What it's like working for NASA's on-board shuttle group

[The on-board shuttle group's] quarters are a study in white-collar pedestrian. The most striking thing is how ordinary they look. Other than the occasional bit of shuttle memorabilia, you could be in the offices of any small company or government agency. Everyone has his or her own small office, and the offices have desks, PCs, and sparse personal artifacts. People wear moderately dressy clothes to work, neat but nothing flashy, certainly nothing grungy.

It's strictly an 8-to-5 kind of place — there are late nights, but they're the exception. The programmers are intense, but low-key. Many of them have put in years of work either for IBM (which owned the shuttle group until 1994), or directly on the shuttle software. They're adults, with spouses and kids and lives beyond their remarkable software program.

That's the culture: the on-board shuttle group produces grown-up software, and the way they do it is by being grown-ups. It may not be sexy, it may not be a coding ego-trip — but it is the future of software. When you're ready to take the next step — when you have to write perfect software instead of software that's just good enough — then it's time to grow up.

That sounds pretty nice.

(A note: The article is from the Dec 1996/Jan 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine. History repeats itself; everything in the article has been seen before and is happening again, including the move back to writing software in a more grown-up environment than has been prevalent in the past years or even decade.)