Matt Canty's Writing Place

I am a Programmer (or Developer)

June 24, 2014

Good how!

A frequent question arises when I talk about my work, and that is:

what exactly is it that you do?

Lets start off slow. I am a programmer, otherwise known as a developer. This essentially means I develop programs to make computers to do things.

I’ll get on to day-to-day examples of what I do at work later, but for now let me introduce you to some code.

Some Code

Here is some code which is about as basic as you can get, with some user input.

public class Hello { public static void Main(string[] args) { if (args.Length > 0) { System.Console.WriteLine("Hello, " + args[0] + "!"); } else { System.Console.WriteLine("Hello, World!"); } } }

At the top the class is defined. A class is used to define some feature. It could be an abstraction of a real world object – a shopping basket, or something which maintains a connection to a database. In this case, the Hello class is in fact our entire program!

Next comes the method Main. This is the entry point of this program. It’s the first thing which happens. All that is going on here, is we are saying to the computer: “I want you to start here, with these arguments.” Think of arguments as settings. Changing any arguments will change how the program behaves, without changing the code itself.

Now onto your first logical operation! Thanks for coming so far, I’m sure you’re really enjoying this. Here is an if … else statement. Inside the if statement is our test: “if there are more than 0 arguments then do this”. The else block captures anything which does not pass this test.

Our program outputs a message using System.Console.Writeline. Now you’ll need to imagine some white text appearing in a black box. If you don’t know what I mean then go to Start > Run > Type “cmd” > Hit Enter. This is Command Prompt!

So I hope you can see what our program does now… If you were to run our program with the argument “Jane”, it would spit out “Hello, Jane!”. And if no arguments were specified then the program would say “Hello, World!”. How neat is that!

How Neat Is That?

I’m sure that you’ll all agree that is not the neatest thing you’ve seen up to this point in your life so far. But this really is the basis of most programming… That and loops – keep doing this until something happens, and this and that and the other thing until everyone is happy and we all go to bed and sleep happily ever after.

What About Work, That Hasn’t Been Answered Yet…

Maybe it already has. And such is why the conversations around what I and others as programmers often ends up a tricky subject – well I just sit around thinking logically all day.

Here’s an incredibly rough breakdown of anything I might do during any given working day:

Start developing a new feature Fix any issues with an existing feature Write tests – these are also in code – to prove a feature works as intended Respond to queries from clients of data my system provides Investigate an issue, this might involve reading logs, monitoring diagnostics – if you’ve made them! – and contacting 3rd parties for more information You can never really know what is going to happen day to day. But most of the time – perhaps 75% of it – I am programming code in a program called Visual Studio. Microsoft develop Visual Studio – an Integrated Development Environment or IDE – to aid programmers in producing C# code – and any other .Net (dot net) supported language.

Slow Down… C# – Have We Moved Onto Music?

Not at all, this is a programming language. There are hundreds of programming languages – – and C# is just one of them. You might call C# the successor of C++ – which succeeded C. However you would be wrong to think that new languages are better or worse. In fact, until Apple unveiled Swift their apps were written in Objective-C which was first developed in 1981 – nearly 20 years before C#!

Apart from the fact that C# is developed by Microsoft who are Apple’s arch rivals, there are all sorts of reasons to choose various languages.

Here are some you might have heard of:

  • C
  • C#
  • Java
  • Javascript
  • NodeJS – okay probably not this one…

Lets See If I Can Wrap This Up

Given what you have read you can perhaps appreciate how conversation at a party can get lost when building up a few of the simple core concepts. I rarely bring up my profession without being asked and – if I can get away with it I attempt to escape with “I just write code!”.

I am however pleasantly surprised on how often people lean a little closer and are genuinely interested in what this line of work means. And I’ll always be happy to divulge as much information to an unwitting dinner party guest is willing to succumb to.

As it is a hobby as well as a profession, I do a lot of coding at home too. Head over to my projects page to see what kind of things I get up to. They are all my ideas and mostly things I’ve knocked up in a day – the gifs one was a half hour special – and there are plenty more ideas where they came from!

Thanks for reading so far, I appreciate any discussion, comments and feedback.


I am Matt Canty, an engineer of varying titles who helps tech companies run reliable and fault-tolerant software platforms. Just send me an email:

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