Programming languages — what’s the difference?

When I started my IT career in the 80’s there were a few different programming languages to choose from. There was no Lynda.com or code academy — just books and our two friends trial and error.

I cut my professional teeth on a curious environment called ‘Rocky Mountain Basic’ by HP which was actually a pretty decent tool and well suited to the relatively short delivery times expected on board offshore survey boats in a force 10 gale.

Over the following years I earned a living with Pascal and C before I peaked and became a recovering techie, but this isn’t about me and my mediocre dev skills, it’s really about the fixation on tools at the expense of ability.

I used to be a bit of a fascist about stuff like this — looking for staff who had specific skills in whatever dev environment was in vogue, but I (slowly) realised that what I should have been doing was looking for the core problem solving abilities which underpin stellar dev skills.

Over the years we’ve changed programming languages a few times and there’s always a bit of a learning curve, but I’m in the fortunate position of having a fair few staff who’ve been with me for decades and they take it in their stride. They are able to apply a core set of skills to whatever environment they need to use for a specific task.

Having gradually reduced my attention span to slightly more than a goldfish I envy their focus.

I will reveal my hypocrisy by saying that I do get slightly frustrated that many University graduates don’t have any exposure to very common platforms ( which have been around for years, certainly longer than the average degree course) — but hopefully the market will eventually dictate a change.

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