Programming in just ONE language should be lauded. November 2, 2023 cliffski I recently read about the news that garbage collection support, which was added to C++, is now actually being removed from it. Apparently most people didn’t use it, or even knew it was officially added, so it is no great loss. It always shocks me to read articles about C++ with a version number, because as far as I am concerned, C++ has no version number and never will, in the same way that a language such as English has no ‘version number’. I’m 54 and its pretty rare that I add a new word to my English vocabulary, and its even rarer for me to learn something new about C++ that I start to use in my code. Back in the early days of modern computing. I worked in IT. My CV was basically: CNA, MCSE. That was it. That was all you needed to earn £54k a year 30 years ago in IT. There were basically 2 big computer systems, run by Microsoft and Novell, and your IT dude ideally knew them both. That was a long time ago now, and the amount of buzzwords and brand names the average IT admin has to put on their linkedin profile is probably quite ridiculous. However, I think its worse in the land of software engineering. Again, go back a while and you were probably pretty employable if you could just mention C and C++. Then Java became a big deal, then a bunch of other stuff appeared. I have no idea whats cool now, but it feels like Python, Rust are much in demand. Then you have to add all of the recent methodologies. Do you know Agile and Scrum? How familiar are you with AWS? Whats your AI/ML skills like? PyTorch? Do you know the buzzword technologies that will get you hired this year? You better get a job quick, because the buzzword technologies will change every 2 years. Did I say 2? I meant ever year. No sorry, month. I recently found myself thinking about poetry and code. My wife writes poetry, so I am exposed to this stuff. As a writer, she spends a lot of time… a LOT of time deciding what words to use in a sentence. Its a big deal. Sentence-by-sentence writing is an absolute skill that takes most people there entire life to perfect. Its worth noting that few poems are praised because they use the latest hip words. Good writing is not a matter of having a large vocabulary. Needlessly obscure word-choice is rightly seen as pretentious and alienating. We really need to take some of that perspective and apply it to code Take this sentence: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man, in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” Thats considered literary genius, and it is. But its not using arcane language. Every word is commonplace. And idiot could have put that sentence together! but it took Jane Austen, and considerable experience, and huge skill to do it. We do not mock Jane Austen because she could only write in English. We do not mock her because she only wrote from a woman’s point of view. We do not mock her because all her novels were contemporary, in a similar setting, set in a single country, with a linear narrative. We accept all of those limitations and accept that she brings incredible skill to use a limited set of tools to create genius. Imagine a modern programmer trying to get their first novel published. “English, yup I could write it in English, French, Italian, Chinese or South Korean if you like? I can do all the genres, yup, no problem. I can do first or third person if you like, and I’m familiar with fractured narrative or linear. If you want it funny I can do that, or harrowing, or in short story form too if thats what you are looking for.” Madness For some reason, people think that ‘proficiency’ in a programming language is something as superficial as being able to say ‘hello’ or order a beer in another language. This is insane. I am able to say ‘Hello’ ‘Thankyou’ and ‘Sorry’ In Korean, but you wont see me apply for a job writing Korean-language fiction. If you have under ten years experience in using a programming language, let me be blunt and tell you that you don’t REALLY know that language. 20 years is better. 30+ years is ideal. Do you really think you speak French like a native after speaking if for a few hours a day for a few years? Of course not. Thats laughable. And here is the thing: A mistake in a language can cause confusion and maybe embarrassment, but unless you are a lawyer writing contracts, its not CRITICAL. Miss-using C++ can cause rockets to crash, reactors to overload, and god knows what else. Why do we accept a superficial understanding of a language that is safety critical, but expect mastery of a language by anyone paid to use English? I know C++. Thats it. A little bit of php, but a trivial amount. I use container classes and std::string from STL but thats it. A very few macros. My C++ vocabulary, even after 28 years using it, is tiny. The amount of std library stuff I know is very small. And yet… I can type C++ with as much confidence and speed as I type this blog post. In fact I can write C++ faster, with fewer mistakes than I can English. In many ways, I am MORE fluent in C++ than English. I code almost every day, and love it. I feel absolutely that I know what I’m doing, after 28 years, and a subset of C++. The world is full of people claiming to have that fluency with 12 languages, and they are often literally half my age (I’m 54). This is utter bollocks. None of those people should be allowed ANYWHERE near mission critical code, or any code even tangentially involved with safety or security. I am sure that they ARE doing those jobs, every single day, because they all confidently think they are experts, and the people hiring them do not know any better. It a recipe for disaster, and its why year-after-year, software gets WORSE. Windows 11 runs dramatically worse than Windows 3.11 did, and it does it on hardware ludicrously faster. Skype is running at about 0.1% of its potential efficiency, has scrollbars that do not function as well as windows 3.11 did, and uses easily 100 times the RAM it needs. Your computer is an absolute trainwreck of clusterfucks crashing into a dumpster-fire of wasted resources. All the people involved in arranging the trainwreck think they are multi-skilled geniuses, but hardly any of them have any real understanding of the code they write. It doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t appreciate Picasso based on how many colors he used, or how many styles he knew. We don’t berate any musician for only knowing one style. In Japan, people who make the SAME SUSHI DISH their entire lives, without variation, are considered legends, and experts. Its the norm in South Korea for restaurants to only serve one dish (but do it WELL). I beg of you: If you are involved in recruiting software engineers, for the love of god only employ people who have real, genuine experience, measured in years but preferable decades, for stuff where you expect them to be able to code from day 1. No, they will not ‘pick it up quickly on the job’. Hiring interns or juniors is different, obviously. I know I’m an old man yelling at a cloud, but sometimes old people know a lot about the cloud. I’ve been coding since I was 11, and its taken me this long to realize that programming languages should be treated like any other language. It might not be a popular view, but I want to put it out there. Experience really matters.