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No More Programmers

Posted by pbrittan on July 29, 2003 at 11:12 AM PDT

I hear that Macromedia Flash is going to alleviate the burden of having programmers. I’ve been hearing for the past two decades about how this or that new software development system was going to allow business users or designers to create software, and therefore companies wouldn’t have to employ expensive programmers. As a further benefit, IT would be much more responsive because users would just create what they wanted on the fly without having to wait for developers to come get requirements, do design, code, test, refactor, code and test again, etc. (or maybe nerds are just unpopular).

There have been a number of visual languages that have promised this but none of them has gained widespread usage. Sun has even announced something in this category, and it appears that some folks are moving beyond visual programming into audio debugging. I have a friend who left the software development world entirely to go get an MBA and become a banker because he thought that Microsoft Access would allow business types to create their own software and therefore put an end to the profession of programmer – that was 7 years ago. The Web was supposed to allow graphic designers to easily create on-line applications without gorpy tech skills. Guess what happened?

The flaw with the programmer-less vision is that building software involves a lot more than the memorization of programming languages. Any experienced developer knows that learning new languages is not hard. The hard part is understanding how to design software (and I don’t mean just the graphics) and how to use whatever tools are available to create systems that solve the right problems, and that are robust, scalable, and maintainable. Learning how to dip your brush in the paint is the least part of being an artist.

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