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Engineering Achievement

A Tale from the Trenches...

A number of years ago, a programmer by the name of Richard Walker, tapped me on the shoulder one day and asked if I could come and take a look at the code he was working on. It's a good practice with engineers when they find themselves stuck or not quite sure what it is that is going wrong to have a fresh pair of eyes look over the code. It's easy to miss the obvious and it can save a lot of time bashing your head against a wall. This was what I was expecting when I arrived at his desk.

I sat down in-front of the screen which was displaying some 68000 assembly, if I remember correctly the game he was writing was for Sega's Mega-drive / Genesis system. I read the function which was about a screen and half in length, if memory serves me, it was a straight forward function a few passed in variables, a single piece of returned data. I studied the code, followed the flow of execution, checked for syntax issues, nothing stood out I couldn't see anything wrong with it. I hit the compile button and the code compiled without errors or warnings.

"It looks fine to me, I can't see any issues. What's the problem?" I asked.

"There isn't a problem, I just think it’s the sexiest piece of code I've written this week and it needed to be shared!"

As engineers we spend all day writing code, every so often however we find that we have crafted something so awesome that we just have to sit back in our chairs and marvel at the eloquence and artistic beauty of our creation. It’s not that it’s so efficient in execution although that is usually part of it but it is just pleasant to the eye.

From time to time the debate concerning the validity of computer games being classed as artistic creations raises its head in the main stream. I wonder if there will ever come a time when they might also consider the artistic value of the code we write... if so I have a few pieces.

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