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Ask Slashdot: Where Do Old Programmers Go? 481

New submitter oort99 writes: Barreling towards my late 40s, I've enjoyed 25+ years of coding for a living, working in telecoms, government, and education. In recent years, it's been typical enterprise Java stuff. Looking around, I'm pretty much always the oldest in the room. So where are the other old guys? I can't imagine they've all moved up the chain into management. There just aren't enough of those positions to absorb the masses of aging coders. Clearly there *are* older workers in software, but they are a minority. What sectors have the others gone into? Retired early? Low-wage service sector? Genuinely interested to hear your story about having left the field, willfully or otherwise.
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Ask Slashdot: Where Do Old Programmers Go?

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  • by mellon ( 7048 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @06:43PM (#55433061) Homepage

    So that no-one can see the shame of our white hair. Or we wind up in management. Or we retire early.

    But honestly I know quite a few old programmers, so you may be experiencng anecdata.

    • I've heard that it's pretty common to semi-retire and take up day trading from home.
    • by zieroh ( 307208 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @09:59PM (#55434135)

      Early fifties here. Been in the industry for (oh gosh) almost 30 years now, 26 at the same company. I burned out on programming after Year 19 at said company, and moved on to being an engineering manager, running a team of software developers. What I've discovered is that while I do miss the pure programming (a bit), I don't miss the grind. I've also discovered I have a talent for spotting talent, hiring and mentoring young engineers and turning them into seasoned engineers.

      I hope to retire by the time I'm 60. Between a 401k, some real estate, and some Bitcoin holdings that have done remarkably well, it'll probably happen. A job candidate I was interviewing once asked me "what advice might you have for a young engineer just entering the industry"? I gave him an answer he wasn't expecting.

      "Max out your 401k as soon as humanly possible".

      • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @10:52PM (#55434383)

        "Max out your 401k as soon as humanly possible".

        If certain Republicans in congress get their way, that will soon become very easy. Anything you make beyond a tiny pittance of a retirement deferral would be fully taxed in order to offset lower tax brackets for the ultra-rich and mega-corporations.

        Our dear president says he's against it, but since almost every word that comes out of his mouth is a damned lie, things are looking bleak.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @06:43PM (#55433063) Journal

    Old programmers become ascended masters like St. Germain and live forever in the shadows, controlling the world. Or, they become greeters at Wal-Mart. Sometimes both.

    • by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @06:51PM (#55433123) Homepage Journal

      Old programmers become ascended masters like St. Germain and live forever in the shadows, controlling the world. Or, they become greeters at Wal-Mart. Sometimes both.

      Old programmers never die... they just smell that way.

    • Re:The Assumption (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Aighearach ( 97333 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @07:15PM (#55433293) Homepage

      Old programmers become ascended masters like St. Germain and live forever in the shadows, controlling the world. Or, they become greeters at Wal-Mart. Sometimes both.

      Well they sure as fuck aren't going to be writing Java in a cube farm like the idiot asking the question. They're either working on something more interesting, or they burned out and switched to something simple. He can't imagine that they're just working the crap coding jobs anymore because they switched jobs, he only looked at the promotions available to him and quit looking around. But being promoted at a crap job is not actually the usual way the programmers move upwards in the industry.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        I can remember way back, decades ago, old cobol programmers went into sales. Basically they look old and reliable, have a lot of information the correlation between client requirements and the programmes required to achieve it and present those solutions to clients. Then you have the whole sales advancement stream. So a lot go into sales, even over counter sales.

      • The third option is they got laid off for being too old and/or ornery. Those pretty much cover the space as I see it across my friends/co-workers. (I'm 61. I was mostly burned out from an intensive job the previous decade, then pointed out someone's pet pig didn't look pretty with lipstick and subsequently got laid off. So I retired instead.)

        • by gfxguy ( 98788 )
          I guess I should start watching my tongue. Or... actually, the only reason I've been loose with my tongue is because severance here is actually quite good and I'm pretty fed up with the B.S., so I've been tending to speak freely lately.
    • Indeed... assumptions...

      Low-wage service sector?

      No, high-wage service sector.

      Most young people dont know that this exists, but by the time you are in your 50s you are acutely aware that a lot of services are expensive and you are also acutely aware that this is because the people that perform those services insist on being paid well and do their jobs well enough to deserve it.

