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Ask Slashdot: Best Approach To Reenergize an Old Programmer? 360

Posted by samzenpus
from the get-back-in-the-game dept.
StonyCreekBare writes "I started out programming in Z80 assembler in the 1970s. Then I programmed in Pascal. Then x86 Assembler in the early '90s. Over time I did a smattering of C, Basic, Visual C++, Visual Basic, and even played at Smalltalk. Most recently I settled on Perl, and Perl/Tk as the favorite 'Swiss army Chainsaw' tool set, and modestly consider myself reasonably competent with that. But suddenly, in this tight financial environment I need to find a way to get paid for programming, and perl seems so 'yesterday.' The two hot areas I see are iOS programming and Python, perhaps to a lesser extent, Java. I need to modernize my skill-set and make myself attractive to employers. I recently started the CS193P Stanford course on iTunesU to learn iPad programming, but am finding it tough going. I think I can crack it, but it will take some time, and I need a paycheck sooner rather than later. What does the Slashdot crowd see as the best path to fame, wealth and full employment for gray-haired old coots who love to program?"
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Ask Slashdot: Best Approach To Reenergize an Old Programmer?

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  • Coldfusion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 12, 2012 @12:31AM (#41627167)

    Seriously, stop laughing. It's a niche language, but is used in a lot of places you wouldn't expect, and there aren't tons of developers. Bad for the language, but good for the developers. And the best part? It's easy to learn.

    • Re:Coldfusion (Score:5, Interesting)

      by thejuggler (610249) on Friday October 12, 2012 @01:10AM (#41627427) Homepage Journal
      I do very well ($$$) programming web based application with ColdFusion. Using other technologies like Javascript (JQuery) for the front end. With the launch of CF 10 this year the language is fully scriptable for those that like script and tags for that that feel better working with tags. While it does not force OO style of programming it does allow OO programming. Because the CF server is built on Java and runs in a JVM you have direct access to Java. CF is designed to be a very strong and robust RAD platform. And it is robust. ColdFusion server is free for developers but it is a commercial product and it has a price tag. Companies are willing to pay for a reliable server platform. They do it all the time. Additionally there are a couple open source ColdFusion engines that are free. Like the OP I too started out programming a long time ago. I started in the 80's and did many languages prior to ColdFusion including assembler, CNC, BASIC, FORTRAN, ASP, PHP, C/C++, SQL, Perl etc.

      ColdFusion is a viable language and there is room for more developers.
      • by nschubach (922175)

        I don't do CF anymore, but Coldfusion has definitely taken strides to make life better. It's too bad they still charge for it when pretty much everything else is free.

    • by roman_mir (125474) on Friday October 12, 2012 @06:56AM (#41629029) Homepage Journal

      Cold fusion?

      Well, if I am reading the story headline correctly, you may be onto something:

      Best Approach To Reenergize an Old Programmer?

      I was thinking about suggesting a USB port, it carries 5 volts up to 100mA (standard), but I think your idea is better.

    • Re:Coldfusion (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 12, 2012 @08:42AM (#41629587)

      This suggestion and his own are entirely wrong for his skillset.

      He should be investigating industrial control systems and PLC development.
      It's a high-salary job that has little competition, especially with experience.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 12, 2012 @12:37AM (#41627201)

    I wonder what it'll feel like when I'm 50, or 60.

    • by Garridan (597129) on Friday October 12, 2012 @12:50AM (#41627313)
      Then get out. You're still young, you can learn an entirely new trade and expect to succeed. There'll be some pain and difficulty along the way... but it won't be as bad as hating your life for the next 40 years. (yes, 40 -- you don't think the retirement age is going to go down, do you?)
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 12, 2012 @01:09AM (#41627421)
        I think the expectation is that you'll transition to something up the ladder. What I actually see is people stuck in the same job forever while 25yo grads with mba's cycle in. They cut their teeth as project managers, move up, bring in a new grad. Programmers stay at the bottom, hoping that one day they'll make some awesome project that'll be their escape. Never happens.
        • Bull (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 12, 2012 @07:05AM (#41629069)

          Those who never held a real specialist job when they got into management are simply incapable to make technology decisions. All they can do is to apply their el-stupido methods which openly ridicule expertise in anything. They can talk nicely and make pretty powerpoints. But that is it.

          Look at HP Co. - they thought that MBAers were the future. Fiveteen years later they are firmly in the crapper, while companies such as Google thrive on deep technology expertise. Google explicitly requires deep tech expertise when they hire people and they give $hit about your "soft skills". They hire quite old people with more than two decades of software engineering under their belt.

