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Discussion on: The Dark Side Of The Magic

stereobooster profile image

It's very hard to talk to you, I'm not sure are you being serious or trolling.

Following this logic we as well need to understand electronics, otherwise we use abstractions of hardware without realising implications (rowhammer attacks).

Turing tarpit it is.

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codemouse92 profile image
Jason C. McDonald Author

I'm quite serious, and in fact, there is a degree to which programmers do need to understand some important principles of computer engineering. (Which principles depends on which abstractions you're using, and thus, unpacking.)

As you follow each abstraction down as you encounter it, you learn more and more about the underlying principles of computer programming, and yes, sometimes even hardware. These have profoundly positive influences on your programming skills.

I think a lot of people feel defensive about this because it seems intimidating. They think "I'm not a real programmer because I have no idea what a register is!" To that, I'd say no, you ARE a real programmer. Every day will present a new opportunity to learn. You don't have to try to learn everything, nor do you need to learn it all right now.

The important point, the universal distinguishing characteristic of a good programmer, is simply the willingness to keep learning. When you realize you must make a decision about an abstraction, when you encounter a new tool, when you have a more senior developer point out a pitfall you overlooked, you take the plunge down the rabbit hole and fill in the gaps.

Moment by moment, day by day, fragment by fragment, you uncover the deeper truths underneath the "magic", and you become a better programmer for it.

Example: if you followed just one of those rabbit holes — data structures — all the way down to the silicon, you're really only going to encounter basic memory addressing and CPU caching (and maybe a bit of binary jazz). Neither is as scary or complex as they sound, and both are incredibly enlightening. Once understood, they become as elementary as multiplication.

Yet in that same scenario, understanding (say) how the power supply unit and how it provides voltage to the RAM is utterly irrelevant; it has no meaningful effect on the fundamental concept.