The Clean Code Blog

by Robert C. Martin (Uncle Bob)

A New Hope

05 April 2020

…The Year is 2045…

Dad, can you help me with my school report?

Sure son. What’s it about?

We have to do it on the great pandemic of 2020. You were there, right?

I was just a little boy. But I know a lot about it. What is it you need to know?

We’re supposed to write about the heroes.

Ah, yes. A good topic. There were so many.

OK, so… Who were they?

Well, first of all there were the healthcare workers. Day after day, week after week, they kept on working in those hospitals full of very sick people. Many of them got sick too; and quite a few of them died.

They must have been brave.

They were. Very. They were as brave as any soldier going to war. Perhaps braver, because you couldn’t see the enemy, and in those days you couldn’t fight it.

We can fight it now, can’t we Dad.

Yes son. Now we can. We have vaccines and treatments. Nobody dies of COVID-19 anymore. But back then we didn’t have vaccines or treatments. We just had nurses and doctors who tried their very best to save as many people as possible.

So they were the heroes?

Yes. But there were many more. There were the people who worked in grocery stores.

I thought everybody stayed home to work.

Many of us did. We were the lucky ones. But the people who worked in those stores had to go to work every day. People needed food; and so grocery stores needed to stay open. And the people who worked in those stores had to help hundreds, maybe even thousands of people every day. They took huge risks to keep those stores open.

Wow, I hadn’t thought of that.

And then there were the delivery people. The people who drove trucks of food to the stores and trucks of products to people’s home. The people who worked for Amazon, and UPS, and Fedex, and the US Mail.

Who else, Dad? Who else?

Well, look son, there were so many. The police, the firemen, the sailors and soldiers, the air traffic controllers, the garbage men, the repairmen. Even though most people weren’t working, the essential parts of our civilization had to be kept running. And then there were just the everyday people who followed the rules and kept themselve at home for so many weeks. It was a huge effort that everyone had to play a part in.


But what, Dad?

Well, there was one group of people who don’t often get mentioned; but without them the Pandemic would have been a hundred times worse than it was.

Really? Who?

The programmers.

Dad… You’re a programmer aren’t you?

Yes son, I am. Just like my mother – your gramma – before me. She was one of the ones who worked during the Pandemic.

Was gramma a hero Dad?

No more than anyone else, son. She worked from home. She wore masks, and kept the necessary social distance from others. I was just a little boy, but I remember those masks and how much we had to stay at home. Most programmers did just what Gramma did too. They worked from home.

So then why were they heros, Dad? It sounds to me like they just did what everybody else did.

Well, son, think of this. It was the programmers who made it possible for people to work from home; because it was the programmers who built the software that made the internet possible. You see, this was the first full scale national emergency during which people had instant access to the news, to the government, and to each other. When the President, and the Governors told people to shelter at home, almost everybody knew about it within minutes or hours. The news was sent to their computers, to their phones, and to their watches. Not only that, but people who were stuck at home could still talk to each other using Facebook and Twitter and Facetime. People could order products on Amazon, and on so many other on-line shopping networks. People could even order food from restaurants to be delivered or picked up. Without the programmers who made those systems, people would have had a much harder time sheltering at home; and the pandemic would have been much worse.

So the programmers weren’t brave, like the doctors and nurses and police were brave. They weren’t heros like that.

No, not like that. But without them, without the tools they created, so many more people would have died. For example, did you know that the genetic code of the virus was sequenced long before the pandemic spread? It was that RNA sequence that allowed our researchers to get a head start on the vaccines that eventually killed off the virus and saved so many people. It was programmers who built the software that ran in those RNA sequencers. Without those programmers, the vaccines might have come much too late.

Wow! What else, Dad? What else?

Well, you know that there was a time when people used paper money, right? Imagine how easily the virus would have spread if people paid for groceries or gasoline with paper money! But it was programmers who built the systems that allowed people to pay with credit cards, or by just waving their phone or watch over readers. They didn’t even have to touch antyhing! The virus couldn’t spread that way.

And then there was so much entertainment piped right into people’s homes. Netflix, and Amazon Prime, and Youtube, and.. Well the options were endless back then.

So people could work from home, shop from home, be entertained at home, and hardly ever had to leave their homes. And all that was because of the software written by programmers.

And that saved us, didn’t it Dad?

Well, son, it certainly played a pretty important part.

Are you glad you’re a programmer Dad?

It’s an important job, Son. I never want to be anything else. Except, of course, your Dad.