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A little background, since it can be part of my point fo view.

I'm a C#/Java programmer with age of 23, coding since my 18's. I started studying C and working with Cobol, and after 1 year I quickly moved to C#/Java Web Development, and have worked with it in about 3/4 companies. (I've just moved again)

In my (brief) professional career I encountered some older programmers, all the times it was very hard to work with them, since I was way better programmer than they. And it is not about just the language skills, some of them had seriously problems understanding basic logic. Now I wonder how theese programmer get jobs on the market since (I imagine) they have more expenses, and thus have to make more money, and are really counter-productives. In theese examples, others project member have to constantly keep stoping for helping them out.

All the times, they eventually quit... So I wonder...

  1. May the aging process slow down the learning rate and logic thinking?
  2. Does the programmer has to, or at least should, move to a management area before getting old?

Please, my intention is not to be disrespectful with older persons. I am fully aware that this is NOT the case of all older programmers, I often see around very good old programmers on the net, I just never met them for close.

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closed as not constructive by World Engineer, Caleb, GrandmasterB, ChrisF Nov 12 '11 at 7:27

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Er, what is old to you? Also, is it really likely that most older programmers are so bad that they must quit every job and thus stop programming before you meet them? Finally, it's kind of funny that you assume people with slow learning and "logic thinking" should be in management. –  psr Nov 12 '11 at 0:39
Haven't you answered your own question? Some older programmers are good, some are bad, therefore while age may be a factor, it isn't a determining factor. Consider the moral of this XKCD cartoon: xkcd.com/385, just substitute 'old programmers' for 'girls'. –  Charles E. Grant Nov 12 '11 at 0:48
Management is a (largely) completely different skill set then programming - ageing does not make a programmer into a manager. Now, I'm not saying that you haven't been running into poor programmers (it seems to happen around here, too, sometimes), but I'd avoid making blanket statements about lack of skills. Sometimes, it's just what they learned (that is, it is impacted by the language) - or more specifically, what they didn't. I've been rather critical of SQL statements that were among the first written here; the developer has become a respected DBA now (with cause); It's all timing. –  Clockwork-Muse Nov 12 '11 at 0:54
Wait 30 years and see for yourself. I remember being 23, having been programming for almost 10 years, fresh out of college in the top few % of my class, and thinking i rocked all the programmers even just 10 years older than me. What i discovered was that there's a tremendous amount more to programming than just language skills and logic. Experience is enormously important. It's like the difference of being told what Paris is like versus actually going there. –  nicerobot Nov 12 '11 at 1:34
If you don't stay with a job long enough to see your work into deployment and maintenance, you never see the flaws in your code. I expect you are overly optimistic about the quality of your code, as I was when I was your age. –  dsmith Nov 12 '11 at 14:22

4 Answers 4

you've never met any good, old programmers. Really?

I can tell you there are plenty of excellent old guys around, so logic dictates that ... the problem is you not being able to recognise good code, instead thinking that your code is somehow special and everyone else's is somehow rubbish.

Mind, if you've been through 4 jobs in the last 5 years, each one using a different language, I can't see how you can be any good - have you actually delivered any decent projects?

So, before you criticise others, take a look at yourself.

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I've been programming professionally since 1989 and I'm still programming. I don't want to move into a management position, although I had an opportunity about 12 years ago, because I don't like to deal with office politics and people problems that much. I prefer to write code, especially new code with newer technologies.

Another thing to consider is that most older programmers don't have the same educational background as "young guns". For example, things like design patterns and OOP only started being taught in CS classes about 10-15 years ago. A lot of programmers my age are also self-taught. For example, I taught myself assembly language and C when I bought my first IBM PC clone in 1984 and, also, my college major and grad school classes didn't have anything to do with programming. Don't mistake a gap in the ability to recite latest and greatest, and mostly useless, academic terms as a lack of "logical thinking"

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While I agree that there are bad programmers out there, a lack understanding of basic logic operations pretty much gets you nowhere in this business. There are simply bad programmers out there, and there is enough demand so most people (unless you're atrocious) tend to get jobs.

That aside, one phenomenon I tend to observe with young programmers is that they know everything, as you become more experienced, you get more aware of what you don't know. This might play a role here, too.

Don't forget that those of us who have been in this business for 20-odd years have seen our share of "latest and greatest, the only way to program ever in the world" so we tend to be a lot more cynical than people with less experience.

You might have a point inasmuch as you get older, you have less time to spend on education after hours, simply because you tend to have what's commonly called a life, or at least more different demands that come with more responsibilities that you tend to accumulate over time. Nevertheless most good programmers I know still spend time on learning new things, but we can't chase every new fad and have to be a little wiser with out decisions as to what we spend time on.

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One characteristic of young programmers is they think they will always be young.

I felt the same way. In fact I still think I'm young. My grandson seems to agree with me.

There are generation gaps, no doubt about it. When you get to my young age, you'll experience it, guaranteed.

So I work with youngsters (30-50 ish), and I think we work well together. That's not to say we see eye-to-eye. In fact we each have ways of working that the other doesn't comprehend, but we do have to admit that the other knows what he/she's doing. Most of the time.

So it's tough for oldsters if they need to look for a job, but if you have a sense that the old-timers are missing something don't worry. The feeling's mutual :)

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