Looking Out To Sea

The world discovers that programming is not easy

It has recently been shown that a 2010 economics paper built around an Excel spreadsheet contained an important error, and this error came from the code in the spreadsheet itself. To be exact, some conclusions of the paper hinged on a spreadsheet bug.

So it becomes clear to the world at large that Excel spreadsheets are programming, and being programming they will almost definitely contain bugs.

As soon as we started programming, we found to our surprise that it wasn’t as easy to get programs right as we had thought. Debugging had to be discovered. I can remember the exact instant when I realized that a large part of my life from then on was going to be spent in finding mistakes in my own programs.

— Maurice Wilkes discovers debugging, 1949

I have a particular interest here because I believe that programming should be something more widely taught and understood. Part of this greater understanding and familiarity will of course hammer home a truth understood by programmers all over the world: it’s very easy to make a mistake which doesn’t show up until too late.