Programmers' Day!

 It seems that every four years, I have a need to find a place to talk about programming.

That time has come, again, and this time I'll be sharing thoughts about AI, Machine Learning, and many of the Generative AI tools that are currently so popular. I'll be particularly focusing on how every developer can take advantage of ML - primarily as a new component in the set of tools we can take advantage of to get the job done. We don't need to be ML "experts" to use these tools any more than we need to be DB "experts" to put a database to good use. There are things we need to learn, to be sure, including the risks and tradeoffs of these tools - but they are now well within the reach of nearly every developer.

More on that soon. But first...

Looking up into the Fresnel lens of the original Gay Head lighthouse. Photo taken 13 Sep 2015
Photo taken 13 Sep 2015
shortly before starting this blog
for the first time
What better day to (re-)start than on Programmers' Day? But why is today Programmers' day?

Well, because it is the 256th day of the year.


I've written before about how computers tend to work using the binary number system, and thus programmers have tended to have a lot of associations with binary. (And with the hex and octal number systems, because they're easier ways to think about binary this way.) Binary numbers are commonly associated with "powers of two", and 256 is the largest power of two (two to the eighth power) that fits within the 365 (or 366) days of a year.

So it makes sense to choose this day to celebrate programmers, who can be pretty obsessed with powers of two.

Of course, it is worth remembering that Programmers' Day isn't celebrated every year on the 13th. Sometimes it's the 12th. Leap Year (the bane of many COBOL programmers) changes the date every four years.

Another (and probably more confusing) way to look at it is that this is the last day of the year that can be represented with a single 8-bit byte. 8 bits can only represent the numbers from 0 through 255.

"But," I hear you thinking, "you said this is the 256th day? How can you represent this as a byte if it only stores numbers up through 255?"

Well, because programmers commonly start listing items with a 0. So 1 January would be "day 0". That would make "day 255"... you guessed it... 13 September.

Suggested ways to celebrate the day? Thank a programmer. And don't ask them to fix your printer - that's a hardware problem.

1 comment:

  1. Give them something nice to drink measured in Imperial units, because two cups is a pint, two pints are a quart, two quarts are a half gallon, and two half gallons are a gallon.

    Or maybe that tee shirt, "There are 10 kinds of people in this world, those who understand binary, and those that don't."

    It's fun to see you blogging again!