The middle of a pantomine horse.

In many ways, programming is like a pantomime horse.

Most programming tasks deal with one of two halves. There is the front end, which is the colourful world of web pages and clicky buttons and scrollbars and windows on your screen. The world of the pixel. Then there is the back end, the world of reading and writing data to disk. The world of the byte.

Both of these are necessary and noble worlds, and a programmer will tend to either live entirely in one world, or straddle both. If you change jobs, you can go to your next career saying, ‘I’ve played the back end of a horse for many years now.’ and they’ll be able to partner you up with a front end, and off you’ll trot and go do productive work together.

There is another path. A darker path. A path I have wandered down. The path of middleware.

In this world, you don’t play with pixels, and you don’t play with data. Not the way others do. What you become is a conduit, a transit system transforming one thing into another. Like intestines. It is dark, and smells. It’s necessary, but it ain’t nice.

I’ve been doing stuff like this for a while now, and I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s no fun being the middle of a horse.

So I’m trying to retrain myself in the skills at the ends of the horse; I shall be (re)learning the arts of the database. The back end. After that, I’ll be learning new ways to write websites; the front end.

Then I can be a whole horse again.


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