      What do you think all those people that graduated with liberal arts degrees 30 years ago are doing?

  • Great Question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jeillah ( 147690 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @06:47PM (#55433089)

    I am 60+ and have been gainfully employed as a hardware and software dev since the 80's. Due to a recent merger in my company I am now "redundant". I am just starting to look for a new position but it is scary. I have lots of experience in many languages and OSs and am a perpetual learner. I am current doing node.js and react work. But I'm afraid once a prospective employer gets a look at my gray beard they will reject me out of hand. I don't want to be a PHB, I just love to code and do it everyday for pay or not.

    • by zlives ( 2009072 )

      its time to doctor your "resume" i hear just for men can not only get you a job but also get you laid.

    • by rogoshen1 ( 2922505 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @06:58PM (#55433183)

      does working with node and react make your soul burn; even just a little?

    • by Langalf ( 557561 )
      I'm 60 and planning to work for a few years yet. I managed to find a nitch at an in-state utility that no one else could fill and I will have been there 40 years by the time I retire. The pay is excellent and the work is challenging enough to keep me sharp. I still do some programming but mostly I'm doing system administration for a network with about 80 computers. Like jeillah I have a broad experience and a constant desire to learn more and stay current.
    • by Dirk Ruffly ( 1487525 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @09:59PM (#55434131)

      I'm another one of those 60+ developers, and I have had no trouble remaining gainfully employed as a contractor.

      Some years ago I was a middle manager in a huge multinational. I hated management, in part because it's exhausting to do it well but mostly because I was far more interested in technical work. It was clear from where I sat, however, that the vast majority of companies are biased toward young (often right out of school) developers; they're cheap, typically have no family commitments, will work 24/7 without complaint, and often don't know enough to challenge their managers (not a dig at young folks, but at the managers who are afraid of their direct reports). I was getting beyond the optimum age for new hires, had a family, demanded at least one good night of sleep a week, and expected to be paid well; what to do?

      One constant that I saw across the board, from startups to multinationals, was that management went looking for older, more experienced talent when it became clear that a project was in trouble. And there are *lots* of projects in trouble! Hiring developers with specific domain knowledge and a proven track record is approved, and age is one of the first barriers to drop. So, if you have (or constantly train yourself in) domain knowledge that is in demand, you can make quite a go of it as a contractor. Once you've worked a couple of jobs and met a few other contractors, you'll find word of mouth will keep you up to your neck in prospects.

      You are the product that you're selling; keep the product shiny. Anyway, that's what's worked for me. That and a bottle of hair dye.

    • How do you feel about node.js and react?
    • Re: Great Question (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Zero__Kelvin ( 151819 ) on Thursday October 26, 2017 @04:59AM (#55435217) Homepage
      You are going to find you have a bigger problem. These days, like actors, we get typecast by, ironically perhaps, the recruiters who have no idea what a typecast. "This is a C programming position. I see here that you wrote an OS in C, but that was years ago. We have this other guy with 2 years recent C, and he can write a Hello World program! I don't understand any of this stuff but he seems like a much stronger candidate to me! Do you realize how many more letters there are in Hello World than OS!"
    • Re:Great Question (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Deep Esophagus ( 686515 ) on Thursday October 26, 2017 @12:58PM (#55438011)

      I passed 50 a few years back, and recently celebrated my 25th anniversary with my employer (same company, different management). I was getting to the burnout phase rapidly due to rapidly changing platforms that I had to learn quickly. Clipper to SQL was fairly straightforward, then suddenly it was ASP.NET, Java, JavaScript, jQuery... and just about the time I was halfway competent with all that, we changed direction and then everything is WebAPI in C#, automated testing with XTest, and things I can't even pronounce. They have plenty of kids -- literally half my age and younger -- who ride the bleeding edge like surfers on a monster wave, so what was I really contributing any more?

      The answer (for me): Move to DevOps. I know a lot of older devs go to management, but I have all the leadership skills of a squirrel. So I figure, I'll be the wind beneath their wings. Provide vCloud environments, streamline the build/test/deploy process, that kind of thing. For the first time in years, I'm actually eager to dig into a problem and get it resolved.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @06:48PM (#55433095)

    They just get commented out.

    • by klubar ( 591384 )

      Perhaps they just ABEND (but you have to be an old OS/360 mainframe guy to get the joke).

