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[Comments] (33) Where Are They Now?: I can't stop! Today I read Programmers at Work, a 1986 book of interviews by Susan Lammers (I got the version that doesn't have Bill Gates's head taking up half the cover.) For some reason I was compelled to write this weblog entry detailing what all of the people mentioned in the book did since the book was published. Some interesting links and history below.


Posted by Chris at Tue Feb 19 2008 23:11

Great follow up to a great book. As a computer science student at the time Programmers at Work was published, seeing the artifacts behind the cool commercial successes inspired me. Hertzfeld's and Gates' contributions were great--I also found myself writing a lot of early software design for the Next Big Thing that looked similar to Bob Carr's handwritten narrative design work.

A few more observations, along with how this book contrasts to the recent "Founders at Work", here

Posted by myrth at Thu Feb 21 2008 15:38

good to read some old names! but, how does this relate to yo gabba gabba?


Posted by hans frans at Thu Feb 21 2008 15:49

Nice writeup. How do I get my name on here tagged as 'super rich'!?

Posted by Microsoft CRM at Thu Feb 21 2008 16:08

I remember reading this book 22 years ago, it is difficult to think that so many years has passed by so quickly. It is really interesting to see how computer technology have evolved since then.

Posted by Ryan at Thu Feb 21 2008 16:13

Hey, congrats on making Slashdot's front page!

Posted by Leonard at Thu Feb 21 2008 16:15

Yeah, no kidding!

Posted by Super Dave Osbourne at Thu Feb 21 2008 16:29

Excellent simple writeup. Congrads on /. fame. Great book, found it at a book sale with a lot of other books and bought for 10 cents. Sad thing, there are so many other great names that never made it, mostly in R&D, Jobs, Kay, and those preceeding and doing the grunt work for them (aside from the obvious mac folks for jobs). Steve Klingsporn comes to mind, was just a child and doing the work of grown men back then.

Posted by anjilslaire at Thu Feb 21 2008 16:32

Cool stuff. Always neat to see what people are doing years later.

Posted by anonymous at Thu Feb 21 2008 17:40

Andy Hertzfeld joined Google in 2005.

Posted by anonymous at Thu Feb 21 2008 19:36

Toru Iwatani appeared on Discovery Channel recently, in the series about the beginning of console gaming.

Posted by Chris at Thu Feb 21 2008 20:47

I always wondered if the writing of this book, published by Microsoft Press, was intended to try to recruit some of those developers over to the Microsoft camp. A few of them landed there after all...

Congrats on surviving the slashdotting...

Posted by NSK at Thu Feb 21 2008 21:53

Thanks for the great info and all the weblinks to their blogs etc!

Posted by Pete at Thu Feb 21 2008 22:49

"Jef Raskin. [...] Died in 2005. [...] The project he's working on in PaW [...]"

The world's first zombie programmer: "Will code for... brains..."?

Posted by Wesley Tanaka at Thu Feb 21 2008 23:49

Neat list

Posted by moof at Fri Feb 22 2008 01:59

It appears that Toru Iwatani is a full-time lecturer at Tokyo Polytechnic - see http://www.t-kougei.ac.jp/corporate/committee.html and search for 岩谷 - but that wouldn't preclude him from still being a visiting lecturer

Posted by J35ter at Fri Feb 22 2008 03:05

Whew,man! 20+ years ago, we thought they were immortal. Now we can see our former idols retire and die away. Reality sucks!

Posted by Charles Petzold at Fri Feb 22 2008 07:08

Susan Lammers was Editor in Chief at Microsoft Press when I began writing my first book for them in 1986. "Programmers at Work" was very deliberately patterned after the interviews with writers done by the literary magazine "The Paris Review" and published in several series entitled "Writers at Work" beginning in 1959. Each of those interviews was accompanied by one of the author's manuscript pages. The original 1986 edition of "Programmers at Work" had "1st Series" on the cover; when I asked Susan about further series of interviews, she just shrugged. At some point, I remember that she was working on the media showcase displays at the then-being-built Gates mansion, but I lost track of her after that. Judging from her blog at www.susanlammers.com, she seems to be enjoying a relaxing retirement.

