While cleaning out a box of my old papers I recently discovered a folded, yellowed photocopy I had made a couple of decades ago. It was the classic July 1983 Datamation essay by Ed Post titled "Real Programmers Don't Use Pascal". This humor from the antediluvian era of computing holds up quite well, and (as is the case with the best of wit) there are big chunks of truth amongst the slapstick.

My favorite parts of "Real Programmers" start with the introduction, which sets the stage for backflips off the springboard of a rather uninteresting 1982 joke book called Real Men Don't Eat Quiche. Ed Post begins:

Back in the Golden Era of computers, it was easy to separate the men from the boys (sometimes called "Real Men" and "Quiche Eaters" respectively). During this period, the Real Men were the ones who understood computer programming, and the Quiche Eaters were the ones who didn't. A real computer programmer said things like "DO 10 I=1,10" and "ABEND," and the rest of the world said things like "computers are too complicated for me" and "I can't relate to computers --- they're so impersonal". ...

Post continues with some deliciously exaggerated rants and raves, including a cute multilingual bon mot about one of the demigods of computer science:

The easiest way to determine who the Real Programmers are is by the programming language they use. Real Programmers use FORTRAN. Quiche Eaters use Pascal. Nicklaus Wirth, the designer of Pascal, was once asked, "How do you pronounce your name?" "You can either call me by name, pronouncing it 'Veert', or call me by value, 'Worth'," he replied. One can tell immediately from this comment that Nicklaus Wirth is a Quiche Eater. ...

Post goes to describe a variety of "Real Programmer" characteristics and their opposites. My favorite laugh-aloud sketch depicts the optimal working environment for high software productivity:

The typical Real Programmer lives in front of a computer terminal. Surrounding this terminal are the listings of every program he has ever worked on. These are piled in roughly chronological order on every flat surface in the office. You will also find some half-dozen or so partly filled cups of cold coffee. Occasionally, there will be cigarette butts floating in the coffee. In some cases, the cups will contain Orange Crush. And, unless he is very good, there will be copies of the OS JCL manual and the Principles of Operation open to some particularly interesting pages. Taped to the wall is a line-printer Snoopy calendar for the year 1969. Strewn about the floor there will be several wrappers for peanut butter filled cheese bars (the type that are made stale at the bakery so they can't get any worse while waiting in the vending machine). Finally, in the top left-hand desk drawer, underneath the box of Oreos, is a flowcharting template, left there by the previous occupant. Real Programmers write programs, not documentation, which is left to the maintenance people.

Many pages purporting to be Post's essay are available online, but those that I've glanced at have unfortunate typos and seem to be revised or rewritten pirate versions, not the Datamation ur-text that I chuckled at twenty-something years ago. Steven Winikoff [1] has a page apparently of the original [2] that may well be unique on the Web. (He also seems to be rather a funny person himself!)

(see also TuringComplete (10 Oct 2001), PersonalProgrammingHistory (2 Apr 2002), NetfreeProgramming (21 Oct 2003), BozoBit (29 Oct 2003), ... )

TopicProgramming - TopicHumor - TopicPersonalHistory - 2004-07-22

(correlates: TidyTime, CloserToTheMachine, CoverUp, ...)