncing off of the edges of a screen. I was immediately fascinated by programming and wanted to learn more. All throughout the remainder of high school, I worked with my best friend on side projects that involved building applications for friends and family.
My university-level studies cemented my love for programming, and I dreamed of being a software engineer when I graduated. I am incredibly proud to have achieved this goal and grow as a developer every single day.
How Has the Cloud Impacted Your Role as a Developer?
Aaron: Before the cloud, getting infrastructure from your IT department was extremely difficult.
I used to work at a large company where it took 60 days(!) to get a virtual machine spun up for a non-production environment and even longer for a production environment. Now with the cloud, everything is almost instantaneous. With the ability to spin up environments on the fly and automate them with CI/CD pipelines, I believe the cloud has forever changed how we develop software.
Also, with the cloud, the way we scale has gotten a lot easier.
Early in my career, around 1999, we got our first load balancer, a used Foundry switch that cost over $60,000. I was shocked at how expensive it was to scale something significant. Oracle database servers on these large Sun servers were $150,000.
Now I can get massive performances for a minimal cost in the cloud and only pay for what I use. This change in the cost model allows smaller companies to compete against larger companies because they don’t need large IT shops to support their growing needs.
Elliot: As a younger programmer, I’ve pretty much grown up developing in the cloud.
Using cloud infrastructure has been second nature for me ever since I discovered the vast amount of services offered by cloud providers like AWS. The simplicity offered by cloud-based services has enabled me to ramp up my development workflow and scale to production environments far easier than I ever could have without such offerings.
I distinctly remember wrestling with the steps to provision resources for a database instance and install the necessary dependencies several years back and quickly discovered how much easier and user-friendly fully managed cloud services could be.
At the time, I was pretty new to programming and got lost in the process only to abandon it in favor of a fully managed solution. The discovery led me to spend more of my time actually writing code, rather than messing around with frustrating configurations. When you’re just starting out and don’t have the experience to configure resources yourself – nor an infrastructure team to do it for you – a fully managed cloud solution is a life saver.
What Predictions Do You Have for Developers in 2022 and Beyond?
Aaron: The last 30 years of tech have seen some amazing things come and go.
If you told me in 2005 that you could have a device as fast – if not faster – than a laptop in your pocket and it was the size of a cell phone, I would have laughed at you. But I know from experience that things are constantly changing.
If I had to make some educated guesses, I think that artificial intelligence will only get better and faster. The cloud will only get more attractive and affordable for medium-sized companies to move infrastructure into the cloud.
For some companies, blockchain will become a standard way that financial data has to be stored. I don’t think many companies take security seriously enough. Hence, I predict we’ll have another large company get hacked. More security flaws will cause millions of consumers’ private information to be posted on the internet.
I still believe that mobile applications can significantly impact enterprise companies. Even though the iPhone and Android devices have been around for ten years, we are still in the early days of mobile platform enterprise development.
Finally, IoT will only get more prominent and more popular as solutions become more affordable and more companies start building software around custom hardware solutions.
Elliot: A few years ago, I attended a FinTech conference where many of the panelists discussed how programmers would become obsolete in the future as programming languages became easy enough for anyone to write.
However, most of these individuals were not actually programmers themselves. I firmly disagree with this statement, as programming will always require some level of technicality and understanding.
Computers are hard to communicate with, and it’ll be a very long time before you can just speak plain English to them. While I agree that programming languages might get a little bit more straightforward, they’ll also become more powerful and thus more sophisticated.
I think the future will bring upgrades that don’t make programming easier, but rather make it more capable. The things that used to take a lot of work are now simpler with modern programming languages, but they still require a developer who understands the fundamental problem they are trying to solve and knows how to solve it.
As developers, our tools will become more powerful and capable, but under the hood, there is always complex logic enabling said capabilities.
Wherever you are in the world, I hope you have a wonderful Day of the Programmer. It’s inspiring to think of what the tech community will build in the years ahead.
If you’re a developer who’s interested in learning more about NoSQL databases or you want to try your hand at building something with Couchbase, I encourage you to check out the Couchbase developer portal. There are videos, tutorials, documentation – everything you need to get started or get further. Whether you’re a new programmer or an experienced pro, we want to see you grow in your skills and capabilities as a developer.
Oh, and we’re hiring too!
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