I remember helping a friend ‘de-coke’ the cylinder head of his car. I’d done this several times on other cars and was very confident, the trouble was that this engine used ‘wet liners’ and we ended up with a pile a scrap metal and looking forward to a hefty bill at the garage. Recently a warning light came on my dashboard and the mechanic at the garage had to plug the car into his diagnostic computer to determine what was wrong – the eventual repair was carried out MUCH quicker than I could have done and even at £60 an hour was money well spend. I also used to write software but to do anything useful now is well beyond my ability and somebody who is all set up for this could do it quicker and better than I.
A nice article by Terry Friedman brings together some thoughts about the computer equivalent of this, he calls it ‘Nostalgia’ but there are many people without a long history in programming who seem to share the same view.
I’ve yet to see a valid argument to explain why people need to be able to program (or to be able to build computers for that matter). To write a program to do almost anything worthwhile requires a lot of knowledge and understanding – it’s a bit like changing a car engine, there was a time when this was useful but now the specialist can do it better and cheaper than you.