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  From: (Mike Schenk)
  Newsgroups: eunet.jokes,rec.humor
  Message-ID: <>
  Date: 31 Mar 92 08:09:56 GMT
  Lines: 984

    To anyone who sent me a copy of the real programmers story, THANK YOU. 
  Actually there are more versions than I thought.

    Since a lot of people asked me to forward it to them, the best 
  solution seems posting it here. So here they are.


    Mike Schenk

    "De antwoorden zijn altijd al aanwezig"
          - Ad van den Berg in Steve Vai's, Answers

March 24, 1983

Real Programmers Don't Use PASCAL

Ed Post
Tektronix, Inc.

Box 1000 m/s 63-205
Wilsonville, OR 97070
Copyright (c)
(decvax | ucbvax | cbosg | pur-ee | lbl-unix)!teklabs!iddic!evp

Back in the good old days -- the "Golden Era" of computers, it was easy to

separate the men from the boys (sometimes called "Real Men" and "Quiche Eaters" in the literature). During this period, the Real Men were the ones that understood computer programming, and the Quiche Eaters were the ones that didn't. A real computer programmer said things like "DO 10 I=1,10" and "ABEND" (they actually talked in capital letters, you understand), and the rest of the world said things like "computers are too complicated for me" and "I can't relate to computers -- they're so impersonal". (A previous work [1] points out that Real Men don't "relate" to anything, and aren't afraid of being impersonal.)

But, as usual, times change. We are faced today with a world in which little

old ladies can get computers in their microwave ovens, 12 year old kids can blow Real Men out of the water playing Asteroids and Pac-Man, and anyone can buy and even understand their very own Personal Computer. The Real Programmer is in danger of becoming extinct, of being replaced by high-school students with TRASH-80s.

There is a clear need to point out the differences between the typical

high-school junior Pac-Man player and a Real Programmer. If this difference is made clear, it will give these kids something to aspire to -- a role model, a Father Figure. It will also help explain to the employers of Real Programmers why it would be a mistake to replace the Real Programmers on their staff with 12 year old Pac-Man players (at a considerable salary savings).


The easiest way to tell a Real Programmer from the crowd is by the

programming language he (or she) uses. Real Programmers use FORTRAN. Quiche Eaters use PASCAL. Nicklaus Wirth, the designer of PASCAL, gave a talk once at which he was asked "How do you pronounce your name?". He replied, "You can either call me by name, pronouncing it 'Veert', or call me by value, 'Worth'." One can tell immediately from this comment that Nicklaus Wirth is a Quiche Eater. The only parameter passing mechanism endorsed by Real Programmers is call-by-value-return, as implemented in the IBM/370 FORTRAN G and H compilers.
Real programmers don't need all these abstract concepts to get their jobs done
-- they are perfectly happy with a keypunch, a FORTRAN IV compiler, and a beer.

  • Real Programmers do List Processing in FORTRAN.
  • Real Programmers do String Manipulation in FORTRAN.
  • Real Programmers do Accounting (if they do it at all) in FORTRAN.
  • Real Programmers do Artificial Intelligence programs in FORTRAN.
If you can't do it in FORTRAN, do it in assembly language. If you

can't do it in assembly language, it isn't worth doing.

                   ---------- -----------

The academics in computer science have gotten into the "structured

programming" rut over the past several years. They claim that programs are more easily understood if the programmer uses some special language constructs and techniques. They don't all agree on exactly which constructs, of course, and the examples they use to show their particular point of view invariably fit on a single page of some obscure journal or another -- clearly not enough of an example to convince anyone. When I got out of school, I thought I was the best programmer in the world. I could write an unbeatable tic-tac-toe program, use five different computer languages, and create 1000 line programs that WORKED.
(Really!) Then I got out into the Real World. My first task in the Real World was to read and understand a 200,000 line FORTRAN program, then speed it up by a factor of two. Any Real Programmer will tell you that all the Structured Coding in the world won't help you solve a problem like that -- it takes actual talent.
Some quick observations on Real Programmers and Structured Programming:

  • Real Programmers aren't afraid to use GOTOs.
  • Real Programmers can write five-page long DO loops without getting confused.
  • Real Programmers like Arithmetic IF statements -- they make the code more


  • Real Programmers write self-modifying code, especially if they can save 20

    nanoseconds in the middle of a tight loop.