      Or perhaps they just

      try {

      without a catch

  • by krray ( 605395 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @06:48PM (#55433099)

    I went to Mars.

  • by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @06:49PM (#55433105) Journal

    ... different address.


  • by pubwvj ( 1045960 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @06:50PM (#55433111)

    I mean literally, old programmers buy the farm as in I know a very large number of ex- IT / programmer / engineer people who have bought farms and live the 'simpler life' now. It is amazingly common. Common enough to become a stereotype. I'm one. I transitioned from a successful career in high tech to a successful, and happier, life farming.

    • That's really common here in Oregon too, although usually the whole room snickers whenever they say "farming" or call themselves a "farmer."

      • If what you're working is anything less than a quarter section, what you are doing is not "farming". It is absolutely bizarre to people who actually live in the country that someone would be thick enough to give up a six figure salary to live in the boonies on a few acres. It's basically a more socially acceptable version of calling yourself a hippie for the well-to-do.
    • I mean literally, old programmers buy the farm as in I know a very large number of ex- IT / programmer / engineer people who have bought farms and live the 'simpler life' now. It is amazingly common. Common enough to become a stereotype. I'm one. I transitioned from a successful career in high tech to a successful, and happier, life farming.

      That is literally what the game Stardew Valley is about.

    • It is the life I aspire to.

      You come into programming with so much expectation and ambition.
      Once you get a handle on how insane this industry is, you can't help but want to go to the simpler life; but with the added benefit of technology.

  • Different career (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DogDude ( 805747 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @06:50PM (#55433115)
    I switched careers to something completely unrelated at 30-ish. After about 8 years, I felt like I was just fixing the same problems over and over again, and I wanted a bigger challenge.
    • by shess ( 31691 )

      I switched careers to something completely unrelated at 30-ish. After about 8 years, I felt like I was just fixing the same problems over and over again, and I wanted a bigger challenge.

      Yeah, this is part of what helped decide me to take a break in my late 40's. Back in the 90's, it really felt like we were doing something. Now it feels like often we're just moving the furniture around for the sake of moving the furniture around. Or worse, we're taking a product which is quite functional as-is and trying to "increase engagement" for reasons outside of the user's needs.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by teranine ( 2687975 )
      I can relate to this topic and comment very much. I switched to the health care industry and became an RN after 15+ years of coding for a living. I've always been drawn to computers and programming since I was a child with my first computer being a Commodore 64 + basic. For me, it was years and years of dissatisfaction with code that eventually became obsolete and abandoned. Or having to continually look for new work because you never know when the next round of layoffs were going to take place. It was
  • by maiden_taiwan ( 516943 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @06:50PM (#55433117)

    I'm 54 and split my time between coding, managing a team of developers, and providing mentorship to younger devs regarding technical and non-technical (soft skills) situations. Lots of mentorship -- just because someone can code doesn't mean they know how to navigate a company and work relationships.

    Leadership positions don't have to be management.There's also technical leadership (thought leader), architecture, etc.

  • by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @06:52PM (#55433133)
    And yes, we still have a few of those systems around.
    • My experience has been older programmers (myself included) often end up in niche industries, either maintaining existing mature systems or developing specialized applications in areas where they have had long term involvement. Along those lines, this is also the Consultant path.
  • Sub-rosa programming (Score:5, Informative)

    by DavidHumus ( 725117 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @06:57PM (#55433171)

    I have managed to keep programming though I'm a member of a sales group for a complex piece of software but our company allows for "technical" positions even under the sales umbrella.

    I basically got no responses when I was looking for a programming job several years ago - can't hide the fact that I graduated college in 1981.

    Programming is what I like to do and I think I'm pretty good at it after more than 40 years of practice but I also want to get paid, so no one wants to look at me, especially since all organizations I've seen are clueless about measuring ability, and are typically unaware that there is a tremendous range of abilities among people who can churn out a piece of working code.

    I was originally hired into a QA area, so I've seen a lot of really bad code that is in production and working with some of the people writing code makes me wonder how they got hired in the first place.

    The way things work currently, valuing youth over experience, leaves me unsurprised whenever I learn of gross problems with code, like the time Microsoft's Zune failed to account for the leap year in 2008: [] .

    Not that I'm bitter or anything.

