It was with a touch of sadness that I said goodbye to an old friend yesterday as I packed up my old Triport headphones to be shipped back to Bose as a trade-in on a new pair of AE2’s. Purchased in 2004, these headphones ended their life with almost no vinyl left on the pads, several applications of both super glue and electric tape, a replacement piece of aluminum from a PC case, and my undying gratitude. As a developer, no training, book, framework, module, IDE, workstation, or peripheral has contributed more to my productivity than what my Bose provided: the ability to disconnect completely from my environment.
As I write this, the secretary down the hall is ordering lunch for a meeting, the guy in the office behind me is on the phone with a vendor, and my coworkers two cubes over are discussing training on the new phone system. Throw in various foot traffic and the propensity of the guy around the corner to, without warning or provocation, whistle loudly the entire works of Frank Sinatra, and you have a work environment where writing a complex regular expression or constructing a stored procedure (or even composing a short blog entry over your lunch break) becomes impossible.
This is particularly prevalent for those of us who do not work in a development shop, but as a part of the IT team. IT departments are a constant flurry of activity. Help desk phones are ringing, people are dropping by to ask questions, teammates are popping up over cube walls to discuss an issue they’ve encountered. For the department in general, this is not a bad thing; as a former sysadmin, some of the best teams I’ve worked with were composed of people who were constantly bouncing ideas off each other. For the developer who sits amidst this chaos, however, focus is nearly impossible without the ability to shut it all out.
And, while any cheap set of headphones will effectively “drown out” environmental noise if you turn up the volume enough, the around-the-ear design of the Bose can do it without destroying your hearing. In fact, I have many times spent an entire afternoon with my headphones on with no music or white noise playing at all. It discourages interruption and dampens conversations enough that your mind isn’t focusing on trying to understand them, while still allowing you to hear when your phone rings or someone walks up and says your name.
Throughout my career I have experienced many changes. I’ve changed companies and job titles. I’ve switched between IDEs, frameworks, languages, and platforms. I’ve written apps on consumer grade laptops and on high-end, multi-display development workstations. However, the one thing that has remained constant throughout is my dependence on the isolation that my Triports have provided.
Fed-Ex, please hurry.