Proving that you really can work from anywhere, here are some of the most unusual places software developers have found themselves programming.
These days thanks to laptops, mobile devices and seemingly ubiquitous WiFi, it’s pretty easy for software developers (and lots of other people) to work from just about anywhere. Whether it’s the bedroom, a coffee shop, or poolside, it’s easy for developers to plug in anywhere they like, fire up their IDE of choice and start coding away. Life is good.
But, for many years, developers had to work wherever the code or systems they were responsible for resided. Depending on the system or client, that could lead developers to ply their craft in some unusual locations. Even today, programmers may still have to occasionally work on-site in less-than-optimal conditions. Last year, a number of software developers shared their experiences coding in weird wacky places in a Slashdot thread. Check these out:
Inside a machine
Sometimes, when developers are programming they’ll be trying to (figuratively) get inside the head of those who will be using their software, to anticipate what they’ll need or how they’ll behave. At other times, though, programmers may have to literally get inside a machine that will be running their code. Coding inside of a machine, however, can come with its own hazards, aside from just carpal tunnel.
“Did some programming&debugging from inside a 3D printer” daid303
“From inside the base of a wind turbine tower in rural Inner Mongolia province, China” DeathtoBill
“Sandusky, Ohio, at Cedar Point amusement park. in 1993, I was working for a company building tam-like machines to sell tickets at venues like Cedar Point. I had to do some emergency maintenance, so I was inside the machine with the monitor turned around so I could use the internal computer. In this configuration, it looked like a little trash can, and I would routinely have stuff thrown in on me. Worst was a half-eaten ice-cream cone landing in my lap.” bokmann
In a strip club
When you think of strip clubs, you’re probably more likely to think of lap dances than laptops. The obvious built-in distractions in “gentlemen’s clubs” haven’t stopped some developers from getting programming done in such places. However if you you do ever find yourself writing code in a strip club, don’t expect anyone to make it rain on you.
“Actually the most unusual location was in the undressing room at a strip club, which happened to be where the computer was sitting.” FreedomFirstThenPeac
“In two different occasions, I had to edit Haskell code (on my VPS) with an N900 when I was in a bordello club. You know you are a real nerd when there is a bunch of naked ladies walking around and you can still focus.” Anon.
On a boat
Some programmers will choose to take a coding vacation on a cruise ship. Others though have to code out at sea out of necessity. In those cases, the accommodations are usually a lot less luxurious and possible more stomach churning.
“Jonboat (metal dinghy) head to a tug for a software patch to its navigations system.” spiritplumber
“I worked on an energy savings project on the Queen Victoria. I was in the engine room, next to the noisy diesel generators, while we were at sail for a lot of the time. I just put in my custom earbuds (blocks out most of the sound) and over-the-ear muffs and I was in my own little world listening to music while banging away at my laptop and sweating bullets since the warmer I made it in the room, the more energy we saved.” brxndxn
“While I was in the navy, I did write a few UNIX scripts and DOS batch files as part of my job on the ship here and there. The only issue I had was that spending long periods of time looking at a screen would get me a little sea sick so regular breaks were always needed” Anonymous
In the bathroom
Thanks to WiFi and laptops, coding in a bathroom is probably a lot more common than most of us would like to think (or prefer to know). Sometime developers write code in the bathroom because they can get some good thinking done in there, but sometimes they do it out of necessity. If you do ever find yourself coding in a bathroom, just be sure to wash your hands – not to mention your laptop – before returning to work.
“I once wrote the formula for a gravity routine while on the toilet, for a tank game written in Amiga Basic. It was in my head, so I had to quickly get back to the keyboard to type it in before I forgot it.” necronom426
“One place they were grinding the cement floors so I found the only room that was not a cement cloud, the women’s bathroom.” Lumpy
“Sitting on a closed toilet seat in a college bathroom where someone decided to install the Cisco router I needed to do unnatural things to with a Perl script.” Minupla
Normally computers and water don’t mix, meaning that programming isn’t a very common underwater activity. However, thanks to submarines and submersibles, it’s possible to get some code writing done under the surface of the sea without you (or your laptop) getting wet, which some developers have reported doing. There’s also the example of SpongeBob’s nemesis Plankton programming his computer wife, Karen, but, of course, that’s purely fictional.
“10 metres below the sea surface, inside one of the legs of a semi-submersible drilling platform in the North Sea in winter (Dec 1981)” Terje Mathisen
“I wrote several programmes for my Tandy PC-2 inside a nuclear submarine (mumble) feet beneath your keel.” DerekLyons
Normally if a programmer gets cold while coding all he or she has to do is put on an extra layer or turn up the thermostat. It’s not quite that simple, however, if you’re writing code near one of the earth’s poles. On the plus side penguins might be less annoying (and messy) than your usual office mates.
“I spent a few seasons writing code in a tent on Ross Island, Antartica. It was in C, for a platform that was running an embedded version of a 386. The system was used to monitor and track Adelie penguins. The tent was pitched in the middle of the colony of several hundred thousand birds on top of many hundreds of years of guano”. natpolish
In the desert
Deserts are generally lonely and desolate places. What better location, then, to get some quality coding done? Of course, if you plan to get work done in such a place, be sure to bring some water, apply sunblock and dress appropriately.
