Autobiography of a Developer

By Leonard Friedland
Posted 7/19/19

[Written for the in-house newsletter of a small software development firm, now defunct]

All my life I wanted to be a programmer, even though I was totally unaware of this until I was 37 years old. …

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Autobiography of a Developer

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[Written for the in-house newsletter of a small software development firm, now defunct]

All my life I wanted to be a programmer, even though I was totally unaware of this until I was 37 years old. At that time, having exhausted all other ways of making a living (some of them quite imaginative, and not necessarily legal), I decided that I faced three possible career choices: law school, physical therapy, or welfare. I had pretty much decided upon welfare, as both law school and physical therapy required three years of schooling, when an acquaintance of mine mentioned that he had not worked in over a year, and this by choice. I asked him how he had managed this, and he told me he was a COBOL programmer. Not working sounded pretty good to me, so I asked how I could become a programmer, too. He told me about a three-month course of study at NYU, which I took, and the rest is history.
My previous work experience prepared me well for the logic and attention to detail that programming requires. From cab driving, I learned to tolerate frustration, albeit with a great deal of cursing and yelling. From my years as an Long Island Railroad conductor, I learned how to ignore people and sleep on the job. From my time as a preparator (look it up), I learned to handle highly neurotic people while working under intense pressure. The only job I had that did not help with my programming work was when I delivered baked goods on a Westchester/Connecticut route. But I ate a lot of cake and gained 10 pounds, so it wasn’t wasted time.
My first job was with Columbia University. I worked on the Human Resources system, and had a lot of fun looking up everybody’s salary, especially those of my co-workers. (If anyone knows how much Peter makes, please let me know!) I spent two years working on a database system that nobody except Tom knows about. I decided that the future of computing was in PCs, so I taught myself C and was lucky enough to make the move from Non-Profit Mainframe Programmer to Corporate PC Hotshot. A few years in the corporate arena left me convinced that the best place to work was a software firm. Having been here for almost four years now, I am once again considering one of my earlier career choices—welfare.

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