  • by mattis_f ( 517228 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @06:57PM (#55433177)

    There were WAY fewer programmers back in the 80's than now. I'm willing to bet the number of software developers have grown exponentially over the years, which means that there simply aren't that many older programmers (compared to the number of younger ones). I honestly think that's a big part of it.

    Also, I definitely know some older developers, usually they're some sort of senior architects or other, with incredible expertise within one or two products. They definitely exist, there just aren't that many.

    • This. I expect we'll see a surge of older programmers in the next decade as those of us in the field continue to work. I think the age discrimination thing may be a thing in silicon valley, but here where I'm at everybody is so desperate for a competent programmer that they can't be choosy over age.
    • by Jerry ( 6400 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @07:57PM (#55433537)

      I went to Barns School of Business in Denver, CO, in 1959, to learn how to program "heavy iron", i.e., IBM tabulators using banana cords, and using 540 Gang punches, collators, sorters, etc., using 80 column cards. At 18 I looked like I was 14 and no one would hire me.

      So, I took an opportunity to go to college. In grad school in 1968 I took Numerical Analysis, which involved programming math equations using a KSR-133 keyboard and yellow punch tape, which was read into a Burroughs 200 computer. The greenbar readout either gave the result of your computations or an error listing.

      I began teaching science and math and in 1978 I purchased an Apple ][+ to use in teaching. That led to teaching teachers how to program Apple BASIC, which led to being self employed writing BASIC accounting programs for banks, farmers, feedlots, etc. I wrote a basic shell of a GAAP 9 enterprise accounting program and modified it to fit particular businesses.

      I had clients all over the midwest and picked up a private pilot license to make travel to and from their businesses faster and easier. When I was 57 I had a 3 month contract with a state agency. About one month into the contract they asked me to accept a full time job, an offer my wife refused to let me turn down since I was spending weeks on the road at clients businesses.

      I retired from that agency at 68 and promised myself I would write the kind of programs I wanted to write. But, I kept putting that promise off because I was having too much fun teaching my grandsons about science, science fiction, fishing, camping, playing Minecraft and generally having a lot of fun.

      I am now 76 and have yet to write a single line of code since I retired. I doubt that I ever will (I've been running Linux since 1998 but I don't count simple Linux bash or python scripts as code). The last dev tool I used was the Qt 4.0 API, back in 2004. I've installed later version of Qt several times over the last dozen years but never got around to writing anything. When I installed KDE Neon User Edition I didn't bother installing the Qt API. I've stopped fooling myself.

      As I aged I noticed more and more younger men and women entering the programming profession. We older ones merely retired, but those who were younger in 2008 are now a decade older and rapidly becoming "old" programers,

  • by mrsam ( 12205 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @07:02PM (#55433205) Homepage
    Speaking as an "old" programmer -- nearing the five-oh -- we aren't going anywhere. At least not the ones who know what they're doing. Some of us might take on more managerial roles, but we (and I can say this because I ain't the only graybeard around here, for sure) are kicking ass in senior roles, leading the bet-the-company-on type projects. Oh, we also browse stack and enjoying the non-stop cluebie parade, as free entertainment.
  • by mangastudent ( 718064 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @07:02PM (#55433213)

    If you can hide your age through the application process until you're hired and filling out forms like the US IRS I-9, I know from personal experience that can work.

    I've heard that many embedded software vendors respect gray hairs, and I know from some friends and acquaintances that if you can get a serious government clearance, age doesn't matter much after that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      +1 to embedded. making a computer from scratch is much harder than slopping code around on the Web with someone else's computer. In the 90's I was all over the Web. But as I aged I noticed it was all being outsourced. But they didn't outsource the guys making ASICs, and they didn't outsource the guys writing embedded code for those ASICs. I followed the money. I am almost 50 now and I am mid-pack age wise. Lots of older folks here who actually know how to make amazing stuff from scratch. We hire the

    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      Yeah, that's the problem. They can see the work histories, looks, etc. :( How does one get a government clearance?

