The Optimistic Programmer

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Blog BattleSEP is currently having a blog battle between some of the employees. This weeks challenge is the title – The Optimistic Programmer.

When I was a young college aged programmer visiting my Dad at work for a former employer. I got an object lesson in optimism.

He had managed to steal a couple of developers from the IT department. Their job was to work with the scheduling staff to make sure all the planes can move all the scheduled flights with pilots that are legally allowed to fly at that time carrying catering selected by the share owners. There are many combinations and the chance to save a lot of money of you pick the right schedule. They eventually wrote a couple of programs.

We could have gone on about Operations Research and the scheduling algorithm, but we didn’t. What we did talk about was the flight grid. It was a huge screen full of planes, times, events, and notes. This was way back in the olden times before the Y2Ks. He said it was snappy. In fact it did scroll quickly with no noticeable stutter.

Then came the kicker. “There were a couple ways to do this. One was inefficient and the other was really hard. Turns out, the inefficient way is quick enough.”

Then I heard about a Knuth quote. “Premature Optimization is the root of all evil (or at least most of it) in programming.”

You can’t tell if it is worth the effort unless you can measure it. And sometimes, good enough is good enough.

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