Hello. This article is part of a series where we speak with professional software developers, ask them what it’s like to write code for a living, and perhaps gain a few insights into the software development industry along the way.
Talking to us today we have fellow British Delphi fan Brian Barr. Brian is based in Norfolk, England nestled by the English East Coast which brought back many nostalgic memories to me of driving through the wonderful local countryside since my own late father used to live in that area. Brian has a fascinating background coding Delphi programs for use in the TV and radio industry even before the launch of Delphi 1. His Barrcode application reaches an astounding 50 million listeners and viewers products every week.
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Thank you for taking part in the interviews Brian!
Thanks for the homework! 😂
What would be your brief evening news summary of who you are and what you do?
Written Delphi programs for the TV and radio industry before Delphi 1 came out. Started writing in BBC Basic for the BBC Model B. Wrote digital playout systems for the biggest commercial radio stations in the UK. Now writes software for the major TV channels in the UK.
How and/or why did you become a developer?
I was a radio station engineer working with electronics, I needed to learn programming to write some automation systems to support diversely skilled staff.
Do you think you will ever stop being a developer? If so, what would be next?
What made you start using Delphi/C++ Builder?
As I recall, I saw Delphi 1 in a magazine. I needed to program on the Windows PC platform and Delphi showed much promise.
If you could give some advice to a student who is considering a career as a software developer, what would it be?
Research the subject thoroughly. Principles of programming are pretty universal – all languages have an IF statement and various loops. Get used to structuring your code so that when you are old, you can still work out what it does.
Tabs… or spaces?
Spaces – silly!! Don’t get me started on where the “begin” should be.
What’s the best day you ever had as a developer?
Too many – getting a major contract for Capital Radio in London – led to many more stations.
What’s the worst thing about being a developer?
When things go wrong – you feel responsible for the chaos.
What’s the coolest development tip you know?
When things don’t work – it’s always YOUR fault!
Work from home, work from an office, work in an open plan / shared space? What do you prefer and why? Do you get to choose?
Work from home. My time is my own, also the freedom to leave the keyboard when my brain aches.
Tell us something interesting you think we might not know.
Darth Vader IS Luke’s father!!
Have you been to Silicon Valley? If so, how was it? If not, have you ever wanted to?
Who wouldn’t want to program in the sunshine?
Have you ever met any famous/well known tech figures? Who was it? How did it go?
If you could convince someone to consider Delphi or C++ Builder what would your method be, how would you do it?
Just try the language and see how easy yet flexible it is.
Which tech product do you wish you invented/designed and why?
The Barrcode – it’s my name.
If you could live your life again would you still become a developer? Why?
Yes, excellent grounding for problem solving and logical thought.
How many coffees do you drink a day and is it enough?
Only one – diet Pepsi is my caffeine drink of choice.
Are you a night hawk who codes until late in the evening, a morning person who gets up early and right into or do you keep to some sort of regular office hours?
If I have an interesting project, I would do both late and early. Best times of the day when the email is quiet.
In your career have you ever “pulled an all-nighter” to deal with something which absolutely had to be done?
Absolutely – I’ve done exhibitions where I was coding on-site to get a product working. Haven’t we all.
Describe some other things you’ve done in your career which might give readers a background into what makes a developer.
Appreciation of hardware is useful. Also, sitting behind a radio console using your own software was invaluable. Programmers are often too abstracted away from the “coal face”.
What is the most stupid question you get asked (none of these count!)
They are all stupid questions from users.
Do you quote for work with clients? If you do, without revealing anything which would make you uncomfortable what sort of process do you use?
I guess quoting for work is hard. You want to get the job but you don’t want to put the client off. Wish I had more of a business/selling brain sometimes.
How do you stop clients/program managers/managers from ‘feature creep’?
Tell them that that’s another day’s programming work. They will stop eventually!
Describe a typical coding session for you. How does it start? Do you take breaks? Do you have any rituals/habits to accompany it?
I was never much of a code planner – friend calls it “Guerilla” programming. Just make a start with the basic skeleton app. I do line up all the functions/procedures – I’m very OCD that way.
Do you listen to music while you code? If so, can you tell us a few tracks/artists/performances?
One of the strands I do is supply background music to about 1500 retail stores in the world so I have the music on in the background.
Do you use any methods or techniques such as Agile, Scrum, Kanban, TDD? If so, why? If not, why?
No – fear that I’ve never heard of any of them.
Do you track bugs? If you do, what do you recommend?
Yes, I track them – clients have support agreements so I will respond immediately one if discovered.
What’s the best question you’ve ever been asked at an interview and how did you deal with it?
Can’t remember any specifically but I’m good at thinking of solutions on my feet. That’s the beauty of writing the original code. You know what it can and can’t do.
Have you ever had a technical interview which went super-smooth – if so, what’s your advice for others? If you’ve had a disastrous interview what went wrong and do you need a hug?
Clients do appreciate it when you can answer technical questions in their language. In my case, that’s broadcast audio. I’ve soldered XLR connectors and know what ZERO level is on a PPM.
iPhone, Android, Other – and why?
iPhone – never had an Android phone.
For a developer: PC vs Mac? Why?
PC for me – grew up with them. The broadcast world tends to use PCs (probably because you can rackmount them) just as the print industry tend to use MACs
What is the one thing you would like to be remembered for?
I wrote a sound editor called BRIAN (Broadcast radio integrated application *for* news) I remember a female journalist stating that she would have my babies for coming up with the product.
What is the best developer/hacker/tech/geek movie?
Lifelong Star Trekie
No developer should be seen without:
A Dell Laptop
If a movie was made about your life, who would you want to play you?
Holger Flick – of course. [Wait, WHAT???? – IanB 😋]