          If someone does not like the grunt work of software engineering, he or she has to make a change - no doubt. But that does not mean you cannot have a great career until 65 (or 70) in software engineering. Just don't think software engineering is all about a specific technology; it is about a solid understanding of concepts, complexity analysis, lots of experience in making systems, being able to write white papers for other technologists and of course the mastery of at least one development environment and things like business process analysis (and transformation into technology solutions to aid these processes).

        • by osu-neko (2604) on Friday October 12, 2012 @08:32AM (#41629519)
          I suspect a lot of programmers don't want to "move up" to project management and beyond. Coding is fun. Management sucks...
    • by Sussurros (2457406) on Friday October 12, 2012 @01:00AM (#41627365)
      By the time you get into your fifties you have more answers, less problems, some entrenched bad habits that are nearly impossible to break, a whole lot of dreams that you know you'll never achieve, someone who looks like your parent looking back at you in the mirror, and the search for sex is no longer an overarching need - but inside you'll still feel young.

      At thirty you probably feel as old as you'll ever feel. You always feel young inside but at thirty the world stops looking new. That soon passes though once you realise that you haven't been paying close enough attention. The world will always be new and that you'll always feel young even if you live to be a hundred.
      • by TechyImmigrant (175943) on Friday October 12, 2012 @02:04AM (#41627697) Journal

        Switch to hardware. Do chip design. Then you can complete the process of turning your hair grey. But it pays better than software.

        • by BrokenHalo (565198) on Friday October 12, 2012 @08:32AM (#41629521)

          Switch to hardware. Do chip design.

          Sounds like a plan. A change of discipline is as good as a rest...

          What I did in 1990 after 20 years in programming (Fortran, assembly, COBOL and C on assorted "big iron" mainframes) was a complete change. Management was not an option, since that's a job for someone who doesn't have the skills for anything more worthwhile. So I went back to school and did a double degree in biochemistry and biotechnology, which for a tired old fart like me was fucking hard work, but it's way out there enough on the geek scale to be interesting, even if the pay isn't always quite as good as in IT.

          If I were doing it all over again, I would possibly choose analytical chemistry or mathematics, but no regrets...

          • by rhombic (140326)

            Overall I totally agree, but management (in good companies) isn't a job for those who can't do anything else. I was a bench physical biochemist for 10 years, and I'm still the 2nd best analyst in my 50 person department (and occasionally drop back into the lab to prove it). Since I can also plan projects, handle a multi $MM budget, communicate efficiently with the business types, and recruit and retain good people, I get to run the department. Not to say there aren't giant tools in management everywhere, bu

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I just want to say thank you for this response -- I'm 39 and your perspective is both comforting and much appreciated.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 12, 2012 @06:16AM (#41628867)

      Say you've worked for 5-10 years already. You've got WORK experience. You've got OFFICE experience. Why not do something new?

      So brush up your CV and try to convey what is your experience, what is your positive personal traits.
      Get a job as consultant through a consultant company. You'll get your toes into many more opportunities and meet more people.
      Consider other roles. There are TONS and TONS of different roles in the jobmarket. Investigate and apply for them!
      Take every opportunity to sell yourself, honestly.

      With a bit of a confidence you may find there are more opportunities out there than the box you've let yourself get stuck in.

      Don't let ANYBODY ELSE define YOUR LIFE. Break out of it once in a while. We're all breaking out sooner or later anyways. Nothing is worth to be miserable for, not even a comfortable salary.

      Catcha: certify

    • I wonder what it'll feel like when I'm 50, or 60.

      It's like being 30 and surrounded by 18yo's doing dumb shit you have already tried, somewhere between now and 40 you will, most likely for the first time in your life, want to start winding the clock backwards. You will want your 21yo body back, but not if you have to give up your 40yo mind. Once you get to 50 you have accepted the muscle and bone aches are here to stay, you no longer trust a fart. Around that time grand-kids start popping up all over the place and if your lucky you might find a new level o

  • by stox (131684) on Friday October 12, 2012 @12:37AM (#41627205) Homepage

    I would take a strong look at Ruby. There are a lot of Ruby jobs available these days.

    • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Friday October 12, 2012 @02:01AM (#41627685)
      Second. The Ruby market is going strong. Yes, there are more jobs in Java and Python, but those are "established" code bases that need maintenance... there is less new stuff being done.

      If you know Perl and some Smalltalk, you should have little difficulty with Ruby. Also, there is a bonus: check out Rhomobile. iOS and Android and Blackberry development... all in Ruby.
  • by AuMatar (183847) on Friday October 12, 2012 @12:38AM (#41627211)

    You have tons of experience. If you're any good at all, you don't need a class, in fact a class will go far too slow. You need to get your hands dirty. Just pick something that you think would be fun, pick an existing app for it, and copy it. You learn more by doing than reading.

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      So true. I'm just a hobby programmer, my weapon of choice being Python, coming from a lineage of Basic and TurboPascal.

