Don’t be a Byte White Knight

We have so many bytes on our hard disks. They are not damsels in distress who need to be saved.

The Hollywood Uber Hacker

Sometimes, programmers make an effort to condense some logic into a space as small as possible. This takes the form of – for example – avoiding to create a new file, or using a minimalistic variable name like literally “a”.

However, nowadays that’s simply unnecessary. Even worse, the readability we sacrifice is worth so much more than the advantage we get. Let’s demonstrate how much by using a simple and actually still very generous example.

The Math

Suppose you took 1 minute to write some uber hacker code that somehow saves you a whopping kilobyte on your hard disk. I just did a quick search on Google; a 1TB hard drive has a price of around 50,- bucks currently. That puts that kilobyte at roundabout 0.00005 bucks.

Over the course of an hour, you would provide a value of 0.003 bucks. Per 8-hour workday, 0.024 bucks. Per week, 0.12 bucks. Per month, that’s 0.48 bucks. 0.48 bucks. Doing this for a whole month produces a value of 0.48 bucks.

In order for you to be profitable to the company, they need to pay you less than you make them. Less than 0.48 bucks per month is not really a dream salary. In most of the western world, a programmer’s salary per day would allow them to buy the whole 1TB hard disk and have money left over.

Putting the extreme mismatch the other way around, you can use 100MB extra hard disk space every day over the course of a month – if that saves you one hour of work (over the whole month), that’s still a huge plus in value provided.

Next Article: In Private

See Also

“The Story of Mel”, a well established example of a Byte White Knight