I was speaking to a friend of mine (OneFlew) on IRC today (yes, it’s still around, and yes, I still use it) about the Real Programmers that he worked with in his career as a programmer. He told me about Russel Hollick, who was then (and, still is, it seems), the Research and Development director of SYSPRO Africa.

In OneFlew’s opinion, Russell Hollick is a Real Programmer of note. Russell, at the time (and hopefully still) programmed in COBOL. Now the discerning reader may note that Real Programmers don’t program in COBOL. Generally, this would be true, but the legendary feats accomplished by Russell using COBOL are, apparently, manifold.  I didn’t manage to get a lot of detail from OneFlew but he described Russell as “my god, a fucking genius”. Russell was apparently a vi master of the 8th degree, and single-handedly bent vi to his will. His will being programming Object COBOL in vi. Just using vi in the first place places the man somewhat higher up on the ladder of Real Programmers.

One of the feats that elevates Russell to the realm of Real Programmer is that he went and wrote a printer driver in COBOL. Now, the COBOL that was forced down my throat while studying is a bit hazy these days but from the little bit I can remember, the language wasn’t exactly meant for bare bones systems programming. This petty restriction does not deter the Real Programmer. Russell apparently also had a knack for calling the Windows API from COBOL and knew it inside out (most likely, he still knows it inside out today).

What sealed the deal for me was the fact that Russell had a cup of coffee permanently attached to his hand, a sure sign of Real Programmerness.  Also a sure sign of one-handed typing skill I guess. He drove a red Porsche Carrera. Respect. Real Programmers like fast cars, fast bikes are highly regarded.

As I mentioned before, Russel was (and still is) the R&D Director of SYSPRO, code for “he wrote the fucking product with his bare hands”.

So here’s to Russell Hollick, Real Programmer.

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