Re: Do you equate engineers and programmers?

Subject: Re: Do you equate engineers and programmers?
From: Gwen Gall <ggall -at- CA -dot- ORACLE -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 18 Aug 1994 16:04:19 EDT

In-Reply-To: CNSEQ1:TECHWR-L -at- VM1 -dot- ucc -dot- okstate -dot- edu's message of 08-18-94 13:28

Warning: Diatribe with illustrating anecdote ahead. Proceed at own risk.

I can't resist one more chance to engineer-bash, then I'll quit before someone
has some equally nasty and equally valid (whatever could those be?) things to
say about technical writers.

The programmers with degrees
(even advanced degrees) in computer science feel they are
considered second class citizens, and thus they can relate to
us lowly tech writers! BTW, it is undeniable that the programmers
do not achieve the same salary levels as the engineers, but for
that matter, neither do I!

It is my experience that engineers who program have usually taken no, one or
just a few computer programming courses, and pride themselves on their self-
taught skill. These same engineers somehow manage to command respect and
fawning from people with even Masters' degrees in Computer Science...get the
project management positions and the top-level development jobs... And everyone
thinks the world is unfolding as it should!

As a result, I frequently hear of "hatchet" or "spagetti" or "brute force"
programs created by engineers, inelegant, inefficient and cludgey, thanks to
the "engineering attiude"--"Just get the job done, fast. If it works, so what
if it doesn't look pretty. Besides, I'm an engineer--there couldn't possibly
be a better way to do it".

According to several people I know (I'm not qualified to judge), this kind of
programming is a result of so-called self-taught "skill", rather than proper
training, and inevitably causes problems down the line.

I've heard this type of thing more than once:

"Why did (engineer) write his own function to delete the root directory, when
the function DELETE_ROOT already exists? And he took 200 lines of code to do
it?" Then you hear the authoritative explanation of how (engineer's) function
is vastly superior to DELETE_ROOT: it displays the message "Once you
have deleted all files in the root directory, you will no longer be
able to boot your machine, and will have to reinstall" while it deletes
them**. (Much later, if you pursue it, you will discover that the 200 lines of
code have quietly been replaced by a DELETE_ROOT function statement.)

This engineer-veneration phenomenon is a great puzzle to me.

Is this a case of "tell 'em yer wearin' a real nice outfit, and no one'll
notice yer nekked-as-a-jaybird"?

Take care, and may your dog go with you,

Gwen (My Barbie sez, "I'm too stupid to be an engineer!") Gall

**Note on the error message: written based on the assumption that if you are
stupid enough to attempt to delete all the files in the root directory, you
deserve to have to re-install, and I (engineer) am giving myself the satis-
faction of telling you, <ha! ha! and rubbing of hands together>

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