      Then I decided I needed to get something done on my Android phone. I needed an app that didn't exist. It had to talk to some web site, so well I just looked up how to do this, downloaded the SDK, downloaded Eclipse, and started working.

      I'm trying to get something done. In this case to get my phone to do something. That it's got to be done in Java - a language I had never touched before - I

  • Old standbys (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elysiuan (762931) on Friday October 12, 2012 @12:44AM (#41627259) Homepage

    If the primary motivation is getting a job I'd probably stick to Java and C#/.NET. Not the sexiest technologies but ubiquitous. Neither is going to be replaced anytime soon and even if they are they'll turn into what COBOL was with people working on legacy systems well past the host languages shelf-life. Given what you've said I'd probably focus on Java since you already have experience there. Another plus with Java is that you can still focus on mobile development with the Android platform if that's what's exciting you.

    Or you can take the badass Paul Graham approach and create the next big thing in Common Lisp and ride that wave to YCombinator-esque superstardom! This is the more exciting/perilous route.

    • If the primary motivation is getting a job I'd probably stick to Java and C#/.NET

      I would agree with you, for someone looking to leave college in a year or two...

      But for someone looking to make money sooner I'd say it would be difficult to land a Java/C# job without some practical on the job experience in those languages.

      As unfair as that may be with his diverse background, it's simply the case that most companies are going to have a number of candidates to look at with a few years of Java or C# and it's goi

      • by hackula (2596247) on Friday October 12, 2012 @09:26AM (#41630051)
        Read a .Net Unleashed book and you are already more qualified than 70% of the crap C#ers out there. Companies will be fighting over you if you can solve a few Fizzbuzz problems in C# at the interview, which should be trivial for you with that sort of experience. No, it will not be sexy, but that is what allows you to get your foot in the door. .Net is pretty nice too. The downsides to C# and .Net have all to do with the mostly lackluster community and almost nothing to do with the tech. I got out of .Net for that reason (working in node.js now), but C# still is actually my favorite language I have ever worked with. Linq alone is one of the best language features out there. Seriously though, most .Net developers just write CRUD apps hooking up forms with SQL and Crystal Reports, so the barrier to entry is extremely low.
    • Re:Old standbys (Score:5, Insightful)

      by drolli (522659) on Friday October 12, 2012 @01:42AM (#41627603) Journal

      This.

      The total environment (financially, technically) for mobile apps is not the most steady market. A little rule change on the side of Apple, and only big shops survive.

      Phyton is nice and used sometimes.

      But what will keep your bread buttered is Java/.NET+DB+"one application area of your choice" knowledge. Most big project are started in Java/.NET, most contain DBs.

      And never focus on a language which can be only used for a single platform (Objective C - Apple), They may be the hype today. They may be the hype next year. The iphone now is 6 years old. That is significantly less than the time over whcih Siemens mobiles or Nokia mobile seemed invincible and ubiqueus in Europe. And significantly less than the first phase of success for Apple. in the 80s and 90s. (yes, also Apple can bring you products, which really suck).

  • by pieterh (196118) on Friday October 12, 2012 @12:47AM (#41627275) Homepage

    If you're better at smaller focused tasks, learn Android development, and team up with someone with good graphics skills.

    If you're better at the big picture, learn 0MQ [zero.mq] and sell yourself as an architect.

  • the sad truth. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rickb928 (945187) on Friday October 12, 2012 @12:49AM (#41627297) Homepage Journal

    No one wants to tell you to take up JavaScript, or .NET, or drive through IOS, but the money is there.

    SQL and VB will complement some of those skill sets.

    • the good news... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      (bah, rick, you beat me to it. ; ) )
      For mentioning TK, Visual C++ & Visual Basic, the basic assumption is that you look for something related to GUI applications.
      In this case, IMHO:

      • Current hot topics: "Big Data", Map/Reduce, "Scalability", "Cloud", mobility, Web 2.0 (aka, the services-web [and to a lesser extent, "the internet of things"]) AmI, AOSE (agents, not aspects)... If you look at (least at the abstracts of) current research (e.g. through scholar.google.com), you can get a better understanding
    • by timeOday (582209)
      I'm a little surprised iOS is getting some love here. I guess without knowing it I had assumed it's just used for the saturated "app" market where everything sells for $2 or less? Are there any Real Jobs in iOS?
  • Modern Stack (Score:5, Interesting)

    by watanabe (27967) on Friday October 12, 2012 @12:56AM (#41627337)

    I think you just need to add a modern stack to your resume and put out an example project on github, you'll be ready to find work. The stacks that people are hiring for right now:

    • Python -- tornado -- mysql / nosql (mongo or redis experience)
    • Ruby -- Rails -- mysql / nosql
    • Haskell/Erlang/Functional Insanity -- I have no idea how these people deal with data
    • Javascript/ Nodejs -- mongo probably
    • IOS Development

    A solid web application based on bootstrap.js in any of the first four frameworks will get you an interview. A sample application for IOS should as well, at probably any one of your local agencies / design firms / app shops.