    • by somenickname ( 1270442 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @10:47PM (#55434357)

      I've heard that many embedded software vendors respect gray hairs

      This. Embedded is where it's at for older programmers. I'll list the awesomeness I've experienced as someone who has switched to embedded:

      - You get to write code on a tiny machine that is still 100x as powerful as the 8086 you learned on but nobody else wants to touch because... OMG... C
      - As soon as someone says Ruby on Rails, you are officially authorized to leave the meeting
      - Agile? Fuck you.
      - You get to build systems where understanding how they work is your damn job. You aren't working on layers upon layers of magical APIs that you couldn't debug even if you wanted to. It's your code, libc and the kernel.
      - You don't have to ask, "What IDE do you guys use?". They use vi and make. I don't mean vim and cmake. I mean vi and make. Which means you get to giggle when someone says, "Why won't this editor backspace?!"
      - Slow is a bug. If you love doing performance analysis and squeezing every drop of performance out of a system, embedded will bring tears of joy to your eyes.

      Frankly, it's glorious. I'd never even consider a non-embedded job at this point.

  • by Heir Of The Mess ( 939658 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @07:06PM (#55433237)

    The problem for you is that you are in "Enterprise Java". That's pretty much a field where any tool (cheap programmer) can do the job.

    I'm in a room full of grey beards, we do have a young guy on the team who is in his mid 30s but the rest are past their mid 40s, 50s, and into their 60s. The team does low level scientific algorithms in C++ (with C# GUI interfaces), that need to work in real time systems. This is hard stuff where you really need a group of people who are precise and know what they are doing. Most of the team are irreplaceable, which is a problem because people keep on dieing of heart attacks.

  • by Anrego ( 830717 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @07:07PM (#55433243)

    A lot of the guys who were senior devs when I was just starting out had a side hustle of some sort that they basically turned into their full time job. I've seen people go off and do everything from consulting, photography, to professional gambling and a catering business.

  • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @07:08PM (#55433249) Journal

    Let's see....

    One guy I used to work with who was a programmer is now in real estate. He said he figured out at some point that owning and renting out properties was a smarter way to earn a living than constantly chasing the moving target of new programming languages and companies who might outsource your job at any time.

    Another who used to be self-employed coding for people on a consulting basis told me he got into woodworking, eventually. His reasoning? As you get older, you start asking yourself questions like, "What have I created that will be used and enjoyed by others even after I'm gone?" It's easy to sink years of your life into a software application, only to find that in a decade or two, nobody is using it anymore. It's become "old and obsolete". If you build good quality, hand-crafted furniture pieces? They're quite likely to be used for 100 years or more. Build a dresser for one of your kids and they may even be handing it down to THEIR kids.

    I'm not really sure what happened to several of the other guys I used to hang out with who were software developers? I know one kind of transitioned over to web development -- but I see that as more of a lateral move, with so many things becoming web and cloud-based.

    • by jittles ( 1613415 ) on Thursday October 26, 2017 @12:56AM (#55434757)

      "What have I created that will be used and enjoyed by others even after I'm gone?"

      I feel his pain. I write drivers for embedded devices in the financial world and, while I love working with hardware, often wonder if I am doing anything that makes the world a better place. Most of the time I feel like I am just working to improve a bank's balance sheet at the expense of those who are on the consuming end of my hardware. I don't feel the need to build a legacy, but I would like to make the world better than it is now.

  • Grow pot (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @07:13PM (#55433277)

    Seriously, if you are a halfway decent coder you can easily learn to grow some amazing weed.

    The ROI is pretty incredible also.

  • Most of the people who were in the programming field moved to either management, sales, and other completely different fields. The reason is because a lot of these "old" developers started to work in the 80/90's, when programming was the new gold rush ; after a few years, some of them simply didn't fit, others don't want to keep doing geeky things for ever, and many were promoted.
  • by technomom ( 444378 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @07:24PM (#55433343)
    I've gone from Assembly, to PL/I and PL/AS, to C, C++, a smattering of Visual Basic, to Java, JavaScript (Angular, React). Also expanded my skills to include AWS and containerization. Just don't stop learning. And share your knowledge with others.
  • by LeftCoastThinker ( 4697521 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @07:24PM (#55433345)

    The smart ones work for companies that value competence and quality over price. I work with a bunch of them, not one under 30 and some in their late 60s who have more fun at work than retiring and watching TV all day. It is a joy to work with software engineers who actually know WTF they are doing. We often don't get the initial bid on the software portion of the job, but better than half the time we end up doing it when the idiots who under bid us fail spectacularly. Then our software guys come in, often starting from scratch because the cheap code is total garbage and have functional code up and running smoothly in half the time it took the cheap code mill from India (or wherever) to fail catastrophically.

