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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why is programming thought to be exciting?

Oh dear. It seems I have uncovered another one of those things which is controversial with a single comment on Hacker News. To me, programming itself is not exciting. It's no more exciting than thinking of how I'd like to complete my errands today. My internal monologue might go like this:

Let's see, I probably should get some cat food, then I might need some more pens. The kind of cat food I need means Petco or PetSmart, and then those pens would have to come from an office supply store. There's a PetSmart next to Office Depot in College Park, and there's a Petco right across from Officemax over by Goodwill.

But, if I go to the Goodwill one, then I can stop by the coin machine in Save Mart to get an Amazon gift certifcate. If I go to College Park then I'll have to keep the coins around for later. So okay, Petco, Office Depot, then Save Mart, and probably lunch after that. Easy enough.

Then I actually get in the car and drive around and make it happen. It's boring. It's banal, even. Now let's see about programming.

Okay, so I have to get this control channel so it'll tell me the OSWs which I then decode to figure out who's talking and where they are talking. If I do this all in one process then I can just start and stop receivers natively but then I might trip the boost mutex stupidity and it'll lock up. If I split it up into at least two processes, then at least half of it will stay running the whole time. That way I won't drop my state even if the other half dies.

Then I sit down at the computer and *clickity click* for a while, and some code comes out. It's not exciting. It's just something I had to do to get something else done. They're both solid activities which need to be done and have positive outcomes, but it's not exactly thrilling.

So what is exciting? Obviously, that's going to vary from person to person. I personally enjoy going on an electronic wild goose chase to dereference some vague memory of the past when I am rewarded with some results.

Case in point: I had this really fuzzy memory of a TV station which played cartoons and played some techno-ish stuff with Speak and Spell sounds (!!!) as their "bumpers" -- those little clips which separate ads from the actual programming.

I found out that this was a real thing. A station called WKBS used to have a show called the Fun Machine, and someone had uploaded a seven second audio-only clip.

I hadn't imagined it! It was real! Kraftwerk and Speak and Spell stuff being used for music on broadcast television in 1983? Too cool.

That's something exciting for me. Programming is just work.