Back  in  the  good  old  days--the  "Golden  Era"   of
computers--it  was  easy  to  separate the men from the boys
(sometimes called "Real Men"  and  "Quiche  Eaters"  in  the
literature).  During this period, the Real Men were the ones
that understood computer programming, and the Quiche  Eaters
were  the ones that didn't.  A real computer programmer said
things like "DO 10 I=1,10" and "ABEND" (they actually talked
in  capital  letters,  you  understand), and the rest of the
world said things like "computers are  too  complicated  for
me"   and   "I   can't   relate   to  computers--they're  so
impersonal".  A previous work [1] points out that  Real  Men
don't  "relate"  to  anything,  and  aren't  afraid of being

     But, as usual, times change.  We are faced today with a
world  in which little old ladies can get computers in their
microwave ovens, 12-year-old kids can blow Real Men  out  of
the  water playing Asteroids and Pac-Man, and anyone can buy
and even understand their very own Personal  Computer.   The
Real  Programmer  is in danger of becoming extinct, of being
replaced by high-school students with TRASH-80's.

     There is a clear need  to  point  out  the  differences
between  the typical high-school junior Pac-Man player and a
Real Programmer.  If this difference is made clear, it  will
give  these  kids  something  to  aspire to--a role model, a
father figure.  It will also help explain to  the  employers
of Real Programmers why it would be a mistake to replace the
Real Programmers on their  staff  with  12-year-old  Pac-Man
players (at a considerable salary savings).


     The easiest way to tell  a  Real  Programmer  from  the
crowd is by the programming language he (or she) uses.  Real
Programmers  use  FORTRAN.   Quiche   Eaters   use   PASCAL.
Nicklaus  Wirth, the designer of PASCAL, gave a talk once at
which he was asked "How do you pronounce  your  name?".   He
replied, "You can call me by name, pronouncing it 'Virt', or
call be by value, 'Worth'." One can  tell  immediately  from
this  comment  that  Nicklaus  Wirth is a Quiche Eater.  The
only   parameter-passing   mechanism   endorsed   by    Real
Programmers  is  call-by-value-return, as implemented in the
IBM/370 FORTRAN-G  and  like  compilers.   Real  programmers
don't  need  all  these  abstract concepts to get their jobs
done;  they are perfectly happy with a keypunch,  a  FORTRAN
IV compiler, and a beer.

      *  Real Programmers do List Processing in FORTRAN.

      *  Real Programmers do string manipulation in FORTRAN.

      *  Real Programmers do acounting (if  they  do  it  at
         all) in FORTRAN.

      *  Real   Programmers   do   Artificial   Intelligence
         programs in FORTRAN.

     If you can't do  it  in  FORTRAN,  do  it  in  Assembly
language.   If  you  can't do it in Assembly, it isn't worth


     The academics in computer science have gotten into  the
"structured  programming"  rut  over the past several years.
They claim that programs are more easily understood  if  the
programmer   uses   some  special  language  constructs  and
techniques.   They  don't  all  agree   on   exactly   which
constructs,  of  course,  and  the examples they use to show
their particular point of view invariably fit  on  a  single
page  of some obscure journal or another--clearly not enough
of an example to convince anyone.  When I got out of school,
I  thought  I was the best programmer in the world.  I could
write an unbeatable tic-tac-toe program, use five  different
computer  languages,  and  create  1000-line  programs  that
WORKED.  (Really!) Then I got out into the Real  World.   My
first  task  in  the Real World was to read and understand a
200,000-line FORTRAN program, then speed it up by  a  factor
of  two.   Any  Real  Programmer  will tell you that all the
Structured Coding in  the  world  won't  help  you  solve  a
problem  like  that--it  takes  actual  talent.   Some quick
observations on Real Programmers and Structured Programming:

      *  Real Programmers aren't afraid to use GOTO's.

      *  Real Programmers can write five-page-long DO  loops
         without getting confused.

      *  Real Programmers like  Arithmetic  IF  statements--
         they make the code more interesting.

      *  Real   Programmers   write   self-modifying   code,
         especially  if  they can save 20 nanoseconds in the
         middle of a tight loop.

