Programming quotes that offer wisdom and motivation

June 12, 2021 5 minute read
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This article is a place I keep all of my favourite programming quotes. Some didn’t come from programmers, but they are very applicable nonetheless. A few wise words can go a long way in furthering understanding, I have grouped them by topic so they’re a little easier to find. Enjoy!

Being effective

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe — Abraham Lincoln

Slow is smooth and smooth is fast - US Navy SEALs

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest — Benjamin Franklin

The best work happens when it doesn’t feel like you’re working at all — Shedload Of Code

Most good programmers do programming not because they expect to get paid or get adulation by the public, but because it is fun to program — Linus Torvalds

Simplicity is the soul of efficiency — Austin Freeman

One of my most productive days was throwing away 1000 lines of code — Ken Thompson

Every great developer you know got there by solving problems they were unqualified to solve until they actually did it — Patrick McKenzie

Prolific developers don’t always write a lot of code, instead they solve a lot of problems. The two things are not the same — J. Chambers

Measuring programming progress by the lines of code is like measuring aircraft building progress by weight - Bill Gates

Good software, like wine, takes time — Joel Spolsky

To be effective engineers, we need to be able to identify which activities produce more impact with smaller time investments. Not all work is created equal. Not all efforts, however well-intentioned, translate into impact ― Edmond Lau, The Effective Engineer

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life — Confucius

Delegate - work smarter not harder; do what you do best and drop the rest; get control of your calendar; do what you love because it will give you energy; work with people you like so your energy isn't depleted — John C. Maxwell

A hacker on a roll may be able to produce-in a period of a few months - something that a small development group (say, 7-8 people) would have a hard time getting together over a year. IBM used to report that certain programmers might be as much as 100 times as productive as other workers, or more — Peter Seebach

Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher — Japanese Proverb

Writing code

First, solve the problem. Then, write the code — John Johnson

Programming is a blend of gardening and surgery — Shedload Of Code

Computer science education cannot make anybody an expert programmer any more than studying brushes and pigment can make somebody an expert painter – Eric S. Raymond

Programming is a skill best acquired by practice and example rather than from books — Alan Turing

All problems in computer science can be solved by another level of indirection — David Wheeler

Any fool can write code that a computer can understand. Good programmers write code that humans can understand — Martin Fowler

Don’t include a single line in your code which you could not explain to your grandmother in a matter of two minutes — Unknown

Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live — Martin Golding

Programming isn't about what you know; it's about what you can figure out - Chris Pine

In some ways, programming is like painting. You start with a blank canvas and certain basic raw materials. You use a combination of science, art, and craft to determine what to do with them. You sketch out an overall shape, paint the underlying environment, then fill in the details. You constantly step back with a critical eye to view what you've done. Every now and then you'll throw a canvas away and start again. But artists will tell you that all the hard work is ruined if you don't know when to stop. If you add layer upon layer, detail over detail, the painting becomes lost in the paint ― Andrew Hunt, The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master

Premature optimization is the root of all evil - Donald Knuth

Building systems

Simplicity is prerequisite for reliability — Edsger Dijkstra

A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system — John Gall

Complexity kills. It sucks the life out of developers, it makes products difficult to plan, build and test, it introduces security challenges, and it causes end-user and administrator frustration — Ray Ozzie

Software being 'Done' is like lawn being 'Mowed' — Jim Benson

If you cannot grok the overall structure of a program while taking a shower, you are not ready to code it — Richard Pattis

No one in the brief history of computing has ever written a piece of perfect software. It's unlikely that you'll be the first — Andy Hunt

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change — Charles Darwin

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

As a programmer, it is your job to put yourself out of business. What you do today can be automated tomorrow - Doug McIlroy

The purpose of software engineering is to control complexity, not to create it — Pamela Zave

It’s easier to ask for forgiveness, than it is to get permission — Admiral Grace Hopper

Computers make it easier to do a lot of things, but most of the things they make it easier to do don't need to be done — Andy Rooney

Using statistics

All models are wrong, but some are useful — George Box

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts — William Bruce Cameron

The greatest value of a picture is when it forces us to notice what we never expected to see — John Tukey

He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp posts - for support rather than for illumination — Andrew Lang

Statistics are no substitute for judgment — Henry Clay