  • I think our branch has grown tremendously, pretty much diluting the older programmers into invisibility. Obviously, many have ascended into management and the more years pass, the more opportunities there are to go do something else entirely (you might too). Also, many if not most older programmers started out in another profession and are therefore more likely to switch again.

  • Dilution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by freak0fnature ( 1838248 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @07:26PM (#55433359)
    In 1980, there were about 10k CS graduates, compare that to 60k in 2005. Add in those that switched careers, the older generation gets diluted. Though i admit I have plenty of 40+ people where I am, one is 67, and I had a software tester that was well into her 70s at my last job.
  • There is no greater transition that a tech guy can make to transform his career than moving into a SE role. The Sales side of the house - from comp plans to basic management, training, etc. - puts the tech side of any company to shame. Forget management - been there, done that. While it can be rewarding, you are basically in a position - if you give a bubbly fart about your employees - where you are spending tremendous amounts of time and energy protecting them from upper management. If you care about your
  • by bhcompy ( 1877290 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @07:33PM (#55433411)
    I work for a massive HR software company. At least half of our developers are 40+. Some have been with the company for 25+ years.
  • ... from Systems Analyst at Mobil Oil (now deceased) to Technology Administrator for two law firms.

    I was WAY overqualified and management was impressed with my skill level.

    I automated everything I could, working with Novell 3.1 at first, then Windows NT out to Windows Server 2013.

    I had more than enough time to play. I was upfront with the managing partner that we both knew I was skilled and ethical. I worked on his stuff at his house, so we were good.

    The pay wasn't near what I'd made at Mobil, but I was so

  • by Shados ( 741919 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @07:49PM (#55433503)

    There's a heck of a lot more people in software today than there was back then. On top of that, most people who would have gray hair today got weeded out by the dotcom crash.

    So you're already in a spot where the younglings will vastly outnumber the older software engineers purely from the funnel.

    Next, yes, a lot of them end up in management. A good half of the people I went to college with (who did not give up during the dotcom crash) are CTOs, directors, VPs. Often of tiny startups mind you, but still. Note that this isn't many people!

    Then you have people who just give up: while a lot of people these days would have you think EVERYONE should become a software engineers, its hard work. Easy jobs are left to cheap interns or new bootcamp grads. The rest is tough and a lot of people just give up.

    Finally, it's a field where you have to continually renew yourself. That means the longer you're in the field, the worse off you are compared to a new grad if you stopped learning. You might have been a SOAP/WSDL expert back when you were 22 because it was all the rage, but that knowledge has limited usefulness today. If you don't keep learning, you're out.

    When you add up all of these things, there really aren't that many older engineers. With the funnel increasing drastically over the last few years, expect gray hair to get more commons though. The massive amounts of twenty somethings software engineers will grow older. And while the other attrition criterias will weed some out, there will still be a LOT more of them than there currently are of us.

    Unless there's a second dotcom crash, of course.

    • On top of that, most people who would have gray hair today got weeded out by the dotcom crash.

      That doesn't make sense, and doesn't fit with my experience.

      The people who got weeded out by the crash were the ones who were attracted into the career by the boom, so when the crash dropped the number of job openings back to around what it was before the boom, they were the junior, inexperienced people who got the axe in companies that just scaled back, and they were the people who didn't have the resumes to find new jobs when their companies imploded entirely.

      I'd been in the business for better than a

      • by Shados ( 741919 )

        We're essentially agreeing. I may just have made my point poorly.

        Today, "junior inexperienced people" make it just fine. So they're all around you. If there's no "second dotcom crash", they'll still be in the industry when they start growing gray hair.

        The people back then that got the least some portion of them would be seniors and tech leads now if that didn't happen.

        And stagnating wage growth made a lot of people jump ship.

        Even then, I know many people who were pretty good at the time who just di

  • Oblivion isn't really as bad as its reputation. I have tons of free time. So, I ride my bike, read alot (online and mostly non-fiction books), attend concerts, and don't think much about punched cards, Assembler, and decades of well-meaning (if ineffectual) managers. Now, with the help of years of peace since being downsized once too many times, I realize that my best works mean nothing at all, and the joys of my career were entirely spent/earned with the exceptionally good people I was lucky to work wi

  • Funny bit: slashdot launched 20 years ago this month. So if you were reading it back then most netizens would probably consider you an old fogey.

