It costs Ferrari around $20 million to give Michael Schumacher the equipment he needs to go out and win a Formula-1 race. Luckily, $2,000 to $5,000 will buy any programmer the state-of-the-art workstation that he or she needs to do their job.
In equipment, the following appeals to programmers:
♦ High resolution, large screens
♦ Fast processors
♦ Sufficient memory
♦ Reliable equipment
♦ Good Internet connectivity
♦ Up-to-date and licensed software
♦ Automatic backup and version control
Large screens save time because all programs can be kept open and viewed simultaneously without having to open and close windows ad nauseam. They also put less strain on a programmer's eyes and reduce cross-checking errors. Fast processors reduce compiling time so programmers don't have to twiddle their thumbs while their computer completes this task. If a programmer compiles his program 12 times a day and the time shrinks from 7 to 2 minutes, he gains an extra hour's productivity available each day. Enough memory ensures that the computer doesn't run slow as it shuttles data between the RAM and the hard disk. If the developers are undertaking complicated operations, two machines can significantly increase productivity as it allows them to code on one machine and test on the other with the least possible disturbance.
Always use licensed software. Programmers by nature, apart from being highly logical, in my experience have a strong sense of fair play. They feel that it is wrong to write programs that people are expected to pay for while they themselves are forced to use unlicensed code. This comes out as a very strong, secondary reason for changing jobs during interviews.
Finally, programmers must have access to the software that they need (not to be confused with want). Make sure code is produced under version control and automatically backed up each night. This shouldn't be down to the individual programmer. Their equipment should take care of this automatically. In short, the better the equipment you give your staff the more productive they will be. The time you save should more than pay for the difference in cost.
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