Let us all recite the Ode to the Hacker:

-For he1 is quick of wit, strange of dress, and unkempt in personal appearance.
-For he dineth on spicy foodstuffs.
-For he is overtly fond of gizmos.
-For he codeth in dark places well into the night.
-For on many occasions, he sleepeth not at all.
-For he is distrustful of moneylenders, and giveth them a wide berth.

Sorry, kamamer, I don't buy it. (reverse-pun intended).

By way of qualification, let me say first:

  • I'm a programmer, and I have been for a while now.
  • As a result, I have a lot of money (certainly enough to buy (insert favorite sports car) with cash, anyway)
  • I spend it on stuff. Not just sports cars, stereo systems and gizmos, but things that Regular People buy.

The Cult of the Programmer is getting pretty old and tired. Sure there are a few folks out there (and I know some of them) that care about nothing other than programming. (You can substitute mathematicians or physicists here equally well, except you never hear about them in this context because they're underpaid w/r to programmers.) In some cases, "nothing" will extend to stuff the rest of us would consider basic: having their own place, nice clothes, even personal hygene. This is a basic characteristic at some level of all smart people who have to pour a lot of that intellectual energy into their work. But this doesn't have much to do with how they treat money.

The truth is, the vast majority of programmers act just like everybody else that gets paid well.

We go out and buy handmade hardwood furniture, oriental rugs and single malt scotch. We have leather jackets, 300-threadcount duvets, professional ovens and outdoor grills. We buy homes and take out mortgages. We install wine cellars. I even have one of those really expensive $150 Screwpull corkscrews that can uncork wine bottles really really quickly.

Let's look at the company full of programmers that you've singled out: Microsoft. Its fearless leader, Bill Gates, built a house for himself on Lake Washington the size of a convention center. His old buddy Paul Allen bought any number of things, including a sports franchise.2 In fact, if you drive around the Redmond suburbs, you'll notice any number of gargantuan estates owned by (wait for it) programmers. Most of whom (by the way, as someone who has been in Microsoft's parking lot) drive SUVs, not sports cars.

I think what you might have been shooting for here is what David Brooks describes as the "Bourgeois Bohemian" ("Bobo"), in his book Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There. His thesis is basically that a new educated class has emerged that has developed an aesthetic of consumption that is based on social conscience and use value rather than old-style conspicuous consumption. In this aesthetic, any purchase can be justified if it is of exceptional workmanship, materials or just "professional quality". Thus, spending $500 on champagne and Beluga caviar is excessive and in bad taste, but forking over the same amount for an GoreTex arctic parka with 500 zippered pockets that would allow you to overnight on Everest is not. Even if you live in Florida.

Yes, programmers are funny people. Just don't tell us how we spend our money.

1Another stereotype: For he is male.
2And don't even get me started on Larry Ellison

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