    Anyhow, I'm still doing engineering which involves lots of design, coding, and tech lead. Adamantly refused to get into line management and that hasn't been a problem since there is a real shortage of skilled engineers. My depth and breadth of experience means lots of mentoring since I haven't turned into a cranky old bastard yet.

    You have to learn new things, bu

  • 65. Programming daily. I currently work remotely because of some health issues last year but still get to and present at meetups and conferences. And I might take an office job again if the work is interesting enough. I stay current like all the cool kids. I just don't look as hip a my younger peers.
  • by TsuruchiBrian ( 2731979 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @08:11PM (#55433585)

    And torment me by stubbornly refusing to follow software design standards.

    • And torment me by stubbornly refusing to follow software design standards.

      That's because your software design standards are wrong. Obviously.


      I'm joking... but you might actually take a look at what they have to say. Most older programmers have long given up caring much about conventions, other than to insist that things be consistent, because consistency matters far more than the details of whatever convention is adopted. If you find a lot of experienced people actually disregarding your standards, it's likely that they're actively bad.

  • by DidgetMaster ( 2739009 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @08:18PM (#55433629) Homepage
    You don't see us in these cubicle farms working 80+ hours per week for peanuts. We have enough assets (and debts paid off) that we can work in a much less stressful environment. We can say goodbye to the 8 to 5 jobs doing grunt work too. If the project isn't interesting, we do consulting or some other side gig. If we want to take 6 months off, we can because we are not living paycheck to paycheck. Or we start our own software business (me) and don't stress out if it hasn't gone ballistic in the first year.
  • ... to mine Bitcoin []

  • Why would any young person be crazy enough to get into debt for a CS degree only to have the ROI cut short by an ageist churn em and burn em attitude?

    As far as I can see the issue is there is a massive disconnect with organizations confusing energy output with efficiency. Deep thinking and focus is hard work that most people can't do, so if you can programming is a massive investment that you vest over time as you keep evolving.

    What these people with dubious morals do is manipulate coders sincere enough

  • by brausch ( 51013 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @09:08PM (#55433877)

    I'm in my 60s, still programming for a living. This is my fourth job, with a small instrument manufacturing company. I previously worked for a national lab, an engineering firm, and a large credit union. I've programmed in a variety of languages, OSes, databases, ... over the years, and just keep learning new things.

    The guys I work with now are 29, 34, 36, 38 and 41 years old. It's all good though, and we get along great. I'm actually the new guy here (3 yrs), but had no problems settling in.

    We actually have one remote, part-time programmer (about 10 hrs a week) who is about 75. My long term goal is to be like him. :-)

  • Stopped programming, began researching applications of industrial materials. Going into startup phase of new business after successful exit from software company.

    Finding raising capital is relatively simple compared to selling software.

  • None of the young busks wants to take the time to learn FPGA development around here. So it is being dropped on my plate.

    I must admit, it is quite challenging. Not really software development at all.

  • Been doing rom fw for SoCs for years. I am 56. There is a near 100% chance you have used some of my code indirectly as these SoCs are ubiquitous. Young coders show no interest in this type of work, also, the c/asm code must be near bug free since respins cost $100'sk and schedule loss.

  • Like you, I looked around and saw the writing on the wall. I went into teaching. I teach computer apps and robotics at a middle school.

      A friend from college is about the only other Tech sector person that I have really stayed in touch with. Frankly, he was always better than I was. The problem is that he knew he was good and bought into it. He really felt that working had and being good was enough. Now he is delivering pizzas.

  • When I was in my 30s I started to wonder about the best way to progress my programming career. I went into management, became a CEO, then COO (when a new CEO came in with money conditional on him being the CEO —bad decision), then after a few years, decided to go back to being a freelance developer. I enjoyed that much more than being a c-suite type, but by then was in my late 40s. Good news was I'd made a firm decision to stick to coding, ignore the management siren call, and focus on what I enjoy

  • by meburke ( 736645 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @10:08PM (#55434185)

    I'm almost 70. I started programming on IBM 1401 computers doing cryptography for the US Army in 1965. I used an assembly language called AUTOCODER. I had an old cup-type modem that I'd transmit Hollerith cards' data over the AUTODIN network. (pre-Arpanet; like a military WATS line) I think it is funny that after 52 years, I'm still doing what the Army vocational tests said I was suited for; Communications and Computers. I have been involved in projects that built the foundations for a LOT of the stuff that is being developed today. Today's programmers pick off-the-shelf components built on algorithms me and my contemporaries developed in the '60's and '70's.

