Syntax Highlighting

Posted on: May 2, 2013

On my current development team, our most senior member has about 30 years on the rest of us. Rod has been wrangling computers since before we were born.

Not long ago, he was telling us about a time when he was debugging some COBOL. His frustrated coworker had complained that the computer treated a section of his code as if it weren't there at all.

"That's because it's NOT there," Rod told him. His coworker was not amused. "What are you talking about? It's RIGHT HERE", he said, pointing.

Rod, however, is an extra-credit kind of guy, so he'd been reading the COBOL manual in his free time. He pointed out to his coworker that if the first line of the COBOL paragraph was commented, the computer would treat the whole thing as a comment.

When Rod finished telling his story, Adam, a younger developer on our team, was a bit confused. "Didn't he have syntax highlighting?", he asked.

It took a good 15 seconds for Rod to stop laughing, catch his breath, and explain his reaction to the rest of us whippersnappers.

"This was on paper!"