Jake Goulding

The Psychology of Computer Programming

Over New Year’s break, we visited one of Carol’s friends in New Orleans. While we did quite a lot of touristy things (the French Quarter is very exciting when the new year rolls around), we also got to visit the lovely used bookstore Beckham’s Book Shop. Unfortunately, we got there late in the day and I didn’t realize that there was an entire second floor until very near closing time. I’m glad I took the time to look upstairs, as that is where I discovered The Psychology of Computer Programming by Gerald M. Weinberg.

I grabbed the book from the shelf and glanced at the copyright date – 1971. I figured that any insights from that long ago would be hilarious, to say the very least, so I purchased it. Upon returning home for the evening, I was finally able to crack it open and read a bit. Put simply, I was floored – an amazing amount of issues that were identified 40 years ago are still problems today.

When we made our way back to Pittsburgh, we had to leave our new books behind to be shipped separately as they wouldn’t fit in our luggage. We finally got our package on Friday, and today I’ve been darting in and out of chapters trying to get a feel for the book. Every few pages I chuckle to myself (the laughter of programmers is itself addressed in the book) and every blurb I’ve read aloud has caused Carol to nod or sigh in agreement, as the case warrants.

My goal is to read through the book and blog about just how things have or haven’t changed and see how my experiences relate to those of programmers from 40 years ago. One positive thing that has already happened is that I’ve found out about Ben Simo, who regularly tweets about programming papers from the 70’s, both good and bad.

The book itself is still available to purchase in a 25th anniversary edition, which contains a new forward and per-chapter reflections by the author. Maybe I will buy the updated version when I have made my way through this edition and see how the two commentaries compare.

Beckham’s doesn’t seem to have a website, so I’ll just point out thier address and phone number in case anyone is interested.

Beckham’s Book Shop
228 Decatur St
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 522-9875