My Past Life

It’s somewhat amusing that my career at a previous company (or a close analogue) made The Daily WTF: A Case of the MUMPS. (The comments are also interesting.)

For four and a half years I programmed in MUMPS and in Visual Basic. It was an odd combination. It paid well, though. The work was actually fairly interesting, but a lot of that was because I was both aggressive about being one of the guys to use new technologies when the opportunity presented itself, and because the industry the company served was itself interesting to learn about. (Of course, one might call that a backhanded compliment: at Apple there’s so much to learn and new things to try that if I were aggressively picking up everything that came down the pipe, I’d never have time to do any real work.)

But MUMPS also feels a lot like a shell scripting language: Objects are created on the fly, creating anonymous data structures (arrays of dictionaries and so forth) is so easy that it’s commonly done, the syntax is quirky but not so bad once you figure out a paradigm you’re comfortable with, etc. Perl, Python, and even Ruby (my favorite of the three) all have touches of these characteristics to some degree. (I’m not a big fan of Python, and when I first read about it, its line-indenting restrictions reminded me a lot of MUMPS’ peculiar code-block notation.)

Reading the WTF article, I do have to wonder whether I view those days through rose-colored glasses. If I were to go back to programming in MUMPS (or M as it’s often called these days), would I be able to put up with the low-tech editor, the limited file sizes, the syntactic restrictions, the lack of any object-oriented programming at all?

Well, probably not. Especially since I’ve drunk the Objective-C kool-aid.

(Sent to me by Mark.)