Lack of women and AOL CDs: The developer business 20 years ago.

Reading time: 3 min

There are things that only work together. French fries with mayo, for example. Or ebb and flow. And of course: the future and the past. Future? Sure, part of the mmmake DNA. We can, we do, we love, every day anew. But only those who know the past can understand the future.* So we grabbed an experienced mmmake and asked him. On his field and daily business, on hopes and obstacles – and 20 years ago today.

Stephan Weißenberger, Head of Software Development, was so excited about this retrospective that he even brought his first programming book to the photo shoot. Let’s go:

Stephan, what did a normal day in the life of a software developer look like in 2001?

My colloquial language is relatively coarse – may I say shitty? All the conveniences we have today, for example, automatic code checking for errors and uniform guidelines, plus public source code that anyone can use or code management where several developers can work on the same project without stress … there was nothing like that. If you didn’t know something, you had to figure it out yourself or ask an experienced colleague. But he was only experienced because he had been at the Basic Days before and happened to talk to someone there about it. Otherwise, you had to read books or the official documentation from the CD that was available from Microsoft.

That sounds really paradisiacal! But now imagine if we had taught computer science in elementary schools back in 2001. Would we then be living in a digitized wonderland today?

I wish it, but I don’t believe it. 2001 was a terrible time. There was AOL on CD and the Internet was just for making miserable web pages yourself. Wikipedia was founded in 2001. There were only a few quite elite sites on the Internet about computer science. So much would have been expected of the teachers, which they could never have accomplished. Or the lessons would have been so rudimentary that it would hardly have been worth it.

Today, there are online courses, bootcamps, and countless training companies, all eager to turn people into developers. Is it therefore easier to enter the profession these days? Or was that easier in the past, because no one really knew what they were doing anyway?

It’s gotten easier, definitely. The barrier to entry is lower, and many more people come to us today because they want to learn what to do with computers besides play on them. Fortunately, more women are also finally gaining access and being allowed to indulge their passion through initiatives such as “Girls Day”, “Komm, mach MINT” or “FuB (frau und beruf)”.

You’ve also been in the business for 14 years now. Hand on heart: How valuable is the resource “experience” in such a fast-moving professional field? Can one’s own brain also be trained well in the long run to familiarize itself with things over and over again – or does one at some point wish for something more … Consistency?

Experience is the most important thing, because software development changes regularly, the languages, the technologies, the output devices. What doesn’t change is the architecture, the communication with the customer, working with people. This is then the experience that everyone can bring and increase over the years.

Suppose you could travel back to 2001 and change one thing from your area of expertise. Which one would that be?

I would like to see more women in IT back in 2001. When a job description is dominated by only one side, you also get only one-dimensional ideas. In other words, as soon as the profession opens up, diversity increases and ideas and solutions improve. Currently, we are running after this problem and have to make a great effort. If this had happened 20 years ago, everything would be better today.

Finally, let’s take a critical look at the bigger picture: As humanity, we currently have a stove full of shit. How big do you see the potential of software/code/programming as part of the solution to our current problems and challenges?

I wish I could answer that for you. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as the one thing that changes everything and pulls the cart out of the mud for us. Instead, I believe that everyone has to do something. Everyone must change themselves and their behavior. And if I can contribute to that through the software I write, I’m happy to do so.

Stephan, thank you for this interesting, detailed – and above all relentlessly honest – review.

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