  • Real Programmers don't need comments -- the code is obvious.
  • Since FORTRAN doesn't have a structured IF, REPEAT ... UNTIL, or CASE

    statement, Real Programmers don't have to worry about not using them. Besides, they can be simulated when necessary using assigned GOTOs.

Data structures have also gotten a lot of press lately. Abstract Data Types, Structures, Pointers, Lists, and Strings have become popular in certain circles.
Wirth (the above-mentioned Quiche Eater) actually wrote an entire book [2] contending that you could write a program based on data structures, instead of the other way around. As all Real Programmers know, the only useful data structure is the Array. Strings, Lists, Structures, Sets -- these are all special cases of arrays and can be treated that way just as easily without messing up your programing language with all sorts of complications. The worst thing about fancy data types is that you have to declare them, and Real Programming Languages, as we all know, have implicit typing based on the first letter of the (six character) variable name.

                     OPERATING SYSTEMS
                     --------- -------

What kind of operating system is used by a Real Programmer? CP/M? God

forbid -- CP/M, after all, is basically a toy operating system. Even little old ladies and grade school students can understand and use CP/M.

Unix is a lot more complicated of course -- the typical Unix hacker never can

remember what the PRINT command is called this week -- but when it gets right down to it, Unix is a glorified video game. People don't do Serious Work on Unix systems: they send jokes around the world on UUCP-net and write adventure games and research papers.

No, your Real Programmer uses OS/370. A good programmer can find and

understand the description of the IJK305I error he just got in his JCL manual. A great programmer can write JCL without referring to the manual at all. A truly outstanding programmer can find bugs buried in a 6 megabyte core dump without using a hex calculator. (I have actually seen this done.)

OS is a truly remarkable operating system. It's possible to destroy days of

work with a single misplaced space, so alertness in the programming staff is encouraged. The best way to approach the system is through a keypunch. Some people claim there is a Time Sharing system that runs on OS/370, but after careful study I have come to the conclusion that they were mistaken.

                     PROGRAMMING TOOLS
                     ----------- -----

What kind of tools does a Real Programmer use? In theory, a Real

Programmer could run his programs by keying them into the front panel of the computer. Back in the days when computers had front panels, this was actually done occasionally. Your typical Real Programmer knew the entire bootstrap loader by memory in hex, and toggled it in whenever it got destroyed by his program.
(Back then, memory was memory -- it didn't go away when the power went off.
Today, memory either forgets things when you don't want it to, or remembers things long after they're better forgotten.) Legend has it that Seymour Cray, inventor of the Cray I supercomputer and most of Control Data's computers, actually toggled the first operating system for the CDC7600 in on the front panel from memory when it was first powered on. Seymour, needless to say, is a Real Programmer.

One of my favorite Real Programmers was a systems programmer for Texas

Instruments. One day, he got a long distance call from a user whose system had crashed in the middle of saving some important work. Jim was able to repair the damage over the phone, getting the user to toggle in disk I/O instructions at the front panel, repairing system tables in hex, reading register contents back over the phone. The moral of this story: while a Real Programmer usually includes a keypunch and lineprinter in his toolkit, he can get along with just a front panel and a telephone in emergencies.

In some companies, text editing no longer consists of ten engineers standing

in line to use an 029 keypunch. In fact, the building I work in doesn't contain a single keypunch. The Real Programmer in this situation has to do his work with a "text editor" program. Most systems supply several text editors to select from, and the Real Programmer must be careful to pick one that reflects his personal style. Many people believe that the best text editors in the world were written at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center for use on their Alto and Dorado computers [3]. Unfortunately, no Real Programmer would ever use a computer whose operating system is called SmallTalk, and would certainly not talk to the computer with a mouse.

Some of the concepts in these Xerox editors have been incorporated into

editors running on more reasonably named operating systems -- EMACS and VI being two. The problem with these editors is that Real Programmers consider "what you see is what you get" to be just as bad a concept in Text Editors as it is in Women. No, the Real Programmer wants a "you asked for it, you got it" text editor -- complicated, cryptic, powerful, unforgiving, dangerous. TECO, to be precise.

It has been observed that a TECO command sequence more closely resembles

transmission line noise than readable text [4]. One of the more entertaining games to play with TECO is to type your name in as a command line and try to guess what it does. Just about any possible typing error while talking with TECO will probably destroy your program, or even worse -- introduce subtle and mysterious bugs in a once working subroutine.