    If I were in your shoes, I'd skip the big enterprise languages, like Java / C# -- if you like Perl, you're going to hate working in those languages, and much of the work in those languages sucks, to be honest.

    My money-shot idea: learn kdb+ and q and go pull in $250k a year working for a hedge fund / investment bank. Also, it's fun and brain-bending.

    • Haskell/Erlang/Functional Insanity -- I have no idea how these people deal with data

      Haskell has three big web frameworks: Happstack, Snap and Yesod. Happstack has a persistence layer called acid-state, Yesod's is called Persistent. I'm not sure what's Snap's default, but it's possible to mix and match from all three frameworks pretty much.

  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Friday October 12, 2012 @12:57AM (#41627345)

    ...and perl seems so "yesterday".

    Ya. It's not.

    I'm a 49, with only a BS in CS, am fully-employed (though I often choose to work less than 40/week) and I use Perl every day for production projects. Yes, I also use about 9 other programming languages on both Unix/Linux and Windows (sigh), but when the shit is approaching the fan, Perl usually saves the day. Having a breadth of experience and knowledge is what makes one really useful. Knowing a little (sometimes more) about a lot of things, knowing what you don't know, and how to research what you don't know, is better than knowing a lot about a few things. It's also a damn-sight better than pretending to know thing you don't know.

    I've been a systems programmer / administrator on just about every Unix platform there is and specialize in automating things. That experience also helps me on Windows (again, sigh). I'm the one that gets asked to do the "impossible" things because I figure out how to get them done.

    As for fame and wealth... Be good and generous with people, especially the ones you love, pay off all your bills promptly and don't buy shit you don't really need. I'm debt-free and - actually - don't have to work ever again - though, I'd be bored (okay, more bored).

    Oh, and don't be a dick, unless absolutely necessary. Then...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 12, 2012 @01:02AM (#41627379)

    I find myself in a somewhat similar situation, except that I started with IBM 650 machine language, then the SOAP assembler, back in the later fifties, then for a while was a wiz in FORTRAN, so have been programming for 54 years now. I found that same natural evolutionary path through Perl a pleasant adventure. Forget the money. Forget the fame. Take that early retirement at 60 to collect the government pension, minimize the lifestyle if you have to, and just enjoy programming as a recreation. Then help others.

    Always wanted to learn Python, but never really had the compelling need for it. Now amusing myself taking the Edx.org/MIT introductory course in Python. I'm at the stage of wondering if as a language, it starts out trying too hard to be easy, and ends up being just as complex and un-intuitive as brain teasers in C or Perl except a bit less possibility of really dense code. Even Cobol used to get that way. Anyway since the EDx course is graded, it gives one a nice challenge to test oneself against. 'Course it's easy for me to learn one more language, after the first 49, another one isn't hard. I feel for the kids trying it for their first introduction to programming. Some of them stumble so badly, and maybe forget that Google is their friend, so they find it even a bit scary. In the old days we never had Google. Ah for the days of McKracken, or Kernahan and Ritchie, when explanations were so crystal clear. Good luck!

  • C/C++ (Score:5, Insightful)

    by VirexEye (572399) on Friday October 12, 2012 @01:03AM (#41627389) Homepage
    C/C++ is very relevant today, and will be just as relevant tomorrow.
  • You have mixed goals (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Weaselmancer (533834) on Friday October 12, 2012 @01:05AM (#41627399)

    Not necessarily conflicting, but definitely mixed. I picture a 2 circle Venn diagram. One is "enjoy my job", and the other is "get paid". You'd like to be in the middle overlapping bit.

    I have no idea how to tell you how to enjoy your job. Only you know what you like. As for the language? Completely irrelevant. Any decent coder can learn a new language. If you've gone from Z80 to Perl, then you already know this and you are most likely the right sort.

    But only you can know what you would enjoy. What would energize you and make you happy. So here is a strategy for you to find jobs in that middle area.

    Look at job postings like you are looking for a job. Check the job resources you like in the way that you normally would. Now print out and save the jobs you think you would enjoy. Look at their requirements. If you do this for a few months you'll see patterns emerging. I want to be a _____________, and every job posted for those kinds of positions has __________ as a requirement.

    Keep notes. Eventually you'll see what you need to learn. Then go learn it.

    Then if you can, hook up with a temp agency. Tell them you are looking for temporary work doing _________. Do that for a while and do it well. Be sure you impress at least one person at each assignment. Get their names and numbers. When you are done ask them if they would not mind being a reference for you.

