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The drudgery of computer coding


Recently I've been seeing articles written that are encouraging young people to learn computer coding. And they don't mean going into computer science, or writing programs. They mean the drudgery of going through thousands of lines of code, adding, subtracting, and de-bugging.

There are advantages, and disadvantages to entering the world of computer coding. The advantage is that, like most most of these types of tasks, it's suited to young people with sharp eyesight and attention to detail. And it can be done from home, or wherever a computer can be hooked up, and it doesn't require being outside in the rain. Any child old enough to read can do it.

But it's really no different than the things that we've asked children to do for millennia. Go back thousands of years and you will find children huddled up in the corner sorting grain. And for hundreds of years we've had children doing the type of repetitive, attention-to-detail tasks, like sewing things together, that the adults just don't want to do.

My first experience with the people who did computer coding was in the 1980s, when I was working as a Graphic Designer in Los Angeles. The idea of creating "desktop publishing" was becoming popular, and I was invited, along with my boss, to visit a company that was developing software. And what I saw has become something of a stereotype of the people who do that kind of stuff - young men sitting in cubicles with their cans of Pepsi and slices of pizza. I remember thinking "what a life!" and was glad to leave that place. I can't unsee it.

Nowadays those guys would be considered the "top of the food chain" for computer coding. They would write the original code, and it would be passed down to someone else for refinement. And if you've ever seen the type of computer code that drives the computer you're on, or your Smart Phone, it's no exaggeration to describe it as going on for miles. Miles and miles of complex letters and numbers that real live human beings have to look at, for hours and hours.

Yes, we need computer coding in our modern world. We also need all of the things that the less fortunate have been doing "behind the scenes". And computer coding may not be as back-breaking as working in the fields, or sewing in a factory, but it's drudgery, make no mistake about that.