Posted by GDI Lord at Fri Feb 22 2008 07:50

Thanks for the really great entry! Congrats on the /. front page! Guess who's going to be try to get a copy of that book?

Yeah J35ter. Although I could be viewed as a "youngster" at 23 years old, I got a dose of MortalityRealizer(TM) pills last night when a family friend died. I really like reading the history of computers and Silicon Valley, as well as the stories of people who helped shape our world (computers). Seeing Gary Kildall and Jef Raskin is kind of a sobering second dose of those MortalityRealizer(TM) pills.

Note: Don't drink with caffeine ;-)

Posted by Brewster at Fri Feb 22 2008 08:08

Thanks for the great writeup. It's cool to see how those people's careers have developed

Posted by Carl at Fri Feb 22 2008 09:43

There's a short entry on Toru Iwatani (岩谷徹) at the Japanese Wikipedia site. In addition to his Tokyo Polytechnic job, he also continues to work on game design for Namco. The Osaka university position ran from April (the start of the Japanese academic year) 2005 to March 2007--the verbs imply he left that position to go to TPU.

Posted by Matt at Fri Feb 22 2008 10:20

Nice write-up. One minor correction: According to Fortune magazine (http://money.cnn.com/2007/08/03/news/international/carlosslim.fortune/index.htm), Bill Gates is no longer the richest man in the world - Carlos Slim of Mexico is.

Posted by A. K. at Fri Feb 22 2008 13:14

Something to notice. No women on the list. Kudos to men, creators of modern civilization.

Posted by anonymous at Fri Feb 22 2008 13:34

Peter Seibel the author of Practical Common Lisp has a new book project called "Coders at Work": "This book will also be similar, in some ways, to the 1986 book, Programmers at Work by Susan Lammers. My expectation is that Coders at Work will appeal to a bit more of a technical audience than Programmers at Work did. Also it’s been two decades since Programmers at Work came out, which is bound to have an effect on what we talk about.".


Posted by fstolze at Fri Feb 22 2008 15:05

It's been a bit since Gates was the richest guy in the world. I think he is #3 now, with #1 being Carlos Slim Helu and #2 (I believe) Lakshmi Mittal, partially caused by the decline of the US dollar.

Posted by san at Fri Feb 22 2008 15:29

It's surprising to think some of them have already passed away or are retired, there's always been something youthful about computer science. Even geeks are mortal, damn. Interesting read nonetheless, is there any plan to reprint the original book ?

Posted by Brett Johnson at Fri Feb 22 2008 15:37

I remember reading that book a couple of decades ago. I think I was given a copy by Jon Sachs. I am amazed at how many of these people I actually worked with, or even had meaningful conversations with in my life:

Gary Kildall: I never met him in person, but corresponded with him by telephone and email a bit back in 1982-3 when I was working on CP/M and MS-DOS BIOS for 3R Computers's TC-1 and TC-100. I really shouldn't speak ill of the dead, but Kildall was an ass.

John Warnock: I really only met him twice at some Adobe functions. Adobe was next door to Verity, and they embedded some Verity technology into Acrobat, so we were over there a bit.

Dan Bricklin: I met him once at some small conference where he was pushing his prototyping product "Dan Bricklin's Demo Program". I remember being interested because I was doing a bit of rapid prototyping with NeXT's InterfaceBuilder.

Bob Frankston: Was kept locked in a secret room at Lotus in the mid-to-late 80's when I was working on Lotus Manuscript. I met him twice. I believe his official job title was "I'm Bob Frankston, dammit! I invented the friggin VisiCalc. Have you heard of it? Now get me a sandwich ... and some more virgins."

Jon Sachs: Sachs actually started the Lotus Manuscript project, so I worked with him extensively from 1986-1988. I also met him briefly in 1981 (82?) at Data General (I was hired about 2 weeks before he left). Of all the people on the list I have met, Sachs was definitely the most modest and the coolest. Even though he was worth many tens of millions of dollars, he used to drive this beat -to-crap old Jeep. When that finally gave up the ghost, he bought an Audi Quattro - used.