For this reason, Real Programmers are reluctant to actually edit a program

that is close to working. They find it much easier to just patch the binary object code directly, using a wonderful program called SUPERZAP (or its equivalent on non-IBM machines). This works so well that many working programs on IBM systems bear no relation to the original FORTRAN code. In many cases, the original source code is no longer available. When it comes time to fix a program like this, no manager would even think of sending anything less than a Real Programmer to do the job -- no Quiche Eating structured programmer would even know where to start. This is called "job security". Some programming tools NOT used by Real Programmers:

  • FORTRAN preprocessors like MORTRAN and RATFOR. The Cuisinarts of programming

    -- great for making Quiche. See comments above on structured programming.

  • Source language debuggers. Real Programmers can read core dumps.
  • Compilers with array bounds checking. They stifle creativity, destroy most

    of the interesting uses for EQUIVALENCE, and make it impossible to modify the operating system code with negative subscripts. Worst of all, bounds checking is inefficient.

  • Source code maintainance systems. A Real Programmer keeps his code locked up

    in a card file, because it implies that its owner cannot leave his important programs unguarded [5].

              --- ---- ---------- -- ----
Where does the typical Real Programmer work? What kind of programs are

worthy of the efforts of so talented an individual? You can be sure that no real Programmer would be caught dead writing accounts-receivable programs in COBOL, or sorting mailing lists for People magazine. A Real Programmer wants tasks of earth-shaking importance (literally!).

  • Real Programmers work for Los Alamos National Laboratory, writing atomic

    bomb simulations to run on Cray I supercomputers.

  • Real Programmers work for the National Security Agency, decoding Russian


  • It was largely due to the efforts of thousands of Real Programmers working

    for NASA that our boys got to the moon and back before the Russkies.

  • The computers in the Space Shuttle were programmed by Real Programmers.
  • Real Programmers are at work for Boeing designing the operating systems for

    cruise missiles.

Some of the most awesome Real Programmers of all work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. Many of them know the entire operating system of the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft by heart. With a combination of large ground-based FORTRAN programs and small spacecraft-based assembly language programs, they are able to do incredible feats of navigation and improvisation -- hitting ten-kilometer wide windows at Saturn after six years in space, repairing or bypassing damaged sensor platforms, radios, and batteries. Allegedly, one Real Programmer managed to tuck a pattern-matching program into a few hundred bytes of unused memory in a Voyager spacecraft that searched for, located, and photographed a new moon of Jupiter.

The current plan for the Galileo spacecraft is to use a gravity assist

trajectory past Mars on the way to Jupiter. This trajectory passes within 80 +/-
3 kilometers of the surface of Mars. Nobody is going to trust a PASCAL program (or PASCAL programmer) for navigation to these tolerances.

As you can tell, many of the world's Real Programmers work for the U.S.

Government -- mainly the Defense Department. This is as it should be. Recently, however, a black cloud has formed on the Real Programmer horizon. It seems that some highly placed Quiche Eaters at the Defense Department decided that all Defense programs should be written in some grand unified language called "ADA" ((r), DoD). For a while, it seemed that ADA was destined to become a language that went against all the precepts of Real Programming -- a language with structure, a language with data types, strong typing, and semicolons. In short, a language designed to cripple the creativity of the typical Real Programmer.
Fortunately, the language adopted by DoD has enough interesting features to make it approachable -- it's incredibly complex, includes methods for messing with the operating system and rearranging memory, and Edsgar Dijkstra doesn't like it
[6]. (Dijkstra, as I'm sure you know, was the author of "GoTos Considered Harmful" -- a landmark work in programming methodology, applauded by Pascal Programmers and Quiche Eaters alike.) Besides, the determined Real Programmer can write FORTRAN programs in any language.

The real programmer might compromise his principles and work on something

slightly more trivial than the destruction of life as we know it, providing there's enough money in it. There are several Real Programmers building video games at Atari, for example. (But not playing them -- a Real Programmer knows how to beat the machine every time: no challange in that.) Everyone working at LucasFilm is a Real Programmer. (It would be crazy to turn down the money of fifty million Star Trek fans.) The proportion of Real Programmers in Computer Graphics is somewhat lower than the norm, mostly because nobody has found a use for Computer Graphics yet. On the other hand, all Computer Graphics is done in FORTRAN, so there are a fair number people doing Graphics in order to avoid having to write COBOL programs.

