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Practical and theoretical aspects of software development

Choose your frontier wisely.

Living with cutting edge technologies is life on the frontier. Exciting new opportunities abound, but so do the challenges and dangers. The frontier is exciting because many mundane problems have been left behind, but it isn’t long until you miss the the boring benefits of community, the doctors, the policemen, the grocers, the plumbers, the libraries, and the companionship.

While Davy Crockett and others explored the American frontier, Samuel Morse lived a much more civilized life in Boston. But no one could accuse Samuel Morse of avoiding a challenge, he lived on the cutting edge of a different frontier, inventing the telegraph, Morse code, the telegraph relay, among other things.

Recognizing the different types of frontiers is necessary. It is immediately absurd to consider developing the telegraph while living off of wild game in the mountains of Tennessee. But it is not immediately obvious to a newcomer to information technology that many interesting programming jobs rely on somewhat boring, established technologies. Or that much (most?) useful software was written in languages that were no longer exciting at the time the software was created.

If you want to have a rewarding and interesting career, it is necessary to head for a frontier that is exciting to you. But you may find that in order to make the progress you want, it is necessary to pull back from some other frontiers, and enjoy the benefits of civilization.

So don’t let anyone tell you that all the cool kids use Clojure, F#, or CoffeeScript. Other people are building great things and solving hard problems Java, C#, or C++. Sure, some stick with the familiar because they don’t want to learn anything new. But many others are too focused on inventing the telegraph to leave the¬†laboratory.


Written by Eric Wilson

January 18, 2012 at 2:18 am

Posted in commentary

Tagged with , ,

One Response

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  1. Good thought. I’m pretty sure I’ve been seriously guilty of trying to be on too many frontiers at once. But, if the professor from Giligan’s Island could build a telephone out of coconuts, then so can I, dammit.


    January 19, 2012 at 10:21 pm

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