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False Positives Adventures in Technology, SciFi and Culture from Toronto

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Return of the homebrew code

In the most recent Economist Tech Quarterly (from 2 weeks ago, I'm still way behind) there are several stand out articles:

Return of the homebrew coder,

Most modern software is written by huge teams of programmers. But there is still room for homebrew coders, at least in some unusual niches...

Such difficulties are typically faced by just a few thousand people with specific and unusual requirements—too few to merit the attention of the big computer firms, but enough to provide opportunities for a growing band of homebrew coders who set out to develop niche products...

In many cases these programmers are making a decent living in the process, thanks to the availability of high-speed internet connections, cheap web-hosting services and online-payment systems such as PayPal and Kagi—all of which make it quick and easy to distribute software and collect money from customers. The trend is also a response to the sorry state of the technology industry, following the bursting of the dotcom bubble. Where they could once command salaries of $100,000, programmers now worry about their jobs disappearing to India. So instead of waiting for things to improve, some have decided to strike out on their own....

Various developers are mentioned such as Brent Simmons:
Brent Simmons is one such programmer.. he runs Ranchero Software from his garage in Seattle. They make a clever piece of software called NetNewsWire, which runs on the Mac OS X operating system and makes it easy to read news and then post comments on to a weblog. “I like being able to design and implement software and have the final say,” says Mr Simmons. “It's a higher level of creativity than working on someone else's software. I get to refine and market my own ideas.” At $40 each, Mr Simmons needs to sell 2,000 copies of his program each year to earn what he would be paid as an employee elsewhere....

and Jonas Salling of Salling Software, Gaurav Banga and Saurabh Aggarwbi (PDAapps sells VeriChat, IM for PDA's), and Nick Bradbury of Bradbury Software, know for HomeSite (sold to Allaire/Macromedia), TopStyle and a news-reading program called FeedDemon (all wonderful products). Brent and Nick both have blogs.
While new opportunities abound, however, this world of independents is an unforgiving meritocracy. For homebrew coders, the fact that their fortunes depend directly on the quality of their products is both the risk and the reward.

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