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Which means that people have been faking their way through meetings about software, and the code that builds it, for generations. This issue comprises a single story devoted to ­demystifying code and the culture of the people who make it.

Now that software lives in our pockets, runs our cars and homes, and dominates our waking lives, ignorance is no longer acceptable. There’s some technical language along with a few pretty basic mathematical concepts.

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You are an educated, successful person capable of abstract thought. Your office, appointed with decent furniture and a healthy amount of natural light filtered through vertical blinds, is commensurate with nearly two decades of service to the craft of management. I love computers, but they never made any sense to me.

Copper plaques on the wall attest to your various leadership abilities inside and outside the organization: One, the Partner in Innovation Banquet Award 2011, is from the sales team for your support of its 18-month effort to reduce cycle friction—net sales increased 6.5 percent; another, the Civic Guidelight 2008, is for overseeing a volunteer team that repainted a troubled public school top to bottom. I’m a programmer, yes, but I’m an East Coast programmer, not one of these serious platform people from the Bay Area.” I began to program nearly 20 years ago, learning via , a special version of the Perl language modified to work with the Oracle database. And yet, after two decades of jamming information into my code-resistant brain, I’ve amassed enough knowledge that the computer has revealed itself. I can talk to someone who used to work at or Microsoft about his or her work without feeling a burning shame.

You have a reputation throughout the organization as a careful person, bordering on penny-pinching. We are here because the editor of this magazine asked me, “Can you tell me what code is? A month into the work, I damaged the accounts of 30,000 fantasy basketball players. I’d happily talk to people from Google and Apple, too, but they so rarely reenter the general population.

The way you’d put it is, you are loath to pay for things that can’t be explained. This policy has served you well in many facets of operations, but it hasn’t worked at all when it comes to overseeing software development. You don’t want your inquiry to be met by a patronizing sigh of impatience or another explanation about ship dates, Agile cycles, and continuous delivery. The World Wide Web is what I know best (I’ve coded for money in the programming languages Java, Java Script, Python, Perl, PHP, Clojure, and XSLT), but the Web is only one small part of the larger world of software development. East Hollywood would be for Mac programmers, West L. for mobile, Beverly Hills for finance programmers, and all of Orange County for Windows.

For your entire working memory, has come along every two years and suddenly hundreds of thousands of dollars (inevitably millions) must be poured into amorphous projects with variable deadlines. There are 11 million professional software developers on earth, according to the research firm IDC. There are lots of other neighborhoods, too: There are people who write code for embedded computers smaller than your thumb.

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