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What is Pair Programming?


Two Minds, One Goal: The Power of Pair Programming

Pair programming is an agile software development technique in which two developers work together on the same computer to write code. One developer, called the driver, is responsible for typing the code while the other, called the observer, review the code and makes suggestions. The two developers then switch roles, with the observer becoming the driver and the driver becoming the observer.

The story of pair programming originates from a software development company called Chrysler. In the late 1990s, Chrysler was tasked with developing a new software system for its payroll operations. The project was behind schedule and the team was struggling to make progress. In desperation, the lead programmer, Xitij Kothi, suggested an unconventional solution: pair programming. He proposed that two programmers work together on each task, with one writing code while the other reviews and offers suggestions.

The strategy worked. The project was completed on time and the quality of the software was far superior to what had been expected. Since then, pair programming has become a widely accepted practice in software development.

Pair programming can reduce the time it takes to complete a task by allowing two developers to work together more effectively. By having two developers work side-by-side, they can quickly identify and resolve problems as they occur. The navigator can also provide insights into potential issues before they become problems, helping to reduce the amount of debugging and testing that needs to be done. Additionally, pair programming enables developers to learn from each other, which can help reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a task.

Pair programming also helps to spread knowledge and skills among the team members, as each programmer learns from the other. This can be especially useful in distributed software projects, where team members may be geographically dispersed.

Story Time

John and Jane had been classmates for the past couple of months, but never really got to know each other very well. They had been assigned a project in their programming class and had decided to work together. 

John was very knowledgeable in the subject and had a good understanding of what was expected. Jane, on the other hand, had little to no experience with programming but was eager to learn. Together, they decided to use the pair programming technique.

John and Jane sat down together and discussed their project. John explained the concept of pair programming, how it works, and what their roles would be. Jane was very willing to learn and was excited to get started. 

John and Jane began writing the code for their project. John took the lead and wrote most of the code while Jane watched and asked questions. Whenever Jane found a mistake or had an idea, she would suggest it to John, who would then incorporate it into the code. 

In this way, John and Jane worked together to complete their project. By the end of it, both of them had gained a better understanding of programming and had come to know each other better. 

“Pair programming had become a regular part of John and Jane’s programming class ever since.”

Issues we can face during Pair Programming and its Solutions

One type of problem that programmers can face during pair programming is communication breakdown. This is when two programmers are unable to effectively communicate with each other due to a lack of understanding or different working styles. To overcome this issue, it is important to ensure that both programmers are on the same page before starting to program. This can be done by discussing the problem, breaking it down into small manageable parts, and discussing how to approach it. It is also important to ensure that there is an equal amount of speaking and listening between the two programmers. It is also important to be aware of any language or cultural differences that may be present and to adjust your communication accordingly.

Different abilities can be a problem during pair programming because one programmer may be more knowledgeable or experienced in a certain area than the other. This can lead to the more experienced programmer taking on a larger share of the work, leaving the less experienced programmer feeling frustrated or left out. 

To overcome this, the two partners should agree on a division of tasks based on their respective strengths. For example, if one partner is more experienced with databases, they can take the lead on designing and setting up the database structure, while the other partner focuses on developing the business logic. Both partners should aim to challenge each other and provide feedback and support to ensure that the project is completed to the highest standard. Additionally, the partners should regularly rotate tasks so that both have the opportunity to learn from each other and gain a more comprehensive understanding of the project.

Task division can be a problem during pair programming if one person takes on more responsibility than the other, leaving the other feeling like they’re not contributing as much to the project. This can lead to frustration and resentment, and can ultimately undermine the collaborative nature of pair programming. To overcome this, the two people should agree on how they will divide the tasks before they begin. 

For example, they can decide that one person will take the lead on the coding while the other focuses on debugging and testing, or that each person will take turns writing sections of code. They should also make sure to have regular check-ins to discuss progress, address any issues, and ensure that both parties are on the same page. This will help ensure that both parties feel like they’re contributing equally to the project.

Distractions can be a major problem during pair programming, as they can prevent the pair from focusing on their task and completing it in a timely manner. Distractions could include anything from phones, emails, instant messages, or conversations with other people in the same room. To overcome distractions during pair programming, both partners should agree to have their phones on silent and out of sight. If possible, they should also try to find a quiet space where they can work without interruption. Additionally, they should set aside specific times to check emails and other messages and then get back to their task. They should also set specific goals and deadlines for the task ahead of time to help keep them on track.

one person may be more accustomed to writing code with fewer lines and using terse abbreviations, while the other person may prefer longer and more descriptive lines of code. This can lead to a lot of back and forth, which can slow down the programming process. To overcome this problem, it is important to have open communication and be respectful of each other’s coding styles. The pair should discuss their preferences and try to come to an agreement on which style they should use. They should also discuss the types of coding conventions they want to follow and agree on a coding style guide. Additionally, they should take time to explain their code to each other, as this can help them better understand each other’s coding styles. Finally, they should be open to feedback and criticism and be willing to compromise.


The importance of pair programming lies in its ability to improve the quality of code while also reducing the time it takes to develop software.