    Then when you are ready for your salaried position above, mark that time on your resume as consulting (because temp agencies on your resume aren't desirable). Then send out those resumes.

    And from one greybeard to another, best of luck!

    • by Netdoctor (95217) on Friday October 12, 2012 @01:29AM (#41627537)

      I'd second that.

      If you're hungry and worried about the rent, then make that your priority instead of worrying about being happy.

      It's called Maslow's Hierarchy, and I've seen techie people make that same mistake time after time.

      Take care of the tummy first. Don't lose your house. In your spare time, look for the happiness, either by training and/or job searching.

  • High voltage to the chest, works best when used with conductive gel. They have apparatuses for that called a defibrillator.
  • ARM assembly (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Miamicanes (730264) on Friday October 12, 2012 @01:10AM (#41627431)

    Seriously. Learn ARM assembly, practice hitting the bare metal in an Android phone, and get a job working for someone like Nvidia, Qualcomm, Broadcom, Samsung, HTC, or someone comparable. You have a skill almost nobody does anymore, and you know how much more fun assembly is. Screw Java and boring corporate productivity apps. You can have more fun with assembly writing drivers, and make more money while you're at it. :-)

  • by afgam28 (48611) on Friday October 12, 2012 @01:11AM (#41627439)

    C++ is still big, and the jobs that require it pay really well. C++ is an incredibly hard language to learn properly, and most of the Java/C# generation can't quite do it due to all the little gotchas of the language. If you've got the experience and skills then you should be able to earn big bucks doing C++. And if you decide you prefer Java, the step from C++ to Java is an easy one (much less so the other way around).

    Also the embedded world still has strong demand for programmers, and pays well. It sounds like you've got experience with two different assembly languages and C, which is plenty.

    iOS is cool and fun but IMO the market is saturated. If you get into it, not only will you have to start from scratch, but you'll be competing with low-paid graduate programmers. If you're finding it "tough going", then not only will you not be able to compete, but you'll be putting in a high amount of effort for relatively low pay.

  • by Greyfox (87712) on Friday October 12, 2012 @01:12AM (#41627443) Homepage Journal
    Take a course on object oriented design and design patterns. If you have that much structural design, you can probably do structural design in your sleep. So bring it to the next level and get comfortable with OO design. This will make you a much more effective programmer with whatever OO language you decide to play with. There is still a lot of structural design and programming inside objects, so you'll still have a leg up on these young whippersnappers.

    I find that OO design tends to be a lot more dynamic, so you may end up pushing your object interfaces around a bit before you figure out where everything wants to live. But knowing the things you'll need is more important than knowing where they'll live. If you put it somewhere and it doesn't fit, you can always move it around later on.

  • This is a good book to get you re-energized in programing and gets into introduced to 7 languages. They are: Ruby, Io, Prolog, Scala, Erlang, Clojure, Haskell
  • Don't look at languages, look where jobs are in the eCommerce world. There's a ton of money exchanging hands and it's still fairly untapped. Find an eCommerce niche and develop your skills around that.
  • by Animats (122034) on Friday October 12, 2012 @01:20AM (#41627493) Homepage

    Is anybody really hiring Python programmers? It's a fun language, and easy to use, but the library support is amateur hour. Google uses it, but they have an in-house support group.

    • A lot of web development still happens in Python, although there's more competition from newer languages these days (Ruby), and less from old (Perl, PHP).

    • by sg_oneill (159032)

      Library support is amateur hour? How? There are some 10,000 libraries in the PyPI (easy_install / pip ) repository, and the pip tool gives you all the package management/dependency goodness that CPAN or gem does. You can use virtualenv to install stuff locally to your app, or install at a system level. The libraries are namespace isolated, but generally have a flatter heirachy than say JAVA , although this has been changing a bit with Python 3 (I prefer them flat , who the hell wants to remember com.thing.o

    • by AlXtreme (223728)

      Funny you mention this.

      A few weeks ago at our local PUN meeting (60-70 attendees) there were a number of people standing up between presentations, telling something about themselves and asking if anyone looking for a job to contact them.

      Then our meeting leader caught on and asked the audience who else was looking for Python programmers. About 50% raised their hands.

      Then he asked who in the audience was looking for a Python job. Nobody raised their hand.

      After an awkward silence laughter erupted.

