Saturday, November 18, 2006

Review: The Pragmatic Programmer

When I was a teenager I used to sit at my computer many hours a day, pondering about interesting computing problems, like writing a magic eye 3d creator or a cool battletech computer game. The first important computer book I read (after reading the micrsoft basic handbook) was "Spiele programmieren mit QBASIC" (Programming games in QBASIC) by Lars Hennigsen. This book explained the basic concept of computer programming and mathematics in a way that fascinated me as a fifteen-year-old. This book was by no means the best book available as a reference on computer programming, but it multiplied my interest in computer programming by giving me just the right information to get me started.

During my studies of computer science I mostly read scientistic articles and scripts written by scientists for scientists. This information was invaluable for laying a foundation of technical knowledge. While studiying I learned mostly by trying out new interesting things, coding open source software and endless discussions with fellow students.

When I started to work I felt confident in my field. I expected to learn a lot on a learning-by-doing basis, or by listening closely to the veteran software developers around me. After two years of architecturing and coding in the real world, my enthusiasm mixed with an exhausted feeling that you just can't tackle the complexity of software development effectively.

When I visited New York City at christmas '05 I spent a lot of my time rummaging through bookstores full of English books (which are rather spare here in Germany). There I stumled across a copy of "The Pragmatic Programmer". Since I had read about the title allready somewhere on the internet and didn't have anything to read at that time, I bought me the copy.

I read this book on my flight from New York to Munich in one go. Andrew Hunt and David Thomas managed to light that spark of hope inside of me that there may be a silver bullet after all. They draw an abstract view on software development, they help us step back to take a look at ourselves and how we're doing things. They explain the world around the software developer and show why it is important to explain the process and not only the tools used to produce code. They inspired me to read "Extreme Programming Explained" by Kent Beck, to join IEEE and utilize their library to learn from the experience of fellow software developers. As with my first computer book, "The Pragmatic Programmer" is by no means as insightful as "The Mythical Man Month" or as complete as "Code Complete", but it is inspiring in it's mission to make programmers deliver better software to the world.

I'd definitely recommend this book to any programmer who hasn't read a book about software development for some time and is just not satisfied with the way software is created nowadays.


  1. So how was your Magic Eye project?

  2. It took an 8-bit image as input, where the value of the pixel specified the depth information.
    From this information it generated a working magic eye image. Since I didn't know anything about function approximation at that time, I was not able to figure out how to get smooth transition between depth levels - but it worked ;-)

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