                --- ---- ---------- -- ----

Generally, the Real Programmer plays the same way he works -- with

computers. He is constantly amazed that his employer actually pays him to do what he would be doing for fun anyway (although he is careful not to express this opinion out loud). Occasionally, the Real Programmer does step out of the office for a breath of fresh air and a beer or two. Some tips on recognizing real programmers away from the computer room:

  • At a party, the Real Programmers are the ones in the corner talking about

    operating system security and how to get around it.

  • At a football game, the Real Programmer is the one comparing the plays

    against his simulations printed on 11 by 14 fanfold paper.

  • At the beach, the Real Programmer is the one drawing flowcharts in the sand.
  • A Real Programmer goes to discos to watch the light shows.
  • At a funeral, the Real Programmer is the one saying "Poor George. And he

    almost had the sort routine working before the coronary."

  • In a grocery store, the Real Programmer is the one who insists on running

    the cans past the laser checkout scanner himself, because he never could trust keypunch operators to get it right the first time.

         --- ---- ------------ ------- -------
What sort of environment does the Real Programmer function best in? This

is an important question for the managers of Real Programmers. Considering the amount of money it costs to keep one on the staff, it's best to put him (or her) in an environment where he can get his work done.

The typical Real Programmer lives in front of a computer terminal.

Surrounding this terminal are:

  • Listings of all programs the Real Programmer has ever worked on, piled in

    roughly chronological order on every flat surface in the office.

  • Some half-dozen or so partly filled cups of cold coffee. Occasionally, there

    will be cigarette butts floating in the coffee. In some cases, the cups will contain Orange Crush.

  • Unless he is very good, there will be copies of the OS JCL manual and the

    Principles of Operation open to some particularly interesting pages.

  • Taped to the wall is a line-printer Snoopy calender for the year 1969.
  • Strewn about the floor are several wrappers for peanut butter filled cheese

    bars -- the type that are made pre-stale at the bakery so they can't get any worse while waiting in the vending machine.

  • Hiding in the top left-hand drawer of the desk is a stash of double-stuff

    Oreos for special occasions.

  • Underneath the Oreos is a flow-charting template, left there by the previous

    occupant of the office. (Real Programmers write programs, not documentation.
    Leave that to the maintenance people.)

The Real Programmer is capable of working 30, 40, even 50 hours at a stretch, under intense pressure. In fact, he prefers it that way. Bad response time doesn't bother the Real Programmer --
it gives him a chance to catch a little sleep between compiles. If there is not enough schedule pressure on the Real Programmer, he tends to make things more challenging by working on some small but interesting part of the problem for the first nine weeks, then finishing the rest in the last week, in two or three
50-hour marathons. This not only inpresses the hell out of his manager, who was despairing of ever getting the project done on time, but creates a convenient excuse for not doing the documentation. In general:

  • No Real Programmer works 9 to 5. (Unless it's the ones at night.)
  • Real Programmers don't wear neckties.
  • Real Programmers don't wear high heeled shoes.
  • Real Programmers arrive at work in time for lunch.
  • A Real Programmer might or might not know his wife's name. He does, however,

    know the entire ASCII (or EBCDIC) code table.

  • Real Programmers don't know how to cook. Grocery stores aren't open at three

    in the morning. Real Programmers survive on Twinkies and coffee.

                       THE FUTURE
                       --- ------
What of the future? It is a matter of some concern to Real Programmers

that the latest generation of computer programmers are not being brought up with the same outlook on life as their elders. Many of them have never seen a computer with a front panel. Hardly anyone graduating from school these days can do hex arithmetic without a calculator. College graduates these days are soft --
protected from the realities of programming by source level debuggers, text editors that count parentheses, and "user friendly" operating systems. Worst of all, some of these alleged "computer scientists" manage to get degrees without ever learning FORTRAN! Are we destined to become an industry of Unix hackers and Pascal programmers?

