Ted Neward wrote a piece in which he complains about not seeing anything new and exciting in the IT industry and ends with a question: If you’ve been programming for twenty years, what about the industry today gets your blood moving and your mind sharpened?
So if you count my first experiments with a clunky programmable calculator and my dabbling with an Apple II I do qualify. So here is my answer.
Lets start with a general note: the complaint that their is nothing new is old in it self. I remember the complains when Java started of: “Oh we already have C++/SmallTalk there is nothing new in it” or my boss back than when he finally got the basics of html and http straight: “Oh, its just a fancy terminal!”
But just because a topic is not new doesn’t mean its Old.
For me one such topic is functional programming. I learned abut functional programming about 15 years ago (and it was old back than). I found it to be cool, hardly grasped the very basics and than found out that while the way of programming was cool, the performance was abysmal (which might have been due to my lack of understanding). And I thought: “Now it would be cool if some time I could actually use this kind of stuff”. Today we have Scala (or F# if you prefer) which allows you to use these concepts in nice languages and integrate it with your more conservative main stream languages like Java or C#. Make no mistake: these languages won’t save the industry, but they allow me to explore concepts that might be older than the first computer, but are new and interesting to me.
I have a long list of books and paper a want to read and understand. Its new stuff to learn and to put to good use. It would only get better if someone would be paying me for this.
The other thing is the ubiquity of computing power and internet connectivity. As it has been all the time the interesting challenge is not so much to write an application, but to come up with interesting ideas for applications. With an interesting idea you can easily reach hundreds or even thousands of potential users. This is awesome. Yeah it’s true there is nothing that is really new. But the scale of availability changed and continues to change.