I’ve been in my present programming job since 1987. I’m a database programmer, but I’m not part of IT, but was hired by a college within the university where I work. I was employed way back then to set up a Novell network and develop a multi-user dBase III system to shadow the university’s canned student information system. In the mid-nineties, I rewrote everything in HTML and classic ASP for IIS and Microsoft SQL Server, and switched our network to Windows and TCP/IP. I have cranked out hundreds of thousands of lines of custom code since. Now our university IT department wants all us non-IT programmers to rewrite our code to meet IT standards that runs on their servers. I’m totally behind that, because I know when I retire someone will have to maintain my code.
I do believe this is good for me, especially for exercising my aging mental stamina, but I can feel that it’s pushing the limits of what my mind can handle. I’m sure in several months I’ll be comfortable in the new paradigm, but for now I feel like I’m a couch potato going on the Biggest Loser. I wonder if all this mental weight lifting and running, all this programming huffing and puffing, is going to kill me.
Now that I’m getting old, I know why old dogs don’t want to learn new tricks. It’s so much easier to stay in the comfort zone of doing my old tricks. What’s weird is I’m learning all this new technical stuff at the same time I’m becoming so forgetful in everyday life. More than anything, I’m in a USE IT OR LOSE IT phase of life. It feels like I’m surfing and the only thing I can remember is the wave I’m riding right now.
The famous urban legend is we only use 10% of our brains. I’ve read about scientific experiments that disprove that. One set of experiments had test subjects learn something new and test their retention ability, then after awhile, switched them to studying something different. As they learned new stuff they forgot old stuff. Other experiments mapped the brain with various scans. There aren’t any unused portions. What they learned is we all use our brains fully, but fully varies from person to person, and I’m guessing also varies at different times in our lives. It’s like that circus act where a guy keeps 30 spinning plates all twirling at once. When we’re young we can keep 25 things going at once, but as we get older, that number decreases.
Learning my new programming paradigm is like trying to be young again. It’s fun and exciting, but this time around I realize I’m pushing my limits. I can feel my limits in a way that I never imagined when I was young. I wonder how far and how hard I can push those limitations, and for how long.
JWH – 1/20/10