Happy Programmers’ Day!

For Those About to Code (We Salute You)
– with all due respect to AC/DC

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There is code. And there is everything else. In fact, coding plays such an important role at software companies, that Time magazine summarized Facebook’s management style with Mark Zuckerberg’s well known quotation, “Code wins arguments”. When developing software, there are a lot of roles involved, and while all roles are equally important and critical for the success of any project, it is the programmer who is doing the actual hands-on coding of the software. And today is the day to celebrate all programmers worldwide – today is Programmers’ Day.

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First, a bit of history. Valentin Balt, who was with Parallel Technologies, a Russian web software company, originally proposed this idea as early as 2002. He gathered signatures to petition the Russian government to recognize this day, and, in 2009, Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister of Russia at that time, signed a decree making this an officially observed day in Russia. It is also celebrated in many other countries of the world.

Why this specific date? There is actually a ‘technical’ reason for this. Let’s start with the ‘bit’.  A bit is the smallest unit of information used in data processing. It can only have two values: zero and one. Usage of bits is based on the binary system – and the word ‘bit’ is actually a shortened form of ‘binary digit’. But just having two values wasn’t sufficient for data processing, so the ‘byte’ was created. A byte has eight bits and thus could be used to represent characters. Bytes then became the basis for data processing. We hear this term all the time when we talk about megabytes and gigabytes.

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Now, if you do the math, you’ll see that a byte has 256 possible values (from 0 to 255). Because of this, the 256th day of the year is celebrated as Programmers’ Day! Please note that it won’t always be September 13th – on leap years it will be September 12th.

Programmers have changed our world – almost everything we do today involves software. Of course our latest high-tech gadgets that we love are examples of the power of software, but software is also now prevalent in all aspects of our everyday lives including in our transportation, factories, medical devices, businesses, and home appliances.

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Not only has software changed our world in terms of the above items, it has also…believe it or not…made physical items disappear! Just take a minute and think of a typical household from 50 years ago. Now look at your household. You’ll realize that there are many items that have physically disappeared because we now use our phones, tablets, and/or computers for these items. These items include watches, alarm clocks, radios, CD players, DVD players, clocks, notebooks, compasses, stopwatches, telephones, books, calculators, address books, magazines, maps, cameras, and video cameras!

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Besides wishing “Happy Programmers’ Day” to any programmers you meet on this day, there are also other ways to celebrate today. The website www.programmerday.info notes the following creative and technically-oriented ideas:

  • Speak in code (or pseudocode) all day – Thanks to Sam Pospischil!
  • Decorate a tree with zeros and ones to make a binary tree
  • Make Happy Programmer Day cards using ASCII art
  • Have a contest for the best binary pun / programming joke

So – to all the programmers out there, thanks for all of the great coding that you do.  Keep on coding, and have a great Programmers’ Day!

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