From my experience, I can only report that the future is bright for Real

Programmers everywhere. Neither OS/370 nor FORTRAN show any signs of dying out, despite all the efforts of Pascal programmers the world over. Even more subtle tricks, like adding structured coding constructs to FORTRAN have failed. Oh sure, some computer vendors have come out with FORTRAN 77 compilers, but every one of them has a way of converting itself back into a FORTRAN 66 compiler at the drop of an option card -- to compile DO loops like God meant them to be.

Even Unix might not be as bad on Real Programmers as it once was. The latest

release of Unix has the potential of an operating system worthy of any Real Programmer -- two different and subtly incompatible user interfaces, an arcane and complicated teletype driver, virtual memory. If you ignore the fact that it's "structured", even 'C' programming can be appreciated by the Real Programmer: after all, there's no type checking, variable names are seven (ten? eight?) characters long, and the added bonus of the Pointer data type is thrown in -- like having the best parts of FORTRAN and assembly language in one place.
(Not to mention some of the more creative uses for #define.)

No, the future isn't all that bad. Why, in the past few years, the popular

press has even commented on the bright new crop of computer nerds and hackers ([7] and [8]) leaving places like Stanford and M.I.T. for the Real World. From all evidence, the spirit of Real Programming lives on in these young men and women. As long as there are ill-defined goals, bizarre bugs, and unrealistic schedules, there will be Real Programmers willing to jump in and Solve The Problem, saving the documentation for later. Long live FORTRAN!


I would like to thank Jan E., Dave S., Rich G., Rich E. for their help in

characterizing the Real Programmer, Heather B. for the illustration, Kathy E.
for putting up with it, and atd!avsdS:mark for the initial inspriration.

  1. Feirstein, B., Real Men Don't Eat Quiche, New York, Pocket Books, 1982.
  2. Wirth, N., Algorithms + Datastructures = Programs, Prentice Hall, 1976.
  3. Xerox PARC editors . . .
  4. Finseth, C., Theory and Practice of Text Editors - or - a Cookbook for an

    EMACS, B.S. Thesis, MIT/LCS/TM-165, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, May

  5. Weinberg, G., The Psychology of Computer Programming, New York, Van Nostrabd

    Reinhold, 1971, page 110.

  6. Dijkstra, E., On the GREEN Language Submitted to the DoD, Sigplan notices,

    Volume 3, Number 10, October 1978.

  7. Rose, Frank, Joy of Hacking, Science 82, Volume 3, Number 9, November 1982,

    pages 58 - 66.

  8. The Hacker Papers, Psychology Today, August 1980.

Real Programmers Don't Write Specs

  • Real programmers don't write specs. Users should consider themselves lucky

    to get any programs at all and take what they get.

  • Real programmers don't comment their code. If it was hard to write, it

    should be hard to read.

  • Real programmers don't write application programs, they program right down

    on the bare metal. Application programming is for feebs who can't do systems programming.

  • Real programmers don't eat quiche. Real programmers don't even know how to

    spell quiche. They eat Twinkies, Coke and palate-scorching Szechwan food.

  • Real programmers don't draw flowcharts. Flowcharts are, after all, the

    illiterate's form of documentation. Cavemen drew flowcharts; look how much it did for them.

  • Real programmers don't read manuals. Reliance on a reference is a hallmark

    of the novice and the coward.

  • Real programmers programs never work right the first time. But if you throw

    them on the machine they can be patched into working in only a few 30-hours debugging sessions.

  • Real programmers don't use Fortran. Fortran is for wimpy engineers who wear

    white socks, pipe stress freaks, and crystallography weenies. They get excited over finite state analysis and nuclear reactor simulation.

  • Real programmers don't use COBOL. COBOL is for wimpy application


  • Real programmers never work 9 to 5. If any real programmers are around at 9

    am, it's because they were up all night.

  • Real programmers don't write in BASIC. Actually, no programmers write in

    BASIC, after the age of 12.

  • Real programmers don't document. Documentation is for simps who can't read

    the listings or the object deck.

  • Real programmers don't write in Pascal, or Bliss, or Ada, or any of those

    pinko computer science languages. Strong typing is for people with weak memories.

  • Real programmers know better than the users what they need.
  • Real programmers think structured programming is a communist plot.
  • Real programmers don't use schedules. Schedules are for manager's toadies.

    Real programmers like to keep their manager in suspense.

  • Real programmers think better when playing adventure.
  • Real programmers don't use PL/I. PL/I is for insecure momma's boys who can't

    choose between COBOL and Fortran.