      *  Real Programmers don't need comments--the  code  is

      *  Since  FORTRAN  doesn't  have  a   structured   IF,
         REPEAT...UNTIL, or CASE statement, Real Programmers
         don't have to worry about not using them.  Besides,
         they can be simulated when necessary using assigned

     Data Structures have also gotten a lot of press lately.
Abstract   Data  Types,  Structures,  Pointers,  Lists,  and
Strings have become popular in certain circles.  Wirth  (the
above-mentioned  Quiche Eater) actually wrote an entire book
[2] contending that you could write a program based on  data
structures,  instead  of  the other way around.  As all Real
Programmers know, the only  useful  data  structure  is  the
Array.   Strings,  lists,  structures,  sets--these  are all
special cases of arrays and can be treated that way just  as
easily without messing up your programming language with all
sorts of complications.  The worst thing  about  fancy  data
types is that you have to declare them, and Real Programming
Languages, as we all know, have implicit typing based on the
first letter of the (six character) variable name.

                     OPERATING SYSTEMS

     What kind  of  operating  system  is  used  by  a  Real
Programmer?    CP/M?    God   forbid--CP/M,  after  all,  is
basically a toy operating system.  Even  little  old  ladies
and grade school students can understand and use CP/M.

     Unix is a lot more complicated of  course--the  typical
Unix  hacker  never  can  remember what the PRINT command is
called this week--but when it gets right down to it, Unix is
a  glorified  video  game.   People don't do Serious Work on
Unix systems:  they send jokes around the world on  UUCP-net
and write adventure games and research papers.

     No,  your  Real  Programmer  uses   OS\370.    A   good
programmer  can  find  and understand the description of the
IJK305I error he just  got  in  his  JCL  manual.   A  great
programmer  can write JCL without referring to the manual at
all.  A truly outstanding programmer can find bugs buried in
a six-megabyte core dump without using a hex calculator.  (I
have actually seen this done.)

     OS  is  a  truly  remarkable  operating  system.   It's
possible  to  destroy  days  of work with a single misplaced
space, so alertness in the programming staff is  encouraged.
The  best  way to approach the system is through a keypunch.
Some people claim there is a Timesharing System that runs on
OS\370,   but  after  careful  study  I  have  come  to  the
conclusion that they were mistaken.

                     PROGRAMMING TOOLS

     What kind of tools does  a  Real  Programmer  use?   In
theory,  a  Real Programmer could run his programs by keying
them into the front panel of the computer.  Back in the days
when  computers  had  front  panels,  this was actually done
occasionally.  Your typical Real Programmer knew the  entire
bootstrap  loader  by  memory  in  hex,  and  toggled  it in
whenever it got  destroyed  by  his  program.   (Back  then,
memory  was  memory--it  didn't  go away when the power went
off.  Today, memory either forgets  things  when  you  don't
want  it  to,  or remembers things long after they're better
forgotten.) Legend has it that Seymore Cray, inventor of the
Cray  I  supercomputer and most of Control Data's computers,
actually toggled the first operating system for the  CDC7600
in  on the front panel from memory when it was first powered
on.  Seymore, needless to say, is a Real Programmer.

     One of my  favorite  Real  Programmers  was  a  systems
programmer  for  Texas  Instruments.  One day he got a long-
distance call from a user whose system had  crashed  in  the
middle  of  saving  some  important  work.   Jim was able to
repair the damage over the phone, getting the user to toggle
in  disk  I/O  instructions  at  the  front panel, repairing
system tables in hex, reading register  contents  back  over
the   phone.   The  moral  of  this  story:   while  a  Real
Programmer usually includes a keypunch  and  lineprinter  in
his  toolkit, he can get along with just a front panel and a
telephone in emergencies.

     In some companies, text editing no longer  consists  of
ten  engineers  standing in line to use an 029 keypunch.  In
fact, the building  I  work  in  doesn't  contain  a  single
keypunch.   The  Real Programmer in this situation has to do
his work with a "text editor" program.  Most systems  supply
several text editors to select from, and the Real Programmer
must be careful to  pick  one  that  reflects  his  personal
style.   Many  people  believe that the best text editors in
the world were written at Xerox Palo  Alto  Research  Center
for   use   on   their   Alto   and  Dorado  computers  [3].
Unfortunately, no Real Programmer would ever use a  computer
whose  operating  system  is  called  SmallTalk,  and  would
certainly not talk to the computer with a mouse.

