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It all started out innocently enough. You experimented with it once or twice in your first year of college, but Nano and Pico were easier—closer to what you had already been using during high school on the Windows machines and Macs. But as time went on and you got more experience under your belt in the college-level computer science courses, you started to notice something: All of the really great programmers—the kind who churned out 4 line solutions for an assignment that took you 10 pages of code to complete; the kind who produced ridiculously over-featured class projects in a day while you struggled with just the basics for weeks—none of them used Nano or Pico.
Staying late one night to finish an assignment that was due at midnight, you happened to catch a glimpse over one of the quiet uber-programmer’s shoulders. Your eyes twinkled from the glow of rows upon rows of monitors in the darkened computer lab as you witnessed in awe the impossible patterns of code and text manipulation that flashed across the screen.
“How did you do that?” you asked, incredulous.
The pithy, monosyllabic answer uttered in response changed your life forever: “Vim.”
At first you were frustrated a lot, and far less productive. Your browser history was essentially a full index to the online Vim documentation; your Nano and Pico-using friends thought you were insane; your Emacs using friends begged you to change your mind; you paid actual money for a laminated copy of a Vim cheat sheet for easy reference. Even after weeks of training, you still kept reaching for your mouse out of habit, then stopped with the realization that you’ll have to hit the web yet again to learn the proper way to perform some mundane task that you never even had to think about before.
But as time went on, you struggled less and less. You aren’t sure when it happened, but Vim stopped being a hindrance. Instead, it become something greater than you had anticipated. It wasn’t a mere text editor with keyboard shortcuts anymore—it had become an extension of your body. Nay, an extension of your very essence as a programmer.
Editing source code alone now seemed an insufficient usage of Vim. You installed it on all of your machines at home and used it to write everything from emails to English papers. You installed a portable version along with a fine-tuned personalized .vimrc file onto a flash drive so that you could have Vim with you everywhere you went, keeping you company, comforting you, making you feel like you had a little piece of home in your pocket no matter where you were.
Vim entered every part of your online life. Unhappy with the meager offerings of ViewSourceWith, you quickly graduated to Vimperator, and then again to Pentadactyl. You used to just surf the web. Now you are the web. When you decided to write an iPhone application, the first thing you did was change XCode’s default editor to MacVim. When you got a job working with .NET code, you immediately purchased a copy of ViEmu for Visual Studio (not satisfied with the offerings of its free cousin, VsVim).
Late one night, as you slaved away over your keyboard at your cubicle, working diligently to complete a project that was due the next morning, you laughed to yourself because you knew no ordinary programmer could complete the task at hand before the deadline. You recorded macros, you moved entire blocks of code with the flick of a finger, you filled dozens of registers, and you rewrote and refactored entire components without even glancing at your mouse. That’s when you noticed the reflection in your monitor. A wide-eyed coworker looking over your shoulder. You paused briefly, to let him know that you were aware of his presence.
“How did you do that?” he asked, his voice filled with awe.
You smile, and prepare to utter the single word that changed your life. The word that, should your colleague choose to pursue it, will lead him down the same rabbit hole to a universe filled with infinite combinations of infinite possibilities to produce a form of hyper-efficiency previously attainable only in his wildest of dreams. He reminds you of yourself, standing in that darkened computer lab all those years ago, and you feel a tinge of excitement for him as you form the word.
This story was discussed on Hacker News.
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