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Developer divide: 19 generations of computer programmers

Peter Wayner | Jan. 8, 2013
If you're searching for a fountain of youth, the easiest way to get that feeling of continual rebirth is to hang around a few tech product launches. Every new rollout comes with the fresh, unabashed feeling that this has never been done before. Ever.

Social media strategy: Going to a friend's GeoCities page

Other career choice: Chain restaurant manager

Rhetorical tic: "It works on IE 5.5 but not 6.0 yet."

Clothing: Parachute pants

Car: Ford Taurus

Song: Beastie Boys' "So What'cha Want"

Favorite artifact: Netscape Share Certificate

Ruby on Rails programmers

It takes all of 10 minutes to wrap a nice website around MySQL, then years to fiddle with it. The Ruby language offers a clean, low-punctuation syntax, while the Rails framework makes it easy to type the smallest files around. It's almost as if it were designed by carpal-tunnel sufferers.

Other language of choice: SQL

Special skill: Getting your stack to run on JRuby

Social media strategy: Writing a personal version of Facebook in 20 lines of code

Other career choice: Molecular gastronomist

Clothing: Plaid shirt and jeans

Rhetorical tic: "You just need a few tables and you're done."

Car: Minivan

Song: "The Rails Song"

Favorite artifact: 37 Signals T-shirt

Objective-C programmers (second generation)

The second generation of Objective-C lovers appeared during the app gold rush after Apple opened up the iPhone to apps written by outsiders. Suddenly a language slowly dying was reborn.

Other language of choice: JavaScript

Special skill: Figuring out how to make the layout manager work

Social media strategy: Posts pictures to Instagram and Hipstamatic but never uses words

Other career choice: Mortgage foreclosure processor

Clothing: Hoodie

Rhetorical tic: "This will sell millions."

Car: BMW

Song: Feist's "1234" or anything else chosen for an Apple commercial

Favorite artifact: iPod with a wheel

JavaScript programmers (second generation)

Somewhere along the way, JavaScript programming turned into a professional path with snooty ideas and endless debates about what constitutes clean code. Today, many Web pages are powered by sophisticated stacks of code that can only be maintained by skilled coders. The field is now dominated by efficient libraries that abstract away much of the browser incongruities and offer a sophisticated plug-in structure.

Other language of choice: jQuery

Special skill: Closures

Social media strategy: Waiting for

Other career choice: Working as a barista

Clothing: Hoodie

Rhetorical tic: "There's an open source jQuery plug-in that does it."

Car: Fixed-gear bicycle

Song: M83, "Midnight City"

Favorite artifact: DM from Brendan Eich

Haskell programmers

The language of the future offers a functional, statically typed mechanism that can reduce some of the complexity for writing modern, event-driven code. While the first implementations are easily more than 20 years old, the main users are still found in universities, but that's changing as cool open source projects gain traction. Haskell lovers insist this proves it will be the hot language in the 2020s.

Other language of choice: ML

Special skill: Getting around the prohibitions on keeping state around


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