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Coding More Carefully

By Steve Jones,

When I wrote computer code in school, programming as we kids called it, I could literally watch my programs compile on the screen. Working on a Radio Shack TRS-80 in PASCAL, we would see the lines of code scroll by, 3 or 4 a second, as they compiled into executable code. When that is the speed of the computer building your work, you learn very quickly to proofread your code from syntax or logic errors. A simple semicolon on the wrong place can result in quite a bit of lost time.

At some point we transitioned to Turbo Pascal, which compiled hundreds of lines in a split second, on par with the speed of today's compilers, which are often working through thousands of lines of code. Is that a good thing, however? Has this speed improvement ended up building poor habits in developers?

I ran across this post on the times when the author had one compile a day. That's slower than I had, but we did have time limits on the computer, as well as printer limits, when I was in college. The compile/fix a syntax error/recompile/test cycle  that we have now wasn't an option. Making too many simple mistakes would result in missed assignments.

Limiting developers to one compile a day wouldn't work these days, but I wonder if limiting the number of compiles might result in developers spending a little more time thinking about their code, their logic, and writing applications with a little more care? 

Or would they follow the same process they follow now, only slower?

Steve Jones


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