     Some of the concepts in these Xerox editors  have  been
incorporated  into  editors running on more reasonably named
operating systems--EMACS and VI being two.  The problem with
these  editors  is  that Real Programmers consider "what you
see is what you get" to be just as bad  a  concept  in  Text
Editors  as  it is in women.  No the Real Programmer wants a
"you asked for it, you  got  it"  text  editor--complicated,
cryptic,  powerful,  unforgiving,  dangerous.   TECO,  to be

     It has been observed that a TECO command sequence  more
closely resembles transmission line noise than readable text
[4].  One of the more entertaining games to play  with  TECO
is  to  type your name in as a command line and try to guess
what it does.  Just about any possible  typing  error  while
talking  with  TECO  will  probably destroy your program--or
even worse, introduce subtle and mysterious bugs in  a  once
working subroutine.

     For this reason,  Real  Programmers  are  reluctant  to
actually edit a program that is close to working.  They find
it  much  easier  to  just  patch  the  binary  object  code
directly,  using a wonderful program called SUPERZAP (or its
equivalent on non-IBM machines).  This works  so  well  that
many working programs on IBM systems bear no relation to the
original FORTRAN code.  In many cases, the  original  source
code  is  no  longer available.  When it comes time to fix a
program like this, no manager would even  think  of  sending
anything  less  than  a  Real  Programmer  to do the job--no
Quiche Eating structured programmer would even know where to
start.  This is called "job security".

     Some programming tools NOT used by Real Programmers:

      *  FORTRAN preprocessors like MORTRAN and RATFOR.  The
         Cuisinarts of programming--great for making Quiche.
         See comments above on structured programming.

      *  Source language debuggers.   Real  Programmers  can
         read core dumps.

      *  Compilers with array bounds checking.  They  stifle
         creativity,  destroy  most  of the interesting uses
         for EQUIVALENCE, and make it impossible  to  modify
         the operating system code with negative subscripts.
         Worst of all, bounds checking is inefficient.

      *  Source code maintenance systems.  A Real Programmer
         keeps his code locked up in a card file, because it
         implies that its owner cannot leave  his  important
         programs unguarded [5].


     Where does the typical Real Programmer work?  What kind
of  programs  are  worthy  of  the efforts of so talented an
individual?  You can be sure that no Real  Programmer  would
be  caught  dead  writing  accounts-receivable  programs  in
COBOL, or sorting mailing lists for People magazine.  A Real
Programmer   wants   tasks   of   earth-shaking   importance

      *  Real  Programmers  work  for  Los  Alamos  National
         Laboratory,  writing atomic bomb simulations to run
         on Cray I supercomputers.

      *  Real Programmers work  for  the  National  Security
         Agency, decoding Russian transmissions.

      *  It was largely due to the efforts of  thousands  of
         Real Programmers working for NASA that our boys got
         to the moon and back before the Russkies.

      *  Real Programmers are at work for  Boeing  designing
         the operating systems for cruise missiles.

     Some of the most awesome Real Programmers of  all  work
at  the  Jet  Propulsion  Laboratory in California.  Many of
them know the entire operating system  of  the  Pioneer  and
Voyager  spacecraft  by  heart.  With a combination of large
ground-based FORTRAN  programs  and  small  spacecraft-based
assembly  language  programs, they are able to do incredible
feats  of   navigation   and   improvisation--hitting   ten-
kilometer-wide  windows  at Saturn after six years in space,
repairing or bypassing damaged sensor platforms, radios, and
batteries.  Allegedly, one Real Programmer managed to tuck a
pattern-matching program into a few hundred bytes of  unused
memory  in  a Voyager spacecraft that searched for, located,
and photographed a new moon of Jupiter.

     The current plan for the Galileo spacecraft is to use a
gravity  assist  trajectory past Mars on the way to Jupiter.
This trajectory passes within  80  +/-3  kilometers  of  the
surface  of Mars.  Nobody is going to trust a PASCAL program
(or a PASCAL programmer) for navigation to these tolerances.

     As you can tell, many of the world's  Real  Programmers
work   for   the   U.S.    Government--mainly   the  Defense
Department.  This is as it should be.  Recently, however,  a
black  cloud  has formed on the Real Programmer horizon.  It
seems that some highly placed Quiche Eaters at  the  Defense
Department  decided  that  all  defense  programs  should be
written in some grand unified language called "ADA".  For  a
while,  it seemed that ADA was destined to become a language
that went against all the precepts  of  Real  Programming--a
language  with structure, a language with data types, strong
typing, and semicolons.  In short, a  language  designed  to
cripple  the  creativity  of  the  typical  Real Programmer.
Fortunately,  the  language  adopted  by  DoD   has   enough
interesting   features   to   make   it   approachable--it's
incredibly complex, includes methods for  messing  with  the
operating system and rearranging memory, and Edsgar Dijkstra
doesn't like it [6].  (Dijkstra, as I;m sure you  know,  was
the author of "GoTos Considered Harmful"--a landmark work in
programming methodology, applauded by PASCAL programmers and
Quiche   Eaters   alike.)   Besides,   the  determined  Real
Programmer can write FORTRAN programs in any language.

