Jon Aquino's Mental Garden

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Fred Brooks quote: The programmer, like the poet, works only slightly removed from pure thought-stuff.""

The programmer, like the poet, works only slightly removed from pure thought-stuff. He builds castles in the air, from air, creating by exertion of the imagination. Few media of creation are so flexible, so easy to polish and rework, so readily capable of realizing grand conceptual structures. Yet the program construct, unlike the poet's words, is real in the sense that it moves and works, producing visible outputs separate from the construct itself. It prints results, draws pictures, produces sounds, moves arms. The magic of myth and legend has come true in our time. One types the correct incantation on a keyboard, and a display screen comes to life, showing things that never were nor could be. ... The computer resembles the magic of legend in this respect, too. If one character, one pause, of the incantation is not strictly in proper form, the magic doesn't work. Human beings are not accustomed to being perfect, an few areas of human activity demand it. Adjusting to the requirement for perfection is, I think, the most difficult part of learning to program.
-Frederick P. Brooks, "The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering, Anniversary Edition (2nd Edition)"


  • I find this particularly apposite because I studied creative writing as an undergraduate and wanted to be a poet!

    I often say to people that being a poet and being a programmer aren't as far-removed as they might think. But I had forgotten this quote, or not taken it in when I read MMM.

    By Blogger Thomas David Baker, at 8/08/2007 1:25 a.m.  

  • It's a great quote. Which poets do you like?

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 8/08/2007 7:12 p.m.  

  • Tom's top poets: Simon Armitage, Carol Ann Duffy, Wendy Cope, Roger McGough, Sylvia Plath, John Hegley, Cynthia Hamilton, some John Berryman ('Dream Song 4') and some Philip Larkin ('The Old Fools', 'This Be the Verse'). And 'Horatius' by Thomas Babington Macaulay. And 'Either you are closing your eyes to a situation ... ' from The Music Man!

    By Blogger Thomas David Baker, at 8/13/2007 3:03 a.m.  

  • Cool stuff, Tom. I've read/heard some stuff by Plath and Larkin.

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 8/13/2007 7:32 p.m.  

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