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The Veteran and the Master

The aged veteran said to the master, "See how many programs I have written in my labors. All of these works I have created needed no more than a text editor and a compiler." The master said, "I do have an editor; indeed, I have also a compiler."

Said the aged one, "Yet you shackle them within an 'environment'. Why must your environment be integrated? My environment has never been integrated, yet I am a mighty programmer."

The master said, "You are truly a mighty programmer. I perceive that you, in your keen intellect, can hold entire class hierarchies in mind at once. Such abilities of apprehension are to be respected."

The veteran was well pleased and said, "It is true. Hence I am lead programmer."

The master nodded. "Sadly, I have not your powers of visualization. I cannot hold entire hierarchies in my minds eye at once. In my limited faculties, I must focus entirely on one class at a time. The tool remembers the rest, as I cannot."

Emboldened, the aged veteran boasted, "See the commands fly from my fingertips! I type faster than other programmers think!"

Again, the master nodded his agreement, "I am not so blessed with speed as you. It is a burden and a trial to move so slowly. Behold, this measure of the marvel of your fingers. Such is the flight of your keystrokes that in the time it takes you to execute a regex replace across thirty files; compile the project; note the errors; and edit the twelve files with failed replacements; I will have barely completed the 'rename refactor' which I started by typing shift-alt-r."

Brazen in his opponents weakness, the veteran cried, "While you sit meditating at the green bar, I pound out another four thousand lines of code!"

Again, the master nodded, "Yes. And worse, while you write the next thousand, I will surely erase a thousand more, leaving us barely past where we began. It is clear that I cannot long contend in this field against such as yourself."

The battle-scarred veteran, his opponent beaten, laughed aloud. Barely bothering to express his contempt, he sneered, "And what fine code it is, too! You write a fraction of the code a real programmer could produce. As a coward in the grain, you shrink from any real challenge. Fearing to tread where real programmers dwell, you trade in coin like a merchant, purchasing the work of others, or worse, living on the charity of those motley-clad coders who give away the fruits of their work."

"Again, your perspicacity has unmasked me," said the master. "Knowing myself to produce bugs in my code, I prefer to write little of it. I do rely upon the work of others who, if not being smarter than myself, are at least more numerous than I. Had I your fleet fingers, I might not need to download these gifts offered by others. Indeed, I am certain that your mighty editor would surely outpace my mere web browser, and you could then code a new SVG renderer long before I will finish downloading Batik to do the same work. Alas, lacking your skills, I must fend for myself as best I can by reusing that which I can. Since each line of code costs me so greatly, it behooves me to write little, and I must needs make use of what aids I can."

Shaking his head, the aged veteran stalked away, safely assured that he had gauged the so-called master truly. He returned to his labors, building a parser for the scripting language of his workflow engine. This would be placed inside of an application that would someday have users.

Shaking his head, the master returned his eye to the red bar of his users' new acceptance tests. Reaching deliberately for the keyboard, he changed two methods and added one test case. In the serene green light of the test bar, he reflected a moment on the code he had added. Unruffled by the staccato typing in the direction of the veteran, he renamed four fields, extracted a method, and pulled it up into a new base class. Comforted by the tranquil green light, the master rested his hands a moment, then lifted them from the keyboard and walked away.

From the corner of his eye, the veteran observed the master leaving. "Charlatan," he snarled, as the regexes flew from his hands, long, long into the night.

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