      Go into Pytho

  • by Ranger (1783)
    is the future.
  • Believe (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hcs_$reboot (1536101) on Friday October 12, 2012 @01:23AM (#41627509)
    You may wonder, and worry that you don't belong to the younger generation of programmers - usually preferred by employers. Don't. You belong to the pioneering team of programmers which knowledge didn't come from a school, it came from passion and challenge because, at the time, we had to learn by ourselves and to make efficient programs one had to master assembly - voluntarily (nowadays, assembly is a mandatory (and feared) subject taught in computer science schools to force students to get a clue about what usually does a cpu, and how a system works internally). This is an invaluable plus. So you may want to try web sites development - like 80% of programmers and "programmers" - in PHP or Java, or iOS for the fun, but you may also want to give another try to the C / robotics / devices programming etc... areas, where you could fit surprisingly well.
  • You'll find Python very easy to learn if you're already experienced in Perl. By experienced, I mean you understand the kind of Perlish programming patterns involving lists, hashes and complex data structures, and you understand object orientation in Perl, and you have a good feel about when to code something yourself versus when to start looking for a third-party module. All these things are very similar in the two languages, and different from other popular non-scripting languages such as Java. Indeed, if

  • by gig (78408) on Friday October 12, 2012 @01:45AM (#41627615)

    I tried quite a few approaches to go from Web skills to iOS skills, and this book really got me there, because it starts basically from scratch and focuses on iPad, and it uses newer Xcode features like StoryBoard that will save you a lot of time versus learning the older techniques.

    Learning iPad Programming [learningip...amming.com]

    The book is available in iBookstore.

    I don't really see why you would do anything other than iOS, because it is the only next-generation PC platform as yet, and it has the excitement of a young platform yet the maturity from Mac OS X that gives you all these frameworks to access to easily get a lot of functionality. So even though you are catching up, there are many iOS programmers who are also new to the platform, you can mix right in with them and share knowledge. And the platform is growing, so by the time you have caught up, there will still be work to be done.

    Stack Overflow [stackoverflow.com] is also great when you get stuck on iOS programming. There were about 10 times I got stuck and the answer was on Stack Overflow, solved the problem right away.

  • If you come up with a good website idea, then it'll probably let you do backend (java/c/python/sql/etc) stuff as well as UI/website stuff (obj-c, etc).

    As for quick money...well...come up with some dumb or simple $1 iphone app that everyone will love.

    • by isorox (205688)

      If you come up with a good website idea, then it'll probably let you do backend (java/c/python/sql/etc) stuff as well as UI/website stuff (obj-c, etc).

      As for quick money...well...come up with some dumb or simple $1 iphone app that everyone will love.

      Or you could play the lottery, more chance at winning, lower outlay

  • by TechyImmigrant (175943) on Friday October 12, 2012 @01:52AM (#41627647) Journal

    It's not your ability to program. Lots of people can program and to a first approximation, most programmers are expected to be able to adapt to a new language or environment.

    What makes you distinct is the contextual skills you bring. E.G. 802 or LTE protocols, HIPPA rules, industrial process control, DECT, pig farming automation, Point of Sale. There are thousands of different skill areas that a random programmer off the street won't know, but somebody needs.
     

  • by Kaz Kylheku (1484) on Friday October 12, 2012 @02:05AM (#41627703) Homepage

    What have you actually made?

    That is the question.

    Software experience isn't a collection of language names matched with years.

  • Not iOS (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ukpyr (53793)

    Not because it's uninteresting or unmarketable, but because it's got a language and a toolset that are fairly unique to it. Same with doing Android dev. On Android, Java is the easy part, learning the framework take a fair amount of time. This is from my experience, I don't like writing GUI's generally. Take with salt.

    Java has a massive market. The Company I Work For, hires nearly anyone that claims java due to our size and semi-standardization on the language. For a quick $ fix, I suggest Java. You experie

  • If you have used these, then you Perl background is enough to learn also Python or Ruby.

    What I do not understand in your question is this. You have programmed for about 35 years, and yet your question seems to indicate that you have not found out yet that all programming languages are in essence the same. Someone experienced like you should have the basics of Perl and Ruby under the knee in less than a week, and then invest yet another week to know what the possibiliti

  • by RemiT (182856) on Friday October 12, 2012 @02:25AM (#41627783)

    As a graying 60 plus who also started with Z80 assembler then progressed through Forth, Fortran, Lisp and 7 other languages, I have considerable feel for your situation. However, having endured lots of online discussion about today's 'real programming jobs' being for younger folk, I regret to suggest that full employment is an unlikely outcome (if a nice dream) in the tight financial environment we have all been living through. But I have found personal renewal and significant career and financial payoff in iOS app development for publication, then cross-development for Android, although the iOS payoff has been nearly 10x greater than for a similar Android product. And as one of my renowned neuroscience mentors taught, learning difficult new skills is the best way to keep an aging brain healthy... Fortunately, programming isn't my main career, but my downsized programmer brother (over 10 years my junior) has also had significant recent success learning to program mobile apps (Android) bringing in new income and job prospects. We both started out trying to tap the still hot market for mobile devices, and it would seem a shame to ignore higher-level independent mobile developer prospects if you couldn't land a rare ARM assembly coding job with a commercial firm. But with about 90% of the current coding on my day job being for multi-device web applications (in a world where 20- and 30- something web designers are 'a dime a dozen'), staying flexible and diversified, finding a niche and evolving new applications for new technology seem to have been the most important strategies for long term survival as a programmer.

