Thursday, February 12, 2009

A funny, geeky story

When I first started to learn the C programming language, like almost everyone, I read The C Programming Language by Kernighan and Richie (the link points to a later version than I used). After programming in C for a while, I bought another book which had a great section near the back covering common mistakes C programmers often make. I found this valuable as a way to look at my programs and see problems coming before they happened. I wish I still had that book but I gave it away (surprisingly, to the precocious son of one of my co-workers who was writing programs with one hand as he clutched his teddy bear with the other). I don't even remember the title or author.

But the one thing I remember from it was this line, "You'll find that as you learn more about the C programming language and write more advanced programs, the errors you make will be more subtle and hard to find."

I remember, at first, being surprised by this statement. "What a strange thing to say in a book that is supposed to be helping me learn a programming language", I thought. Then I realized what it meant and I laughed. In a sense, this isn't really a geek joke but a universal truth. It's also a little like my earlier article about the difference between two-wheel drive vehicles and four-wheel drive vehicles. As we learn to ride a bike better, the further we go on our trips. As we get more wheels driving our vehicle, we tend to go further off the road. As we gain more faith, we try to live our life more in line with the teachings of Jesus and attempt bolder projects in His name. Hopefully, we're constantly learning, getting better and reaching further. We just need to be prepared that the problems we face are going to be tougher to solve and more subtle to see. But we're better, too!

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