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programmers at work


Via Scott, a great article in Salon that touches on some of the subjects of a book he's working on. The article talks about a panel, which included:

Andy Hertzfeld, who wrote much of the original Macintosh operating system and is now chronicling that saga at Folklore.org; Jef Raskin, who created the original concept for the Macintosh; Charles Simonyi, a Xerox PARC veteran and two-decade Microsoft code guru responsible for much of today's Office suite; Dan Bricklin, co-creator of VisiCalc, the pioneering spreadsheet program; virtual-reality pioneer Jaron Lanier; gaming pioneer Scott Kim; and Robert Carr, father of Ashton-Tate's Framework.
The quotes are fascinating (Now if I could only just find a full transcript for the panel discussion... and I just wish Bill Joy would've been there too!). Lanier has some very interesting viewpoints, like his one-half of a manifesto that he wrote in response to Bill Joy's Why The Future Doesn't Need Us (which I mentioned in my ethics and computer science post recently), and when he says that
"Making programming fundamentally better might be the single most important challenge we face -- and the most difficult one." Today's software world is simply too "brittle" -- one tiny error and everything grinds to a halt: "We're constantly teetering on the edge of catastrophe." Nature and biological systems are much more flexible, adaptable and forgiving, and we should look to them for new answers. "The path forward is being biomimetic."
He's definitely right on target. (Making software biomimetic is something that Joy advocates too as far as I can remember). There are other great moments, such as this:
Bricklin sent waves of laughter through the auditorium by reading a passage from Lammers' interview with Bill Gates in which the young Microsoft founder explained that his work on different versions of Microsoft's BASIC compiler was shaped by looking at how other programmers had gone about the same task. Gates went on to say that young programmers don't need computer science degrees: "The best way to prepare is to write programs, and to study great programs that other people have written. In my case, I went to the garbage cans at the Computer Science Center and I fished out listings of their operating systems."

Bricklin finished reading Gates' words and announced, with an impish smile, "This is where Gates and [Richard] Stallman agree!"

LOL! Bill Gates dumpster-diving for operating system code listings!

As principal Skinner would say: Ooooh, mercy.

Categories: soft.dev
Posted by diego on March 21 2004 at 12:09 PM

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