Saturday, October 13, 2007

The inspiring life of Eric Hahn

In the October 2007 issue of IEEE Spectrum, an article (The Codemaker) depicts the life of Eric Hahn, who "has been an executive, an entrepreneur, and an investigator. But he's happiest of all to call himself a programmer".

The life of Mr. Hahn can only intimately resonate with the life of the many whiz kids who started computing when this activity was only starting to become known to the public. Indeed, I started a few years after him and on a smaller scale of machines (Sinclair ZX-81 instead of a Digital PDP-8/m), writing tiny games instead of hard-core emulators. Living in the countryside of North-East France, the analogy stops here as Mr. Hahn had access to the more stimulating and responsive environments of New York and the Silicon Valley.

One very touching aspect of his life is the tension between making a career and remaining a programmer. Throughout the years he kept his passion writing code and has find enough will and talent to create himself opportunities to keep developing. This tension is symptomatic of our societies that respect more those who make others do than those of do, pushing people away from what they thrive to do to.
“I wonder,” Mr. Hahn says, “how many programmers are trapped in the bodies of Silicon Valley executives. We tend to leave programming jobs because they just don't pay enough to support kids and mortgages here in Silicon Valley. But increasingly, when people have some material independence, they revert.

The only thing I can teach Mr. Hahn is that this is not happening only in the Valley!

As a side note: if you are not already a reader of IEEE Spectrum and have any interest in technology, I can only strongly encourage you to subscribe, as this is the best magazine I happen to read nowadays and the only one I read cover to cover.