back in the day…

Gerald Weinberg talks about what it was like to be a real programmer:

A San Francisco oil company, which couldn’t accept the coast-to-coast turnaround time, requested an IBM machine of its own (at a cost of roughly $20 million) to run an application that blended oil from its distillation towers everyday. According to Weinberg, performing the blending optimally based on that day’s oil prices was worth about $1 million a day to the company. Weinberg wrote the program for them, because—like nearly all large companies at that time—it didn’t have a programming staff. “When you bought a machine from IBM,” he explained, “you got me with it—free.”

Buying a machine wasn’t a simple proposition, however. “You had to justify to IBM that you were a worthy user,” said Weinberg. “Sure enough, they turned down this order because the [blending] calculation only took less than an hour a day. I found a problem with the program, and by the time I fixed it, it was taking eight hours a day.”

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