What does Ballmer Peak mean?
“Thish ish muh besht coding evuh (hiccup)!” The Ballmer Peak is a fictional level of drunkenness that supposedly heightens a computer programmer’s skills.
Where does Ballmer Peak come from?
Ballmer Peak is the name (and subject) of the 323rd strip of the webcomic xkcd, published on October 1, 2007. The strip explains that, in the 1980s, Microsoft supposedly discovered that programmers will gain superior coding abilities if they have a blood-alcohol concentration between 0.129% and 0.138%. The comic plays with the fact that coding can be very tedious and frustrating, imagining that it drives programmers to drink and discover alcohol-fueled superpowers.
Randall Munroe, the author of xkcd, likely named the Ballmer Peak after Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft at the time the strip was published. Ballmer was famous for his high-energy, seemingly erratic behavior at speeches and presentations. Ballmer joined Microsoft in the 1980s but worked as an executive, not a programmer. A peak, here, is a “maximum point” (on a line graph) and may allude to relevant expressions like peak performance.
Surprisingly enough, a 2012 study by the University of Illinois seemed to support the theory behind the Ballmer Peak, as its results showed that drunker people (men, in the study) actually had better creative problem-solving skills compared to sober ones.
After the publication, the comic strip was shared on a variety of websites and was especially popular with programmers and others familiar with the challenges of coding.
omg. Accuracy on iPhone keyboard is directly proportional to BAC! Hrm, there's probably a Ballmer Peak, though.
— Damon Cortesi (@dacort) October 30, 2007
Wasting my Ballmer peak on a nigh-endless defrag of my virtual machine's drive.
— OWenJ (@owenj23) November 14, 2007
Examples of Ballmer Peak
Who uses Ballmer Peak?
Xkcd is a very popular webcomic, especially among people who enjoy humor related to math, science, technology, and other topics. Because of its popularity, even non-programmers are aware of and may reference the supposed Ballmer Peak. The joke, however, has always been especially popular with programmers of various levels of sobriety.
tfw you blow past ballmer peak while knee deep in some gnarly code pic.twitter.com/AN9Cx8tgLp
— brian wickman (@wickman) June 21, 2016
Fridays are for finding where your team’s Ballmer peak is.
— Code Standards (@codestandards) March 9, 2018
Way beyond the Ballmer peak. Please advise.
— DEV Community 👩💻👨💻 (@ThePracticalDev) June 10, 2017
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