  • What do you mean nobody uses Cobol 60 any more?

    WTF?

    I knew I shouldn't have taken a nap at the keyboard -- a quick zzz and you wake up with outdated skills!

    Yeah, I'm a grey-beard too (started hand-coding 2650 assembler into hex-digits for keypad entry back in the 1970s) and was hardcore programming right up until about 1995 when I got into "content" creation for the WWW.

    I still do some coding these days but it's mainly microcontroller stuff (because I also have a strong hardware background). I use C and som

  • Learn Go [golang.org]. It's clean, beautiful, and feels to me today like Python felt ten years ago. It's a very young language, and doesn't have the rich set of libraries you'll get with a more mature language. But community support is great, and more importantly, programming in Go is fun. If you're writing web stuff, host it on Heroku [heroku.com] and stop worrying about system administration. Make your app 12-Factor [12factor.net] compliant, and worry somewhat less about scaling. Play with Neo4j [neo4j.org] or other graph databases, and start to see t

  • The best way to reenergize and old programmer is a Korean massage with a "Happy Ending".

    You asked.

  • Perl is NOT yesterday. The CPAN is excellent, continues to grow and solves real problems fast.

    You may think it's yesterday just because you don't see cgi-bin/foo.pl in URLs any more, but at the back end there's a lot of Perl glue doing important jobs.

  • The best motivation is creating your own solution to something you find a real PITA. Hasn't really changed from when you were a young programmer.

  • 'What does the Slashdot crowd see as the best path to fame, wealth and full employment for gray-haired old coots who love to program?"'

    There isn't one, either get into management or get into teaching ...
  • Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Psychotria (953670) on Friday October 12, 2012 @03:56AM (#41628213)
    Why is everyone (or nearly everyone) assuming that the person in question is already a paid programmer? Most of the answers are along the lines of "you're a paid programmer, learning a new syntax is easy". But, that's not how I read the summary. This statement jumps out at me:

    But suddenly, in this tight financial environment I need to find a way to get paid for programming, and perl seems so "yesterday".

    To me this suggests that the poster has NOT been working as a programmer for the last 50 years, but has been working doing something else. Does this change or influence what helpful answers might be?

  • by grouchomarxist (127479) on Friday October 12, 2012 @03:59AM (#41628225)

    I've found that test driven development, refactoring, automation, continuous integration and related practices such as those endorsed by Object Mentor http://www.objectmentor.com/ [objectmentor.com] and Pragmatic Programmers http://www.pragmaticprogrammer.com/ [pragmaticprogrammer.com] have helped reenergize me to some extent. If you've been programming for a long time and don't feel energized, it is possible that you've become entrenched in bad habits that detract from your productivity and the quality of the code you produce.

    Knowing Perl is good. It is a good tool for automation, but you might want to move to a language like Ruby which is more modern. Ruby is greatly influenced by Perl so some aspects will seem familiar.

    I worry that you say you need a paycheck soon. It generally isn't good to make important decisions about your career under such conditions, you are bound to do something you'll regret.

  • It's a lost art. While most programmers are exposed to the high-level world of mobile and web apps, they're often clueless about what happens below a couple layers of abstraction.

    Learn some ARM assembly and a bit about modern devices. Get a Raspberry Pi and see how far you can push its performance.

    This low-level stuff is in your comfort zone, and you possess a skillset that few people have. Why not leverage that?

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday October 12, 2012 @04:10AM (#41628283) Journal

    Lets face it, your old, fat and ugly and if you sit in the interview chair, you overflow and make the property value shed 10% of its value.

    So, what can you do to make yourself attractive to the lead developer who is probably younger then you and convinced that anyone older is senile?

    Well, how about this:

    I know how to debug and love solving problems in an application, I really get a kick out of digging out obscure errors from customer tickets and fix them.

    ---

    Suddenly, your salary and other requirements will seem insignificant if the person interviewing you has spent ANY time in development. There are plenty of hotshot kiddies around who want and can program the next big thing but try to get them to fix an issue that is having the customer treatening to leave and they can't/won't want to do it.

    Sure debugging sucks and it ensures the remainder of your life is a joyless misery stretched out for... well lets face it, at your age, next week when you will die of a heart attack on the toilet and the paramedics will make fun of your penis.