“I was stuck in the middle of the desert in the border region of two mid-east states waiting to be picked up by another party. With 8 hours of battery left, I was determined to finish a project that was kinda important to the next stage of my trip. :> Needless to say the heat, (even in the shadow) reduced my battery power to an effective 5 hours, having the fan running at max, all the time”. Anonymous
“Caught some wifi and fixed a production problem while sitting in the middle of a desert at 3AM, while wearing a kilt and notch else”. jnelson4765
In a mine
The only kind of mining that most software developers are involved with is the bitcoin variety. Of course, these days even traditional mining will often involve computers and software of some sort, meaning that, sometimes, programmers will actually have to be on site (i.e. in the ground). the good news is, even even if you have to descend into a big hole in the ground to work on some code, you probably won’t be there long enough to get black lung.
“A Thailand coalmine” Meski
“I had to fix a script to unattended write a CD of data every day. The script was being run on a computer litterally in the middle of a gold mine in Papua New Guinea. I wrote the script in the same location, which was a small (1m x 2m) hut plonked right in the middle of the gold mine, with the acquisition system and 2x computers (one linux file server, one MS-DOS acquisition controller) running off a generator.” mvdw
In a combat zone
Like any other large organization these days, the military makes lots of use of software and computers for a wide range of things. That, of course, means that they need developers to work on their code, whether it’s enlisted folks or outside contractors. The key difference from programmers in the non-military world, however is, if you do a good job writing code for the military, you may land up getting a medal.
“…. inside a military bunker. Writing a program to interconnect 4 different batteries of a antiaircraft battalion, through RL-431 antennas. Part of it was being written during an actual full-scale military exercise; re-writing parts of it as the exercise went on for 5 days.” Reverant
“… the Tito Barracks in Sarajevo, Bosnia in 1996, just after the war ended. I was working as a contractor for the U.S State Department, and we were setting up a system to keep track of the progress removing landmines – a process still going on today. We were still writing the system as the hardware (and trailers) were being set up in the barracks courtyard, with landlines surrounding us!” bokmann
“After sitting in a cube for the first five years of my career coding, I needed to “go work with some end users” and volunteered to help out the Marine Corps. I was working on the Army Battle Command software of the time, Command Post of the Future. … I was coding up a personnel tracking system in CPOF. … it was towards the end of the evening when about 80 meters away you heard the familiar THUD! followed by the alarm 10 seconds later. Not a drill and at this point annoying. Imagine being in the zone for hours, when suddenly you need to stop and run out to a crowded concrete bunker for hours. Damn! I was just about to compile too. Well, being the operations center, Marines just can’t leave. They have to continue running the war. So some them stay with the helmet and vest in case of a direct hit in the operations center. … On my last day, the team I worked with gave me a flag and plaque designating me a “Combat Software Engineer” which to this day is one of my most cherished possessions.” arizonahockey
In a closet
Most developers, at one time or another, have probably put in some time writing in a closet, like a server closet. Of course, not all closets are created equally and some may pose unique hazards. If you get sent to the closet to code, bring along a can of Raid or a beekeepers outfit, just in case.
“So I have written code sitting on a bucket in the electrical closet many times.” Lumpy
Arrived at a client site and was directed to a terminal in a server closet. As I was making changes to a script something flew past the corner of my eye. There was an active wasp nest above and behind my head. I never coded so fast in my life.” MTEK
In a vehicle
The increasing availability of in-car Wi-Fi may soon make coding in your car a common activity. Up until recently, however, programming in a car or on a bus or in some other roadworthy vehicle has been a more unusual, but not unheard of activity. Needless to say, coding and driving is probably a bad idea.
“In the parking lot of an abandoned diner, sitting in a rented car, writing code that talked to a box on the lamp post through special radios, while the homeless ambled along on their business.’ gumbright
“… from a caravan in the middle of a forest in Eastern Finland in the middle of winter – minus 30 C outside.” DeathToBill
“A converted London bus parked on a slope at the bottom end of a company site.” Anonymous
“As a consultant in the UK I once worked for a council, programming out of a small caravan. It was cold and wet and to add to the eeriness one of the guys there kept a collection of jars of pickled onions on his table.” millwall
In a airplane hangar
Writing code (or doing any sort of comput-based work) on an airplane has become quite common thanks to laptops and in-flight Wi-Fi. However, programming next to an airplane or other aircraft in a hangar is still pretty unusual. Unfortunately, unlike coding on an airplane, if you code in a hangar, there’s no beverage service.
“I once wrote a program to extract video from an IRIG data stream while sitting in an aircraft hangar, and trying to hear myself think over the electronics on an Apache helicopter being run from ground power.” systemeng
“Me, my most prosaic experience was to sit on a stool in a huge, mostly empty (except for the robotic PC board line and some CNC machines cranking out ship propellors) aircraft hangar size warehouse to write code to run the US Navy’s RAMP project back in the 1990’s.” Anonymous
In a prison
A software developer going to jail for committing a crime is an unusual occurrence, though it has been known to happen. What may be even a more unusual experience, however, is a software developer going to jail to write code. Being in a prison for either reason sounds unappealing, but, at least in the latter case, you get paid – and you can go home at the end of the day.
“I performed that hardware integration testing with the PPG software I had written on-site in a prison psychology