You probably know that I worked in software development. It requires a special kind of mindset. Not superior; just special. Though I haven’t written “major” software in many years (they made me a manager) I still tinker.
One Friday after work, there was a group of us in the pub, and one person asked “Do you find that your friends and family consider you to be irritatingly precise?” General hilarity ensued. Of course they do. We are the people who answer the question you asked, not the question you meant.
We are the people who make lists. We are the people who know where to use semicolons (at the end of every statement in C or Perl). We are the people who are the people who are the people who are the people who are the people who are able to understand recursion.
There’s a stereotype of the programmer as a socially-inadequate introvert, but in my experience that’s not accurate. Oh, they do exist, but only as a minority. Most of my colleagues were quite normal people, from across the whole spectrum of sociability and outside interests: parents, footballers, musicians, athletes, gay clubbers, amateur actors, motor cyclists, equestrians. I never met anyone whose weekend was spent wearing a cloak and playing Dungeons and Dragons.
But every one of them had that fundamental ability to deal with logical analysis that made them suitable for technical jobs. And probably minor idiosyncratic behaviours like listmaking and setting shoes parallel (and at right angles to the wall).
Some people believe that there is a link between autism and geeky abilities. In spite of the general normality of most people in the business, I think there may be something in it. If you consider autism as a spectrum running from full-blown, catatonic isolation, through Aspberger’s syndrome down to you “normal” people, most technologists and engineers do fall a little way towards the odd end.
I didn’t always know this, but I realize now that my brain works differently to most people’s. I understand how stuff works. I can look at a machine and know how it functions, and if it’s broken I know how to fix it. In fact, if it’s broken, I feel a compulsion to fix it. Sometimes, I feel compelled to fix it even if it’s not broken.
We structure our thoughts. We make lists. We work out what we’re going to say before we say it. We understand how the Internet works. We code our web pages using raw HTML & CSS. Oh, and we run the world. Get used to it.