Article: What Is Code?

Amazing book-length feature by Paul Ford in the latest issue of Bloomberg Businessweek:

We are here because the editor of this magazine asked me, “Can you tell me what code is?”

“No,” I said. “First of all, I’m not good at the math. I’m a programmer, yes, but I’m an East Coast programmer, not one of these serious platform people from the Bay Area.”

I began to program nearly 20 years ago, learning via oraperl, a special version of the Perl language modified to work with the Oracle database. A month into the work, I damaged the accounts of 30,000 fantasy basketball players. They sent some angry e-mails. After that, I decided to get better. [...]

What I’m saying is, I’m one of 18 million. So that’s what I’m writing: my view of software development, as an individual among millions. Code has been my life, and it has been your life, too. It is time to understand how it all works.

Every month it becomes easier to ​do things that have never been done before, to create new kinds of chaos and find new kinds of order. Even though my math skills will never catch up, I love the work. Every month, code changes the world in some interesting, wonderful or disturbing way.

The web-based version is great, though I went ahead and bought myself the print edition:

Well worth a read if you want to understand how every aspect of your life is or will be impacted by software!