     The Real Programmer might compromise his principles and
work on something slightly more trivial than the destruction
of life as we know it, providing there's enough money in it.
There  are  several Real Programmers building video games at
Atari,  for  example.   (But  not   playing   them--a   Real
Programmer  knows  how  to  beat the machine every time:  no
challenge in that.) Everyone working at LucasFilm is a  Real
Programmer.   (It  would  be crazy to turn down the money of
fifty million  Star  Trek  fans.)  The  proportion  of  Real
Programmers  in Computer Graphics is somewhat lower than the
norm, mostly because nobody has found  a  use  for  computer
graphics  yet.   On the other hand, all computer graphics is
done in FORTRAN, {so there are a fair number of people doing
graphics in order to avoid having to write COBOL programs.


     Generally, the Real Programmer plays the  same  way  he
works--with  computers.   He  is  constantly amazed that his
employer actually pays him to do what he would be doing  for
fun  anyway  (although  he  is  careful  not to express this
opinion out loud).  Occasionally, the Real  Programmer  does
step  out of the office for a breath of fresh air and a beer
or two.  Some tips on recognizing Real Programmers away from
the computer room:

      *  At a party, the Real Programmers are  the  ones  in
         the  corner talking about operating system security
         and how to get around it.

      *  At a football game, the Real Programmer is the  one
         comparing the plays against his simulations printed
         on 11x14 fanfold paper.

      *  At the  beach,  the  Real  Programmer  is  the  one
         drawing flowcharts in the sand.

      *  At a funeral, the Real Programmer is the one saying
         "Poor  George.   And he almost had the sort routine
         working before the coronary."

      *  In a grocery store, the Real Programmer is the  one
         who  insists  on  running  the  cans past the laser
         checkout himself,  because  he  never  could  trust
         keypunch operators to get it right the first time.


     What sort  of  environment  does  the  Real  Programmer
function  best  in?   This  is an important question for the
managers of Real Programmers.   Considering  the  amount  of
money  it  costs  to keep one on the staff, it's best to put
him (or her) in an environment where he  can  get  his  work

     The  typical  Real  Programmer  lives  in  front  of  a
computer terminal.  Surrounding this terminal are:

      *  Listings of all programs the  Real  Programmer  has
         ever  worked  on,  piled  in  roughly chronological
         order on every flat surface in the office.

      *  Some half-dozen or so partly filled  cups  of  cold
         coffee.   Occasionally,  there  will  be  cigarette
         butts floating in the coffee.  In some  cases,  the
         cups will contain Orange Crush.

      *  Unless he is very good, there will be copies of the
         OS  JCL manual and the Principles of Operation open
         to some particularly interesting pages.

      *  Taped to the wall is a lineprinter Snoopy  calendar
         of the year 1969.

      *  Strewn about the floor  are  several  wrappers  for
         peanut butter filled cheese bars--the type that are
         made pre-stale at the bakery so they can't get  any
         worse while waiting in the vending machine.

      *  Hiding in the top left-hand drawer of the desk is a
         stash   of   double-stuffed   Oreos   for   special

      *  Underneath the Oreos is  a  flowcharting  template,
         left  there by the previous occupant of the office.
         (Real    Programmers    write     programs,     not
         documentation.    Leave  that  to  the  maintenance

     The Real Programmer is capable of working 30, 40,  even
50  hours at a stretch, under intense pressure.  In fact, he
prefers it that way.  Bad response time doesn't  bother  the
Real  Programmer--it  gives  him  a chance to catch a little
sleep between compiles.  If there  is  not  enough  schedule
pressure  on  the  Real  Programmer, he tends to make things
more challenging by working on  the  small  but  interesting
part of the problem for the first nine weeks, then finishing
the  rest  in  the  last  week,  in  two  or  three  50-hour
marathons.   This  not  only  impresses  the hell out of his
manager, who was despairing of ever getting the project done
on  time,  but creates a convenient excuse for not doing the
documentation.  In general:

      *  No Real Programmer works 9 to 5  (unless  it's  the
         ones at night).

      *  Real Programmers don't wear neckties.

      *  Real Programmers don't wear high-heeled shoes.

