This week, I’ve been doing some maintenance work on a Delphi application. So I’m spending a lot of time back in the Delphi IDE - a place that used to be the centre of my comfort zone.

A few years ago, while making the transition from Delphi to .NET, I was pretty vocal about the ‘sharp corners’ I found in Visual Studio - things that were oh-so-simple in Delphi that were hard work in Visual Studio.

This time around, though, I’m finding all the sharp-corners in Delphi, and muttering to myself about all the things that are oh-so-simple in Visual Studio that are hard work in Delphi.

My comfort zone has moved. It’s like finding an old sweatshirt, a sentimental favourite packed away in a box, and discovering that it’s now really uncomfortable to wear.

Though the earlier transition was from Delphi 7 to Visual Studio 2003, and the latter from Visual Studio 2008 to Delphi 2006, I suspect that the actual versions have little to do with the issue. Just as it’s not the sweatshirt that’s changed, it’s not Delphi that’s changed, but my view of it.

Delphi used to be really comfortable to me, not because it was a better IDE (though, at the time I believed it was),but because I used it every day. When I started to use Visual Studio, it wasn’t comfortable or easy - but this wasn’t because it was the lesser tool (though, again, once I believed it was). Rather, Visual Studio was uncomfortable simply because it was unfamiliar.

It’s this observation that I want to emphasise today:

Too often, we equate familiar with comfortable with better, and unfamiliar with uncomfortable with worse.

In many ways, this is very human - but it can be extremely dangerous as well.

Our industry today moves very quickly - we can’t dismiss the value of an idea, a product or a technology simply because it’s unfamiliar, and therefore uncomfortable. Doing this risks the discovery that our skills are obsolete.

I believe that we can’t afford to stay in our comfort zone forever - or for very long at all. We must always be looking forward to the next step - the next lesson, the next project, the next technology.

Consider: Today, I’m a .NET developer. Five years ago, I was a Delphi developer. Five years before that, an Apple Service Technician, and Five years before that, a student.

Who knows where I’ll be in five years from now.


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May 2008