Alex Patriquin

Marginalia & found poetry. Short fiction and other projects. Musings  on startups. Photos from NYC and travels.

The experience of limited access to computer time

He'd been surprised to find that in at least one way he fit in: More than half the programmers at Goldman were Russians. Russians had a reputation for being the best programmers on Wall Street, and Serge thought he knew why: They had been forced to learn to program computers without the luxury of endless computer time. Many years later, when he had plenty of computer time, Serge still wrote out new programs on paper before typing them into the machine. "In Russia, time on the computer was measured in minutes," he said. "When you write a program, you are given a tiny time slot to make it work. Consequently we learned to write the code in ways that minimized the amount of debugging. And so you had to think about it a lot before you committed it to paper... The ready availability of computer time creates this mode of working where you just have an idea and type it and maybe erase it ten times. Good Russian programmers, they tend to have had that one experience at some time in the past – the experience of limited access to computer time.

from Flash Boys by Michael Lewis