It was my 50th birthday yesterday, and it (along with a vast amount of
beer) triggered a minor depression and review of my past.
I was thinking back on some of the strange people I have worked with and
the strange coding practices they used.
I worked with a guy (I think he was called Daryl D) back in the Digital
Integration days. He used to wash his very long hair in the office sink.
He refused to use subroutines. His code was a list of macro’s that ended
with a jump back to the start. He insisted that subroutines were
inefficient, after all you have to push the return address and add a ret
instruction. What a waste.
I’ve worked with a guy called Chris Hinsley on and off for years. He
wrote the first platform independent code I ever saw.
He worked in his own assembly language called VP. The idea was simple,
create a macro file for each processor and platform which defined all
the macros for the VP language. Then you can port your code from z80 to
68000 just by recompiling.
I also was thinking about some of the weird places I have worked. Back
in the days when a DPS in a magazine cost more than made sense. (They
thought of a number, doubled it, added their phone number and printed it
on a rate card) and had to be booked three months in advance. Companies
took extreme measures to make sure products came out on time.
If you were running late on a project they would “help” you along.
At one place you would find a little packet of white powder on your
keyboard when you turned up in the morning. You knew when you saw that
you weren’t going home till the game was finished.
Another place you would lock your office door and the girl who worked
the main desk would be tasked with posting flat food under your door
twice a day until you came out. If you got a pizza you knew they liked
the game, if you got ham sandwiches, not so good.
Anyone else got any stories?
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The first coding I did was on my 64k Color Computer from Radio Shack. It
didn’t have storage. You bought this magazine and typed in your program
in basic, played it a little bit and then turned it off and it was gone.
Later I got a tape recorder and actually saved a few games. The first
game I wrote myself was a volleyball game with a little stick man.
Hasn’t changed much. I’m the only programming weirdo I know, and I don’t
think I’m very weird.
Perhaps the strangest I’ve come across was this consulting gig I had
with a company. This one guy programmed an entire module using anonymous
functions. It was an important module too, not the kind of thing you
joke around with. It had job security written all over it. You fire that
guy and I guarantee you not a single developer would ever get within 10
metres of that code.
Everything I write has every header file linked with “winmain.h” basicly
making porting an absolute nightmare.
I remember one guy, who I nicknamed “comic hero” since his real name
would have worked for one.
He interviewed very well, but got fired from various places. When he was
working for a company I worked at, he wasn’t a regular salaried
employee, and as such we didn’t see him at the office often. At some
point my boss called him, asking how the project was going, and he said
that oops, he forgot to mention, he just started his military service..
At some other place, he was tasked on making some code module, and he
said that he knows this cheap licensable code (form, not surprisingly,
his own “software consulting” firm). He was told that nah, it’s such a
simple thing, he can just code it from scratch. He ended up using his
old code anyway. He was let go after the trial period.
As for his coding style, I just remember seeing a line with 20 end
Haven’t heard of him for quite some time now, and google didn’t bring up
anything relevant. Maybe he found something that works for him.
Another one I remember was a guy who was the worst interview ever. I’m
pretty sure he did it on purpose, as nobody can give every single wrong
answer in an interview.
There’s a demoparty that’s sometimes organized in Finland called
“alternative party”, and we were hunting for real low-level optimization
guys, so we invited one guy from the competition to an interview.
He arrived, and during the interview, he mentioned (not an exhaustive
list; I’ve forgotten most of it)
He did, however, show some of his work in progress stuff - some really
impressive low level audio stuff, for instance - and we told him to be
in touch if he ever finishes the code so we might license some of it. He
What a remarkable personage. Respect.
Another place I worked, I set up an office in Sheffield for the coders. All the rest of the staff were based in other locations, I had to go to all of them regularly. Since one was in China, I did 350,000 miles in one year.
When that got too much for me, I demanded a day off. This didn’t go down too well.
The next day I walked into the office, and found they had cleared it out. All that was left was the a few chairs and the stuff I had bolted to the floor.