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the origin of the lone programmer stereotype

March 27, 20201 min read

I gave the non-engineers on my team a tutorial last week, with the goal of helping them make a small text change to our website or app.

I showed them Github and explained the concept of version control and pull requests. Someone asked me how people coded before git: “Was working together in a single project harder?”

It was a lot harder, and I suspect that’s where the meme of the “lone programmer” comes from.

For smaller-scoped projects, it was more efficient for a programmer to work by themselves rather than for a team to manage conflicting changes. And for large projects where code sharing was inevitable, it was still most efficient for programmers to work on different parts of the software — rather than the current status quo where multiple people can edit the same feature. (On rare occasions, Scott and I work in the same file at the same time, using Visual Studio Live Share, which is a similar experience to simultaneously editing a Google doc with someone else).