July 16, 2006

[Professional] Knowledge Shelf Life

I've decided that I'm going to be spending a significant part of the next eight to twelve weeks on an intensive self-training program. I've been so buried under "SiN Episodes: Emergence" and other projects over the last eighteen months that I haven't had any real time to improve my skillset, and that means that I've been running backwards slightly. Let me explain.

More than any other industry, knowledge related to computers has a shelf life. Hardware, software, architecture, development methods, everything evolves so quickly.

A decade ago, AGP ports didn't even exist, and PCI video cards were the rage. Now AGP is on the way out, being replaced with PCI-Express.

A decade ago, game development was almost exclusively the realm of C and Assembly, and Mode-X and VESA ruled the roost. Windows, while slowly gaining ground from game developers, was still seen as too slow for games. Now, writing a game for DOS is unheard of, DirectX is about to undergo its fifth major overhaul (Game SDK > DirectX 3 > DirectX 7 > DirectX 8 > DirectX 10), and C++ is king of the hill, although managed languages are starting to nip at its heels.

A decade ago, the Internet was considered an optional part of life. A 56k modem was considered kick-ass...well, as long as you had the right 56k standard (K56Flex...no). Today, you can't turn around without getting bombarded by something related to the Internet. A 56k connection is barely enough to check E-mail for most people, now.

Unfortunately, all this change means that skills that relied on the way things were done in yesteryear are dated. I need to update my knowledge to keep myself a viable worker.

I always hear people complain, saying that if their bosses don't want to pay to update their skillsets, why should they have to pay their own way to learn? Easy. If you don't have the needed skills, what's to stop your employer from firing your butt and hiring some new guy off the streets who has the needed skills for half the pay. Your knowledge of existing systems won't save you if the existing systems are going away.

As a side note, I finally got Visual Studio 2005 repaired (thanks ZMan...wonderful undocumented command-line flags) so I can resume work on DiggerDX. If you are a game developer, take a look at the source code for this game. It's rare to find a game that actually runs in the IDE...


Sarkie said...

I can relate to this post Rom, my dad is in a ruck, he had been taught C and Pascal, but never followed it up and worked with VME, he has for the past 20+ years, now there are no jobs in it. He can't get a job for love nor money, so basically I am always trying learn bits and pieces incase anything falls through. That is why I still try and fix people's pc, so if I can't program for someone, I can still go working in a PC Shop :)

Okie said...

That's part of the reason I've been able to take a decade plus to get my degree and not have to worry about it. Not that much changes in medieval English literature whether you finish the degree in 3 years or 30. ;)