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Worth Reading: Back to Basics

I’m not the only one ranting about the need to get a firm grasp on fundamentals before doing the sexy stuff. Found an old blog post by Joel Spolsky (of the Law of Leaky Abstractions fame) on the exact same topic from programming perspective.

If you ever had to deal with a programming language, it’s definitely worth reading… but some of the details might make your head explode. You’ve been warned ;)

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  1. The post had been published 7 years before the "Stack Overflow" was founded (btw. by the same guy). Shut down the "Stack Overflow" and the software development productivity will drop significantly;) Just because "copy & paste" engineering is cheaper than hiring true engineers who know the Basics perfectly and understand what they do.

    1. Stack Overflow is a great resource if you need a quick-and-dirty answer to a particular question. Obviously that works best if you have the big picture and are just missing a detail. After years of programming in Perl I still use Google (usually landing at Stack Overflow) to find some simple answers because I'm too old to remember all the minutiae.

      OTOH, using Stack Overflow as your sole source-of-truth without ever investing time into understanding the bigger picture leads you to where you deserve to be ;))

  2. I think it's a matter of generation - some of us started programming in the pre-Internet era (when you programmed VAX machine where the only output was a printer you needed to spend substantial number of hours to avoid stupid mistakes, OR when you needed to erase EPROM memory of an MCU your mistakes were time consuming).

    Now we (me too) only needs to find quickly some details but general understanding (the basics are understood).

    Younger generations may follow "try & error" path where the "Stack Overflow" is really helpful when you do not have enough experience & education.

  3. Funny this, just yesterday me and my SO had a conversation in the car about just this issue. I say funny, because the same applies to (e.g.) archeology in the field and computer science (i.e. everywhere). If a university doesn't teach it's students the reasoning that went into boring stuff behind surveys and measuring, you're missing crucial background and context. However advanced your (GPS) technology, a basic mistake will be hard or impossible to diagnose and fix later.

    talking about older posts, head exploding programmer related basics :)


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