Real coders, real code.

It's late, do you know where your coder is?

Really, it's a very good question.  You think your spouse is sleeping next to you at night.  They are not.  They are awake, bleary, weary and barely lucid, secretly feeding their addiction.  Yes, it is sad and depraved, and utterly reprehensible.  Of course, they don't want you to know because they need to keep the mystery.  It will make it all the more poignant when the truth does come out, because they have a plan, and it is big. They need to code. It is what makes them go; the juice that makes them feel alive, and it is all leading somewhere.  You see, there's an app, and it does something wonderful, and you'll understand when you see it, but it's not exactly done yet.  It would be if they could just figure out that frigging API, but the doc sucks straws and the on-line help is out to lunch.

I know this is true, because I find myself there often sitting at the PC, late into the evening and night.  I've got a thought struggling to get out, tearing, clawing and scraping to get out of my brain and into the machine.  Like an artist I must channel this energy through my being and out my fingers, onto a digital canvas, because that is what the expression of my ideas become to me, my art.  I paint with the keyboard, patterns in symbols, lines and logical structure.  It's more than the simple words, the names and statements, the loops and threads.  It is the engine that will roar, the tumblers that will spin, the dials, the sound and the motion that will eventually be.  The program is built piece by piece, backward and forward. A shape takes form from a fog, plastered and hewn, over and over until an image seeps onto the screen that matches the picture in my mind.  The code may stand still, like a photograph, but like that photograph it has captured a scene and frozen it in time.  It speaks of motion, a liquid flow, a living breathing thing, and you can feel it when you read it, drinking it in. 

Real coders know this.  They know their programs are alive, somewhere there in the machine, even if only caught in time.  The program transcends the silicon statis and branches out into the electromagnetic ether.  And they exist out there, full and complete, like the world in that photo that is now somewhere other than on the film or the page.  Their life is not in their running.  You may execute them at your leisure, but that is not the spark that brings them into being.  That is the machine and its processor, clumsy fingers fumbling over the creation like a blind man trying to see, trying to make sense out of the features, but only ever able to see in small glimpses the totality that you know resides out there, somewhere.

Code is real.


Comments (41)

  1. You found a woman that puts up with that? If so, Bravo! I wish I had. 🙁

  2. Nick says:

    nice. I’ll have what your on please 😉

  3. James Steele says:

    I thought I was the only one. Thank God there are others!

  4. Denise Reis says:

    Oh yes, I knew this already! I pray for the day my husband comes up from the cold, dark, stinky basement and asks for a beer and plops down in front of the TV to watch the Packers play. Heck I’d settle for a white wine spritzer and figure skating at this point! I sit with a smile on my face nodding as I listen to him excitedly rant about .Net and how he got a (whatever you call it) down to .003 seconds from its previous 3.8! I hug him and tell him I’m proud of him and he can do anything because I know that one day, that idea that’s clawing and chewing its way out of his brain will make it out! Yep, I love that coder of mine!

  5. I totally grok this. Great post.

  6. I have my girlfriend realizes what she’s getting into when we get married…

    I’m there with Denise… my girlfriend has to put up with my descriptions of whatever I’m coding. I always figure I’m boring her, but she likes it. It is interesting to explain SQL databases or binary trees to her. 🙂

  7. Melissa says:

    LOL! Denise that sounds *exactly* like me.

    Night after night I listen to <a href="">my husband</a> talk about how such and such works so much faster than his last app, and how cool .NET is, and about the next app he plans to create, and what he’s going to use to create it.

    I’ve learned to nod and smile a lot. I cheer him on too, but typically I’m not exactly sure what he’s talking about. He’ll sit at his computer coding away for hours on end, while the world passes him by. I’m just glad he has something that engages his mind and makes him so happy. 🙂

  8. Melissa says:

    Sorry about the malformed link. I wasn’t sure if you had HTML in your comments or not. 🙂

  9. Matt Warren does a good job of describing how I’ve been feeling as of late. While I haven’t gone so far as to get up in the middle of the night to code, it’s definitely been the case lately that…

  10. You have been Taken Out! Comments about your posting in this link. Thanks!

  11. Take Outs for 18 March 2004

  12. carlajsarmiento says:

    Same here Denise & Melisssa. When he was still my boyfiend, I’m jealous with his computer since I can’t simply tear him away from coding. I even thought of breaking up with him because he’s weird. He would even program something while driving(I heard him murmuring about a certain application), can you imagine that?

    But we got married he never thought that I would really listen to him eagerly. One day he was smiling and said,"it’s nice that you would listen to me about my job", (the truth is, I don’t understand anything that he’s talking about). I just look at him straight in the eyes and said: I love you mahal! I’ll support you with whatever that would make you happy. Now I know how talented he is.

  13. Marauderz says:

    I just hope our wives don’t decide to form a Coder’s Widows support group or something…

    "Pry him off VS.Net now!"

  14. B says:

    I love my wife and family. They mean the world to me. They do. But, friday night when my wife and kids are sleeping, which is always pretty early on a friday, I sneak away to the computer and I code, code, code, and code. Saturday morning comes and I’m always very hard to get out of bed 🙂 I just freakin’ love it.

  15. Denise Reis says:

    Hmmm… a Coder’s Widows Support Group… interesting! VERY interesting!

  16. David Cumps says:

    Actually, your girlfriend or wife is the only thing keeping you away from your code mostly… imagine not having one. ouch, would be bad for health and sleep :p

    Lovely post!

  17. Matt Warren says:

    The response to this post has been phenominal. Thanks everyone for the feedback.

  18. Guy Sofer says:

    Yes, this is really the case

    Our code is our Art and we have the urge to make it feasible. I code for 8 years and I still have the thrill when I find a good idea for a software solution (even if it’s likely that someone had already thought about it). Usually I write these ideas in notes next to me every time an idea raises in my mind. My wife find this writing notes behavior funny – but I enjoy it. Recently, I got rid of the writing notes habits because I bought my first PocketPC – so now I write my ideas there

  19. Brian LeRoux says:

    It’s now 4:50am here in Vancouver. My very patient wife is asleep downstairs while I tap away unaware of anything but an abstract castle in my mind. I’m stuck. I must be tired. I pause for a quick break and peruse my aggregator. Then I read this post and suddenly castle walls just dissolve.

    Brilliant writing Matt. Its nice to know I’m not alone.

    Good night all. 🙂

  20. I am going to have my wife read this! This is just how I feel.

    Thursday Night/Friday morning was a perfect example of what you are talking about. I got out of bed at 11:30pm. Worked on my project till about 1:30am and then got up at 5am to work on it for an hour or so before I had to go to work. And sleeping doesn’t stop the coding, I code the project in my sleep, and I am sure I am not alone when I say I will dream in code.

  21. David Cumps says:

    And when you wake up, the first thing that jumps in your mind is some line of code.

  22. If you haven’t read it yet, the Tao of Programming [1] is a good read.


  23. Matt Warren says:

    I haven’t read that, but I have read the Tao of Piglet. I’m sure they are much the same. 🙂

  24. curry684 says:

    I completely recognize myself in this text. Coding is life. My girl puts up with it too, it’s 2:31 AM right now over here and she’s sleeping 🙂

  25. Anonymous says:

    Digiwar – the Yeep-blog &raquo; Understanding your coder

  26. It’s late, do you know where your coder is? Really, it’s a very good question. You think your spouse is sleeping next to you at night. They are not. They are awake, bleary, weary and barely lucid, secretly feeding their addiction. Yes, it is sad and depraved

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