  • Real programmers don't use APL, unless the whole program can be written on

    one line.

  • Real programmers don't use LISP. Only effeminate programmers use more

    parentheses than actual code.

  • Real programmers disdain structured programming. Structured programming is

    for compulsive, prematurely toilet-trained neurotics who wear neckties and carefully line up sharpened pencils on an otherwise uncluttered desk.

  • Real programmers don't like the team programming concept. Unless, of course,

    they are the Chief Programmer.

  • Real programmers have no use for managers. Managers are a necessary evil.

    Managers are for dealing with personnel bozos, bean counters, senior planners and other mental defectives.

  • Real programmers scorn floating point arithmetic. The decimal point was

    invented for pansy bedwetters who are unable to "think big."

  • Real programmers don't drive clapped-out Mavericks. They prefer BMWs,

    Lincolns or pick-up trucks with floor shifts. Fast motorcycles are highly regarded.

  • Real programmers don't believe in schedules. Planners make up schedules.

    Managers "firm up" schedules. Frightened coders strive to meet schedules. Real programmers ignore schedules.

  • Real programmers like vending machine popcorn. Coders pop it in the

    microwave oven. Real programmers use the heat given off by the cpu. They can tell what job is running just by listening to the rate of popping.

  • Real programmers know every nuance of every instruction and use them all in

    every real program. Puppy architects won't allow execute instructions to address another execute as the target instruction. Real programmers despise such petty restrictions.

  • Real programmers don't bring brown bag lunches to work. If the vending

    machine sells it, they eat it. If the vending machine doesn't sell it, they don't eat it. Vending machines don't sell quiche.

  • Real programmers know that the word is disk, not disc. Disc is a definite

    commie plot put forth by blubbering quiche eaters.


                 T h e   V O G O N   N e w s   S e r v i c e  
VNS TECHNOLOGY WATCH: [Mike Taylor, VNS Correspondent]
===================== [Littleton, MA, USA ]


                   CREATORS ADMIT UNIX, C HOAX

    In an announcement that has stunned the computer industry, Ken Thompson,
  Dennis Ritchie and Brian Kernighan admitted that the Unix operating
  system and C programming language created by them is an elaborate April
  Fools prank kept alive for over 20 years.  Speaking at the recent
  UnixWorld Software Development Forum, Thompson revealed the following:

    "In 1969, AT&amp;T had just terminated their work with the GE/Honeywell/AT&amp;T 
  Multics project. Brian and I had just started working with an early
  release of Pascal from Professor Nichlaus Wirth's ETH labs in
  Switzerland and we were impressed with its elegant simplicity and
  power. Dennis had just finished reading 'Bored of the Rings', a
  hilarious National Lampoon parody of the great Tolkien 'Lord of the
  Rings' trilogy. As a lark, we decided to do parodies of the Multics
  environment and Pascal. Dennis and I were responsible for the operating
  environment. We looked at Multics and designed the new system to be as
  complex and cryptic as possible to maximize casual users' frustration
  levels, calling it Unix as a parody of Multics, as well as other more
  risque allusions. Then Dennis and Brian worked on a truly warped
  version of Pascal, called 'A'. When we found others were actually
  trying to create real programs with A, we quickly added additional
  cryptic features and evolved into B, BCPL and finally C. We stopped
  when we got a clean compile on the following syntax:

    for(;P("n"),R-;P("|"))for(e=C;e-;P("_"+(*u++/8)%2))P("| "+(*u/4)%2);

    To think that modern programmers would try to use a language that
  allowed such a statement was beyond our comprehension!  We actually
  thought of selling this to the Soviets to set their computer science
  progress back 20 or more years. Imagine our surprise when AT&amp;T and
  other US corporations actually began trying to use Unix and C!  It has
  taken them 20 years to develop enough expertise to generate even
  marginally useful applications using this 1960's technological parody,
  but we are impressed with the tenacity (if not common sense) of the
  general Unix and C programmer.  In any event, Brian, Dennis and I have
  been working exclusively in Pascal on the Apple Macintosh for the past
  few years and feel really guilty about the chaos, confusion and truly
  bad programming that have resulted from our silly prank so long ago."