    Reality check is in order, age discrimination exists in IT so make it work in your favor. Old farts are not hip with the on thing dog (see how hip I am?) but young whipper snappers don't know about quality or getting things done or security or stability... so sell yourself on your perceived strengths. Make that young dynamic team think you are going to help them be more professional and NOT hitting the 20th something boss with your cane telling him to speak up.

    I would stay away from stuff like iOS, you can't sell the benefit of your experience and the patience of old age to an industry that thinks long term planning is thinking what to do for lunch at 11:00am. None of the languages you have used have gone out of use but focusing on language is the wrong thing, there is always a kid with a longer list. He can't do shit in it but the list is there. Instead, focus on core experience, on understanding of the industry on acquired wisdom...

    That is... if you acquired any.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Nothing more attractive than watching some recent teen copy code from the internet and tell the boss how well it works.

      Ask one of them about hardware and the room clears. Ask one about integration and / or driver debug using actual electronic test equipment and the million techniques 40 years of experience bring to identifying WHERE a problem lives, as opposed to IF a problem exists and a sea of dull looks peeks out from under the metrosexual horn rims.

      Debug some hardware written on a 20 year old platform

  • It depends on what you want to do. You could either program in (larger) teams and write specialized software for companies and organizations, then you should learn Java and maybe C#, as larger systems are written in these languages today. If you want to work for smaller web-shops, advertisement companies etc. learn ruby on rails or python and HTML5 technology stuff like (SVG, JavaScript etc.) or Flash. With your knowledge in Assembler you might be good for a job in embedded software. I mean real embedded so

  • Either find an artist on the Internet, or teach yourself how to draw. Then make aps for iPad and Android. It doesn't matter what you make, as long as you make something of decent quality. The platform I am making aps with is Flash Builder 4.6. Coding in AS3/Flash is really nice for the programmer, and you also get more done with less code.
  • by lourd_baltimore (856467) on Friday October 12, 2012 @06:31AM (#41628933)
    Have you thought of Software Quality Assurance?

    I work in a team of 7. We're a mixed bag of software, hardware, and systems engineering types, but we all have to do some programming as our primary function. When a team member leaves, the replacement gets all the lovely FNG assignments as their secondary role. That is, documentation, testing, and/or QA.

    I got shoved into software QA when I arrived on the team. I joke about how I hate it and how my teammates hate me in that role, but I secretly relish it and my team mates know it has to be done.

    Ask yourself these questions:
    - Do you love processes?
    - Do you find code reviews interesting?
    - Do you like tearing into others' designs and implementation?
    - Does it really jack your nads when the documentation doesn't jive with the implementation?
    - Do you like audits?
    - Do you like meetings?
    - Do you like ISO 9001?
    - Don't you just hate having to reverse-engineer a product because someone was lazy with the documentation?
    - Do you like making/maintaining support tools?

    Then Software QA is the move for you!

    It is also a skill you can shop around regardless of the development environment (although some environments lend themselves to QA better than others).

  • What ever you do, learn using state of the art IDEs well (autocompletion/intellisense, immediate reference popups, refactoring tools), as well as google and stackoverflow.com. In the olden days, you could learn APIs, and you were expected to learn as you go. These days you are expected to be more efficient, all the while APIs have gotten huge, and there are thousands of proven patterns for doing different things right. Also learn to use various coding style checkers (like checkstyle for Java), static analys

  • Put yourself in suspended animation. Ask them to wake you up in about 7987 years.

  • I always check out craigslist.org (zoom to your area) and look under gigs-computer. There's a lot that's posted; see if any are suited to your skill set. Some of them are in need of quick fixes, so timing and luck could be tricky. You could earn some in the meantime. Just sayin

  • Consider moving? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gr8_phk (621180) on Friday October 12, 2012 @09:42AM (#41630259)
    If you come to Detroit (don't knock it 'till you've been here - and Michigan is beautiful) you can use your existing C and Perl skills in-or-near the auto industry. Having used a micro controller or two is a big plus (makes a job almost a sure thing). You will probably need to do some contract work for a year because you lack the "automotive background". Once you understand how the CAN bus and associated tools are used in cars, you can get work for the rest of your life. C, Perl, CAN - you're in. Experience debugging vehicle level issues - your an expert.

    Another way in with PC programming skills is to work for the tool vendors (CAN tools, or micros) which have a path to lower level stuff if you want to go there..

    At least do the job search and see what's available. Unfortunately job postings have become buzzword mania and companies will "require" everything from driver development to CEO. Obviously a given position doesn't require all that. C and Perl together will likely get you a job somewhere here - there are several people with that pair of skills down the aisle from me who are gaining other experience on the job.

I tell them to turn to the study of mathematics, for it is only there that they might escape the lusts of the flesh. -- Thomas Mann, "The Magic Mountain"

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