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
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