A common concern programmers have when I talk about my year off is that I’ll be unemployable at the end of it. After all, the industry moves really quickly and if I’m off thinking about things that aren’t programming, I’ll fall off the treadmill. Programmers are like the red queen, constantly running in order to stand still. Aren’t they?
Well, no, not really. Looking at the current TIOBE programming language index, I’ve written software in nine of the top ten languages (which are all at least a decade old). The likelihood that all of these will become obsolete in a year is miniscule, and the likelihood that the underlying principles of organisation of thought will perish is smaller still.
What about the platforms? Will big screens, small screens, touch screens, pointing devices, keyboards, web clients or network servers disappear within the next year? How would a freeze-dried programmer from 2014 or even 2005 cope with today’s near-identical world?
Maybe, should I come back to professional programming next year, I’ll find that I’ve grown my ability to understand things that aren’t programming; a skill that could stand programmers in great stead. I doubt, however, that I’ll have lost my ability to use a text editor and a compiler, tools that remain obstinately similar to their 1950s forebears.