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Vol.26 No.4

Vol.26 No.4


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Volume 15, No.4


by Stefano Lanzavecchia

“You have performed an illegal operation. You are under arrest”
Microsoft™ ... almost.

A software project like a football match, where the programmers are the players, why not? Personally I think there are a lot of reasons why the two disciplines don’t have a lot in common, but on the other hand the parallel can be tried. Since we aim at big targets, let’s think of a first division game. One first difference it’s easy to find: no good programmer will ever even dream of earning anywhere near an average football player. And forget about Bill Gates, there can be only one like him and he won’t leave his place very easily. Plus he has not been a programmer for many years now. Another difference is that programmers in general work like artists, composing another section of their great symphony every day, while soccer-players... well... just follow a ball and sometimes get to give it a kick. Is football at least a precise maybe even scientific game? No way. All they ever do is to throw the ball randomly hoping for some magic to happen while every minute they count their sweaty pounds accumulating in their bank accounts. What would be considered pure folly in many other ball sports (like basketball or volleyball) is simply accepted and sometimes even applauded as good play in football.

In the same way, computer programmers would never do anything that silly. Our objectives are always clear, the strategy to follow, the technology to be used, nothing is left to the hazard of a moment, everything is planned, the delivery precisely on time and the customer is always satisfied. We don’t get a lot of fame, but fame is not always a good thing: imagine the shame of being spotted in a Seven Eleven shop while we buy our dinner, pre-cooked noodles and chips in a bag with beer in cans. Our reputation would be destroyed. Sometimes soccer players are hurt. Since technical directors and projects managers don't wear shoes with metal nails and don't spend hours in the gym, we have nothing to fear.

Now, what about a comparison between a movie and a software project? It’s immediately evident the larger freedom of a programmer not to mention the possibility of a version 2.0. A director only has one possibility. Have you ever heard of a movie called “Gone with the Wind version 2.2”? Has your favourite movie theatre ever shown “Fantasia Service Pack 3”? Would you be impressed by a “Casablanca 97”? On the other hand, is the remake of “Sabrina” anywhere near as good as the original? Did any of you like “Highlander 2” or “Highlander 3” better than the original “Highlander”? In the world of cinema follow-ups are usually a disaster. In our wonderful cyberworld, versions onepointzero are hardly even worth the trouble, if not to get an idea of the future potential of the product. Our luck lies in the fact that not only are we given more than one chance to show what we can do, but in fact we are expected to use those extra chances. Moreover a director (and the actors) are not allowed any mistakes. Whenever a bug is found in one of our creations we can always promise “it will be fixed in the next release”.

Finally, one may ask: what about the Oscar prize? That is definitely something a programmer does not normally get. Well, I am pleased to announce that a friend of mine has awarded, during a regular ceremony, the editorials of Vector with the NERV Oscar, for best production of the year. There you go.

† For a different but somewhat analogous point of view on the same subject, please check the column “Developers in Love” in Vol.3 No. 4 (April 1999) of the “Microsoft Office and VBA Developer Magazine.» Since the two articles were written in parallel, they did not influence each other. Let me quote: “... thinking about this superbly crafted, well-conceived film reminded me of how much I admire the work of anyone who excels in his or her chosen field...”.

© 1999 British APL Association & Stefano Lanzavecchia

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