      *  Real Programmers arrive at work in time  for  lunch

      *  Real Programmers might  or  might  not  know  their
         spouse's  name.   They do, however, know the entire
         ASCII (or EBCDIC) code table.

      *  Real Programmers don't know how to  cook.   Grocery
         stores  aren't  open at three in the morning.  Real
         Programmers survive on Twinkies and coffee.

                         THE FUTURE

     What of the future?  It is a matter of some concern  to
Real  Programmers  that  the  latest  generation of computer
programmers are not being brought up with the  same  outlook
on  life  as  their  elders.  many of them have never seen a
computer with a front panel.  Hardly anyone graduating  from
school   these   days   can  do  hex  arithmetic  without  a
calculator.   College  graduates  these  days   are   soft--
protected  from the realities of programming by source-level
debuggers, text editors that count  parentheses,  and  "user
friendly"  operating  systems.   Worst of all, some of these
alleged "computer scientists" manage to get degrees  without
ever  learning  FORTRAN!   Are  we  destined  to  become  an
industry of Unix hackers and PASCAL programmers?

     From my experience, I can only report that  the  future
is  bright  for Real Programmers everywhere.  Neither OS\370
nor FORTRAN show any signs of dying  out,  despite  all  the
efforts  of  PASCAL  programmers  the world over.  Even more
subtle tricks, like adding structured coding  constructs  to
FORTRAN  have  failed.   Oh sure, some computer vendors have
come out with FORTRAN 77 compilers, but every  one  of  them
has  a  way  of  converting  itself  back  into a FORTRAN 66
compiler at the drop of an option card--to compile DO  loops
as God meant them to be.

     Even Unix might not be as bad on Real Programmers as it
once  was.   The latest release of Unix has the potential of
an operating  system  worthy  of  any  Real  Programmer--two
different and subtly incompatible user interfaces, an arcane
and complicated teletype driver, and virtual memory.  If you
ignore the fact that it's "structured", even 'C' programming
can be appreciated  by  the  Real  Programmer:   after  all,
there's  no  type  checking,  variable names are seven (ten?
eight?) characters long, and the added bonus of the  Pointer
data  type  is  thrown  in--like  having  the  best parts of
FORTRAN and assembly language in one place (not  to  mention
some of the more creative uses for #DEFINE).

     No, the future isn't all that bad.  Why,  in  the  past
few  years,  the  popular  press  has  even commented on the
bright new crop of computer nerds and hackers ([7] and  [8])
leaving places like Stanford and M.I.T.  for the Real World.
>From all evidence, the spirit of Real Programming  lives  on
in  these  young  men  and women.  As long as there are ill-
defined goals,  bizarre  bugs,  and  unrealistic  schedules,
there  will be Real Programmers willing to jump in and Solve
The Problem, saving the documentation for later.  Long  live


     I would like to thank Jan E., Dave S.,  Rich  G.,  Rich
E.,  for  their  help in characterizing the Real Programmer,
Kathy E.  for putting up with it, and atd!avsdS:mark for the
initial inspiration.

     [DEC hacker note:  this came from a paper that surfaced
in  Bedford,  unsigned.   The  author  apparently  is a Unix
hacker (note the node name).  Does anyone  know  where  this
came from?]


    [1]  Feirstein, B., "Real Men  don't  Eat  Quiche",  New
         York, Pocket Books, 1982.

    [2]  Wirth,  N.,  "Algorithms  +   Data   Structures   =
         Programs", Prentice Hall, 1976.

    [3]  Ilson, R., "Recent Research  in  Text  Processing",
         IEEE  Trans.   Prof.  Commun., Vol.  PC-23, No.  4,
         Dec.  4, 1980.

    [4]  Finseth, C., "Theory and Practice of Text Editors--
         or--a   Cookbook   for  an  EMACS",  B.S.   Thesis,
         MIT/LCS/PM-165,    Massachusetts    Institute    of
         Technology, May 1980.

    [5]  Weinberg,   G.,   "The   Psychology   of   Computer
         Programming",  New  York,  Van  Nostrand  Reinhold,
         1971, p.  110.

    [6]  Dijkstra, E., "On the GREEN language  submitted  to
         the  DoD",  Sigplan  notices,  Vol.  3 No.  10, Oct

    [7]  Rose, Frank, "Joy of Hacking", Science 82, Vol.   3
         No.  9, Nov 82, pp.  58-66.

    [8]  "The Hacker Papers", Psychology Today, August 1980.

    [9]  sdcarl!lin, "Real Programmers", UUCP-net,  Thu  Oct