Thus spake the master programmer…

I’ve rediscovered the Tao of Programming. If you’ve not heard of it, you MUST read it!

I first discovered this at University in Aberystwyth in 1999. It had been around a couple of years by then, but the ideas expressed are still very valid today.

There are some great lines in here:

My personal favourites:-

There once was a master programmer who wrote unstructured programs. A novice programmer, seeking to imitate him, also began to write unstructured programs. When the novice asked the master to evaluate his progress, the master criticized him for writing unstructured programs, saying, “What is appropriate for the master is not appropriate for the novice. You must understand the Tao before transcending structure.”

It’s very true of XQuery libraries! Not to mention JavaScript.


The Tao gave birth to machine language. Machine language gave birth to the assembler.

The assembler gave birth to the compiler. Now there are ten thousand languages.

Each language has its purpose, however humble. Each language expresses the Yin and Yang of software. Each language has its place within the Tao.

But do not program in COBOL if you can avoid it.

My emphasis there! There’s some god awful COBOL still in existence – but all who know what the COBOL does are dead.

And something we should all live by:-

Thus spake the master programmer:

“After three days without programming, life becomes meaningless.”

And one last thought to leave you with:-

Thus spake the master programmer:

“A well-written program is its own heaven; a poorly-written program is its own hell.”

Go forth with the Tao…


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