    Major Unix and C vendors and customers, including AT&amp;T, Microsoft,
  Hewlett-Packard, GTE, NCR, and DEC have refused comment at this time. 
  Borland International, a leading vendor of Pascal and C tools,
  including the popular Turbo Pascal, Turbo C and Turbo C++, stated they
  had suspected this for a number of years and would continue to enhance
  their Pascal products and halt further efforts to develop C.  An IBM
  spokesman broke into uncontrolled laughter and had to postpone a
  hastily convened news conference concerning the fate of the RS-6000,
  merely stating 'VM will be available Real Soon Now'.  In a cryptic
  statement, Professor Wirth of the ETH institute and father of the
  Pascal, Modula 2 and Oberon structured languages, merely stated that P.
  T. Barnum was correct.

    In a related late-breaking story, usually reliable sources are stating
  that a similar confession may be forthcoming from William Gates
  concerning the MS-DOS and Windows operating environments.  And IBM
  spokesman have begun denying that the Virtual Machine (VM) product is
  an internal prank gone awry.
  {contributed by Bernard L. Hayes}
<><><><><><><><> VNS Edition : 2336 Tuesday 4-Jun-1991 <><><><><><><><>


Real Computer Scientists Don't Write Code

Real Computer Scientists don't

write code. They occasionally tinker with programming systems, but those are so high level that they hardly count (and rarely count accurately, precision is for applications).

Real Computer Scientists don't comment their code. The identifiers are so

long they can't afford the disk space.

Real Computer Scientists don't write the user interface, they merely argue

about what they should look like.

Real Computer Scientists don't eat quiche. They shun Schezuan food since the

hackers discovered it. Many Real Computer Scientists consider eating an implementation detail. (Others break down and eat with the hackers, but only if they can have ice cream for dessert).

If it doesn't have a programming environment complete with interactive

debugger, structure editor and extensive cross module type checking, Real Computer Scientists won't be seen tinkering with it. They may have to use it to balance their checkbooks, as their own systems can't.

Real Computer Scientists don't program in assembler. They don't write in

anything less portable than a number two pencil.

Real Computer Scientists don't debug programs, they dynamically modify them.

This is safer, since no one has invented a way to do anything dynamic to FORTRAN, COBOL or BASIC.

Real Computer Scientists like C's structured constructs, but they are

suspicious of it because it's compiled. (Only Batch Freaks and Efficiency Weirdos bother with compilers, they're soooo undynamic).

Real Computer Scientists play Go. They have nothing against the concept of

mountain climbing, but the actual climbing is an implementation detail best left to programmers.

Real Computer Scientists admire ADA for its overwhelming esthetic value, but

they find it difficult to actually program in, as it is much too large to implement. Most Computer Scientists don't notice this because they are still arguing over what else to add to ADA.

Real Computer Scientists work from 5 pm to 9 am because that's the only time

they can get the 8 megabytes of main memory they need to edit specs. (Real work starts around 2 am when enough MIPS are free for their dynamic systems). Real Computer Scientists find it hard to share 3081s when they are doing 'REAL' work.

Real Computer Scientists only write specs for languages that might run on

future hardware. Nobody trusts them to write specs for anything Homo Sapiens will ever be able to fit on a single planet.

Real Computer Scientists like planning their own environments to use bit

mapped graphics. Bit mapped graphics is great because no one can afford it, so their systems can be experimental.

Real Computer Scientists regret the existence of PL/1, PASCAL and LISP. ADA

is getting there, but it still allows people to make mistakes.

Real Computer Scientists love the concept of users. Users are always real

impressed by the stuff computer scientists are talking about; it sure sounds better than the stuff they are being forced to use now.

Real Computer Scientists despise the idea of actual hardware. Hardware has

limitations, software doesn't. It's a real shame that Turing machines are so poor at I/O.

Real Computer Scientists love conventions. No one is expected to lug a 3081

attached to a bit map screen to a convention, so no one will ever know how slow their systems run.

Real Software Engineers Don't Read Dumps

Real Software Engineers don't

read dumps. They never generate them, and on the rare occasions that they come across them, they are vaguely amused.

Real Software Engineers don't comment their code. The identifiers are so

mnemonic they don't have to.

Real Software Engineers don't write applications programs, they implement

algorithms. If someone has an application that the algorithm might help with, that's nice. Don't ask them to write the user interface, though.

Real Software Engineers eat quiche.

If it doesn't have recursive function calls, Real Software Engineers don't

program in it.

