Ones and Zeros, Computing for a Living

The general stereotype for a programmer is an anti-social guy in a t-shirt who doesn’t see the sun very often. But is this true? What is programming really like? Eric London is a man who makes a living off writing computer code.

Eric said his first experience with programming was fairly early on. He remembers having an old computer called a Tandy 1000, his dad giving him a thick book on the computer language BASIC, and making shapes move on the computer screen. Since then, he has turned his childhood dream into a reality. Eric is a database programmer for a hospital, which is an important job in today’s technology-driven society.

The programming that Eric does in particular is essential. He structures the information people will be using in such a way that the right persons can access it efficiently. This is especially vital for a hospital considering how much information they deal with. Eric sometimes calls his job “big data tooling”. Eric uses the computer language Scala at the moment but in the past he has used various other languages including Ruby and Javascript.

“I enjoy programming,” said Eric, “[but] over all, my job, it’s kinda boring.” He said programming can be fun, but that it can be difficult to relate to software that is meant for hospital administrators. “I wanted to be a video game programmer,” he said, explaining that would be more enjoyable because he could play the game afterwards. He sticks with his current job however, because he programs “more for the money”. His reason? He has a family and the programming he does is surprisingly well suited for family life.

“I don’t have to be at the office all the time,” he said. Instead, he can program at home, which is nice because he has a forty-five minute commute. Eric also hopes to teach his son how to program. He believes it is a useful skill even if a person does not make a career out of it. Programming has also become a hobby for Eric. Sometimes he will make things for fun, other times they have a purpose. For instance, once Eric made a gadget that reminded him to “terminate his clusters before he left work”, meaning he was alerted to not shutting down his servers; a costly error. He also did a little project with his son; they built a Google AIY Voice Kit. Eric and his son, Jude, got the raw components of Google Home, a voice activated console to access the internet through talking, and made it themselves.

Eric likes to demonstrate his skills to anyone who might understand, so he has blog to show people what he is up to. His blog consists of a list of impressive projects that he has done with instructions to do it yourself. The coding in the instructions can be long or short, but most of them are confusing to those who are inexperienced with programming.

Programmers like Eric understand and perform functions that most people do not even realize exist. They are the backbone of the working world.