Developer divide: 19 generations of computer programmers

From punch cards to JavaScript, computing history owes everything to those who've programmed the machines

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C programmers
The language began as one step above assembler, but grew hand in hand with all of the variations of Unix. Today it's still used by those who love Unix and its latest dominant variant, Linux. It remains the tool of choice for those who want to program "close to the metal" and not rely on automatic mechanisms like garbage collectors.

Other language of choice: C++
Special skill: Remembering to free everything malloced
Social media strategy: Posts to Usenet three times a month
Other career choice: Bell telephone switch technician
Clothing: Red Hat T-shirt from the early days
Rhetorical tic: "Wouldn't you rather handle the memory yourself?"
Car: Original Toyota Land Cruiser
Song: Something by the Ramones
Favorite artifact: Bell Labs coffee cup

C++ programmers
When C programmers looked at the idea of object-oriented programming, they created C++, a baroque version that worked best when the programmer was able to keep track of all the complicated ways code could interact. It took all of the garage-grade DIY intensity and added another way for programmers to prove themselves worthy.

Other language of choice: C
Special skill: Multiple inheritance
Social media strategy: Friendster
Other career choice: Pinball wizard
Clothing: Jeans jacket with safety pins
Rhetorical tic: "Java pretty much broke object-oriented programming."
Car: Ford Explorer
Song: The Clash's "Clash City Rockers"
Favorite artifact: Borland C++ T-shirt

Objective-C programmers (first generation)
There are two groups of people who fell in love with Objective-C: the people who bought a NeXT machine and those who bought an iPhone. The first generation went on to rescue Apple in its darkest days and pull it back from the brink.

Other language of choice: Smalltalk
Special skill: Using InterfaceBuilder
Social media strategy: Subscribes to 42 mailing lists
Other career choice: Wall Street investment banker
Clothing: Hawaiian shirt
Rhetorical tic: "You mean C++ doesn't do that for you?"
Car: Mazda RX-7 or BMW 325
Song: Anything by Bob Dylan, Grateful Dead, Cat Stevens, or anyone else liked by Steve Jobs
Favorite artifact: NeXT machine

Perl programmers
The simple language for manipulating text files appeared around the same time as the Internet, so when people needed to fix Web servers, they turned first to Perl. If you have text in one format and need to change it -- "massage it," in Perl parlance -- it may only take 10 to 20 characters. Most of the Perl scripts may be short, but that never stopped some true believers. Slashdot, after all, was built with Perl.

Other language of choice: Unix shell scripts
Special skill: Regular expressions
Social media strategy: Arguing on Slashdot
Other career choice: Roboticist building simulated dinosaurs for malls
Clothing: Jacket and T-shirt
Rhetorical tic: "It's the duct tape of the Internet."
Car: Tuned Honda Civic
Song: Pantera's "Cemetery Gates"
Favorite artifact: First edition of O'Reilly's Perl handbook

PHP programmers
Many PHP programmers fell into PHP by accident. They were creating HTML, and they needed a bit of dynamic logic. One tag led to another, and they found themselves creating websites and content-management systems with the code.

Other language of choice: JavaScript
Special skill: Juggling the coding layer and the HTML markup
Social media strategy: More than 1,000 friends on Facebook; still logs into MySpace
Other career choice: Mortgage broker
Clothing: T-shirt depicting logo of pre-bubble startup you've never heard of
Rhetorical tic: "Monetize the eyeballs."
Car: Aging SUV
Song: The Cure's "Just Like Heaven"
Favorite artifact: Orange moped from Kozmo

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