Real Software Engineers don't program in assembler. They become queasy at the

very thought.

Real Software Engineers don't debug programs, they verify correctness. This

process doesn't necessarily involve executing anything on a computer, except perhaps a Correctness Verification Aid package.

Real Software Engineers like C's structured constructs, but they are

suspicious of it because they have heard that it lets you get "close to the machine."

Real Software Engineers play tennis. In general, they don't like any sport

that involves getting hot and sweaty and gross when out of range of a shower.
(Thus mountain climbing is Right Out). They will occasionally wear their tennis togs to work, but only on very sunny days.

Real Software Engineers admire PASCAL for its discipline and Spartan purity,

but they find it difficult to actually program in. They don't tell this to their friends, because they are afraid it means they are somehow Unworthy.

Real Software Engineers work from 9 to 5, because that is the way the job is

described in the formal spec. Working late would feel like using an undocumented external procedure.

Real Software Engineers write in languages that have not actually been

implemented for any machine, and for which only the formal spec (in BNF) is available. This keeps them from having to take any machine dependencies into account. Machine dependencies make Real Software Engineers very uneasy.

Real Software Engineers don't write in ADA, because the standards bodies have

not quite decided on a formal spec yet.

Real Software Engineers like writing their own compilers, preferably in

PROLOG (they also like writing them in unimplemented languages, but it turns out to be difficult to actually RUN these).

Real Software Engineers regret the existence of COBOL, FORTRAN and BASIC;

PL/1 is getting there, but it is not nearly disciplined enough; far too much built-in function.

Real Software Engineers aren't too happy about the existence of users,

either. Users always seem to have the wrong idea about what the implementation and verification of algorithms is all about.

Real Software Engineers don't like the idea of some inexplicable and greasy

hardware several aisles away that may stop working at any moment. They have a great distrust of hardware people, and wish that systems could be virtual at ALL levels. They would like personal computers (you know no one's going to trip over something and kill your DFA in mid-transit), except that they need 8 megabytes to run their Correctness Verification Aid packages.

Real Software Engineers think better while playing WFF 'N' PROOF.

Real Programmers Don't Write Specs.

Real Programmers don't write specs

-- users should consider themselves lucky to get any programs at all and take what they get.

Real Programmers don't comment their code. If it was hard to write, it should

be hard to understand.

Real Programmers don't write application programs, they program down to the

bare metal. Application programming is for feebs who can't do systems programming.

Real Programmers don't eat quiche. They eat Twinkies, and Szechwan food.

Real Programmers don't write in COBOL. COBOL is for wimpy applications


Real Programmers' programs never work right the first time. But if you throw

them on the machine they can be patched into working in "only a few" 30-hour debugging sessions.

Real Programmers don't write in FORTRAN. FORTRAN is for pipe stress freaks

and crystallography weenies.

Real Programmers don't work 9 to 5. If any Real Programmers are around at 9

AM, it's because they were up all night.

Real Programmers don't write in BASIC. Actually, no programmers write in

BASIC, after the age of 12.

Real Programmers don't write in PL/1. PL/1 is for programmers who can't

decide whether to write in COBOL or FORTRAN.

Real Programmers don't write in APL. Any fool can be obscure in APL.

Real Programmers don't play tennis, or any other sport that requires you to

change clothes. Mountain climbing is OK, and Real Programmers wear their climbing boots to work in case a mountain should suddenly spring up in the middle of the machine room.

Real Programmers don't write in PASCAL, or BLISS, or ADA, or any of those

pinko computer science languages. Strong typing is for people with weak memories.

Real Programmers know better than the users what they need.

Real Programmers think structured programming is a communist plot.

Real Programmers don't use schedules. Schedules are for manager's toadies.

Real Programmers like to keep their managers in suspense.

Real Programmers think better while playing ADVENTURE.

Real Programmers do it middle-out.

Real Programmers enjoy machine coding PASCAL compilers for their micros which

they improve but never use.

Real Programmers enjoy getting CP/M to work on 370 machines and MVS on their


Real Programmers write their own assemblers, preferably in LISP.

Real Programmers never get annoyed by security systems, they turn off the

RACF bits and leave unsigned messages in the security data sets.

Real Programmers never update the source to reflect the ZAPs, after all, it

will have changed again tomorrow.

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