Genius is eternal patience.
The other day, my father referred to me as a “genius” because I solved a computer problem for him. Paternal pride aside, I know I’m no genius. Far from it. However, I have had a lot of experience using computers, which has forced me to become more patient with their idiosyncrasies. Patience is required to figure out why the computer is not doing whatever it is you want it to do.
But with that said, I can safely say that the reason I am not a programmer is because programming tests the limits of my patience. Although I am more patient than my father, my favorite programmer James Byrd is far more patient with computer problems than I will ever be. For example, yesterday, I had my very own personal computer crisis when I couldn’t get the color printer to print out the final document I needed to meet a deadline. I totally lost my marbles and had to go sit amidst the trees for a while to compose myself. After dinner, I had restored enough equilibrium to go back and figure out the problem (apparently it was a network connection failure).
When James has problems like these, he doesn’t keep doing the same thing (that doesn’t work) over and over like I do. Instead, he approaches a problem methodically. He tries one solution and writes it down. If it doesn’t work, he tries another approach and writes that down. This way, he doesn’t get trapped in repetitive paths that go nowhere. And in the end, once he figures out a problem, he actually has a record of it.
In that description of problem solving, you get a glimpse into the mind of a programmer. Everything is a process. You go down one path and if it doesn’t work, you go down another. Patience is definitely required.
Because many people are moving into programming from other areas, we thought it might be helpful to provide some hands-on information from developers like James who have been creating application software for almost two decades. This type of information can be difficult to find. Getting information on language syntax is easy, but finding out how to think through a problem or design a new project is less easy.
Adding the new department means we have to remove one. So we’ve decided to replace the alternating Hardware Focus/Software Spot department with a new one called Programming Principles. Hardware and software information is readily available, especially on shopping sites, and you can always still read articles from the back issues by clicking the Archives link.
We hope you’ll enjoy this new area of the magazine.