I'm paying for GitHub Copilot

#productivity #github #ai #github-copilot

Written by Anders Marzi Tornblad

I started working professionally as a programmer in 1997, mostly in Visual Basic and Visual C++, both in version 5. Back then, Visual C++ had no Intellisense. None! The IDE didn't provide any help with method names, types, nothing. You needed to look up stuff before writing. So I had a lot of books on language syntax, frameworks and so on, and I also installed the MSDN CDs (and later, DVDs) to get the full SDK documentation.

Then in 1998, Visual C++ 6 came out, and the Intellisense feature blew my mind. I just couldn't believe it was possible to provide dynamic assistance as fast as Intellisense could. Especially since I understood that a whole lot of C++ compilation took place under the hood to provide the correct help. I still used the MSDN documentation a lot, but programming really became faster, easier. Some people said Intellisense was "cheating" because "real programmers know methods and stuff by heart".

Then, for a few years, not much happened on the same level of awe. I used Delphi 8 (Octane) in the mid 2000's, and its Code Insight feature was better than Intellisense in many ways, like ordering suggestions by relevance first, but it wasn't a quantum leap in productivity like Intellisense had been.

Since then, I haven't seen any piece of developer assistance tech that really impressed me. Until GitHub Copilot. Most of the time, it just works! I write enough code to give it a strong sense of the context, I choose good names for stuff, and it spits out the code I need.

Sometimes it provides solutions I wouldn't have thought of without spending a lot of time doing trial-and-error or manually optimizing the code. Sometimes it's exactly what I would have written my self. Sometimes it just give a useful starting point.

I would say that for Javascript and Python projects, I think around 25-50 % of my code comes from GitHub Copilot. The zx-spectrumizer side project has at least 40 % Copilot code in it, and it almost feels like doing pair programming with another retro computing nerd.

So yes, I will start paying for GitHub Copilot for my personal projects, and I will ask my employer to provide a paid work subscription. It's a minor cost compared to everything else a developer needs to work.