    Today's programming environment is not built for someone of my personality type. Today when I program I only do short projects, and almost never team projects. I escaped the "electronic sweatshop" in 1994, so I no longer have to sweat over whether I will have a place in the project every three months, and I don't have to work in the day and then get up at night to teach some twerp in India how to program his application. I could spend the rest of my life taking on projects like I see on Hackaday. I only do what's interesting to me. I experiment in Robotics and AI, and I LOVE doing Math applications in spreadsheets. I don't take any projects that don't pay me what I think I'm worth (billing rate = $1200 per day) and I try to keep my projects down to 5 days per month or less so I have time for my own stuff. I also get to reject projects that require me to conform to requirements that don't make sense to me. I would rather create a small, WORKABLE app in LiveCode than do something complicated in Java or Perl. I prefer assembly-language programming, but I have skills in C/C++ (Java, etc..), LISP (Scheme, Racket, Haskell), and I like playing with other languages (I like Python a lot, Ruby not as much, and I'm doing a lot of exporting some of my C programs to Rust.) But today, a person can't just be a "programmer". I have bounced back and forth from Software to Administration to Sales and done this many times. You become an "IT Professional" rather than "Programmer".

    Of course, I don't live at the same high level I did when I was in the "electronic sweatshop". Sometimes I wish I had more money. Occasionally I see something I'd like to do for others that would actually pay me a salary, and it sounds like I would get some security. The latest was to do tech support for programmers writing in Perl. ("Software reliability" is an oxymoron; programmers need a support team that understands complex Math and Logic.) Luckily, because of my age, I get turned down for most of these things before I get sucked in.

    So, while many of my friends my age have invested thousands of dollars in their garage shops and build birdhouses, I have a whole world of workshop on my computers that I can use to make cool things. Go for the creativity! Make those projects you always wanted to make! Pick up a job at a bookstore if you need money, but set aside plenty of time to make something with a long shelf life.

  • This is my 30th year, being a self employed contract programmer. Most everything is done remote from my home office or my office which is 2 miles from my house. I may stop by a local client once a week, other than that I am pretty much a recluse. My wife laughs at me because there have been weeks I have not gone anywhere ;)

    Being 62, I intend to be fishing everyday I can ;) after all! may as well get paid for fishing ;)
  • It's where everything goes eventually.

  • I'm over 50 and using my many years as a programmer to code as architect. Wherever you want, keep learning
  • Just turned 60. Still coding. Tried the management route. It's not for me.
  • by jddj ( 1085169 ) on Thursday October 26, 2017 @12:39AM (#55434713) Journal

    To /dev/null

  • by Terje Mathisen ( 128806 ) on Thursday October 26, 2017 @03:41AM (#55435081)

    You could claim that I've gone into management since I'm the CTO of Open iT [], a multinational sw development corporation, but as long as I still get to do as much interesting programming as I want to, I will consider myself a programmer.

    Besides my daytime work I'm involved with Network Time Protocol and I'm also part of Mill Computing [] which is a team of mostly very mature people trying to develop a _really_ interesting cpu architecture, please take a look. That team is lead by our own real-life wizard and Gandalf lookalike, Ivan Godard (do an image search...). As part of my Mill work I am also active in the ieee754 2018 revision, i.e. the update to the international floating point standard.

    In my spare time I'm the leader of the Mapping Commission of the Norwegian Orienteering Federation, a job I got mostly due to my interest in developing sw to create much better base maps based on LiDAR point clouds.

    Previously in my career I've worked on video and audio coding/optimization, including DVD, BluRay and Ogg Vorbis, as well as helping optimize the Quake assembly code. I've also worked on one of the AES candidates and at one point I doubled the speed of a research Computational Fluid Chemistry code. My Warhol moment might have been when I by accident made the first public disclosure of the FDIV bug (on and then wrote most of the (compiler) SW workaround for that.

    I have no intention to retire until I'm much closer to 70! (If I did that my wife who's a mechanical engineer and responsible for making the trains in Norway run on time, would expect me to make dinner for her every day, as well as doing all the cleaning and laundry. :-) )


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