July 6, 2014 AT 3:00 am

Coder’s High


David Auerbach writes about his experiences as a coder and the “high” that he gets from long hours of coding. Have you experienced a coder’s high?

These days I write more than I code, but one of the things I miss about programming is the coder’s high: those times when, for hours on end, I would lock my vision straight at the computer screen, trance out, and become a human-machine hybrid zipping through the virtual architecture that my co-workers and I were building. Hunger, thirst, sleepiness, and even pain all faded away while I was staring at the screen, thinking and typing, until I’d reach the point of exhaustion and it would come crashing down on me.

It was good for me, too. Coding had a smoothing, calming effect on my psyche, what I imagine meditation does to you if you master it. In his study Zen and the Brain, neuroscientist James H. Austin speaks of how one’s attention will shift into “a vacancy of utmost clarity, a space so devoid of the physical self.” I don’t know if programmers get all the way there, but their ability to tune out the world while working is remarkable. A friend and I had a loud conversation behind a co-worker while she was deep into coding, and not only was she not bothered, she had no idea we were there and didn’t respond to her own name. That is some serious suppression of sensory response.

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1 Comment

  1. > Have you experienced a coder’s high?

    Oh, yes, yes, most definitely.

    It started in high school, in the ’70s. We still had math contests with slide rules. All outward awareness would disappear – class bells would ring, students would mass in the hallways. We’d never hear it.

    Through out my career, coding has been this way. I would try describing this to ‘civilians’ and always fail. Hours pass, and unless you took a break, you wouldn’t know everyone else had left the office. Usually, concentration would break because of hunger. You’d never know that brain-work consumed so many calories.

    Mike Y
    Dallas, Texas

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