Ray Ozzie: Another Lotus Manuscript contact. Ray was running Iris, developing Notes for Lotus. They wanted to use the same printer driver technology that Manuscript used. I also remember Ray when he worked at Data General in the early 80's. Although I didn't work with him directly, I do remember him playing Snake ... allot. I like Ray, and communicate with him once or twice a year, even tho he works for Microsoft.

Not mentioned above, but just as significant:

Mitch Kapor: Founded Lotus with Sachs and was still running it when we were developing Manuscript. I first met him at some big gala featuring the Pointer Sisters or the Pips or someone like that. I think they were celebrating the one-millionth wheelbarrow full of money they had dumped into the Charles River because they had just too damn much money. I spent much more time talking to him when I met Kapor at some conference pushing his uber-calendar project, Chandler. Chandler can best be described as the "Black Hole of Calendaring" - it is so massive that not even light can escape its gravitational attraction. I've seen many good programmers sucked into that black hole.

Steve Jobs: Like Kapor, Jobs is not a programmer, so not featured in the book. My experience with the Steve occurs during his time at NeXT Computer. I was an early adopter of NeXT. I was won over when Steve demo'ed the system at Lotus in 1988, and have been using NeXTStep/OpenStep/MacOSX as my primary development environment since. Steve once offered me a job after I gave detailed feedback on some broken app with suggestions on how to make it better. I've spoken to him only once since he returned to Apple.

Steve Wozniak: Woz lived in the next town over when I was in Sunnyvale. I met him once when he was promoting his tech-heavy school for kids. He was a major influence to my "give back to the community when you have been fortunate" ideals. If life were Star Trek (it isn't?) then Woz is the result of some "Enemy Within"-style transporter accident -- with the evil Bill Gates materializing shortly after. Woz is definitely the funniest and coolest person on this list.

Posted by Scott Rosenberg at Sat Feb 23 2008 00:14

Nice post.

I covered a reunion of a bunch of the surviving people from the book back in 2004. The article was here in Salon. As I recall, Charles Simonyi sang the praises of Intentional Programming and Andy Hertzfeld defended open source against Jaron Lanier's critique.

Posted by Michael Yam at Sat Feb 23 2008 11:05

It remains one of my favorite books. I, too, have the first edition without Bill's big head dominating the cover.

Note to post by A.K. -- yes, the featured programmers are all men. But it was Susan Lammers -- a woman -- who interviewed them and wrote the book. Not taking sides here, just giving credit where credit is due.

Note on post by Scott Rosenberg -- I read the Salon article when it came out in 2004. Nicely done! Guess I can't get enough of this stuff.

My own ode to "Programmers At Work" was an article and demo program I wrote for DDJ Magazine which was also published back in 2004: http://www.ddj.com/showArticle.jhtml?documentID=ddj0406h&pgno=5

Posted by Ryan at Sat Feb 23 2008 11:12

Unfortunately, the offshore craze will guarantee the death of American programmers in the future. Short term greed wins out over long term prosperity.

Posted by Susan at Mon Feb 25 2008 00:39

Hey guys, nice to see once again that this book I thoroughly enjoyed doing ages ago still provokes lively conversation. It's a pleasure to see it live on...In fact, I've even been taking some steps to putting the interviews up on a new web site in hopes that it could become a gathering spot for programmers to discuss the creative process. I am aware of recent efforts with founders and coders to follow the model I set out in the book...and this is making itch to make, as Charles Petzold mentioned, the "series" come again. But the world of programming has changed immensely since the original PAW was done. Nevertheless, capturing the "creative" moment and inspiration and drive among technologists still would endure.

Thanks for preparing the update and please get in touch with ideas about how to approach a web site built around PAW.

Posted by RVH at Mon Feb 25 2008 05:57

Building a Web site in CERN's Physics Analysis Workstation? Suppose it's possible... should have thought of it years ago. Was working with PAW and ISAJET at the SSC for my day job while interfacing HyperCard to HTTP for access to the CERN phone book back in 1992.

JK, lost in ancient geekdom. :)

Posted by Susan Lammers at Mon Feb 25 2008 19:01

Okay, I got a first draft version of the Programmers At Work (Revisited) website up for initial viewing and feedback. You can find it at:

I posted (so far) the first interview with Charles Simonyi. I'll post others periodically along with tidbits, reflections, and maybe some audio files if I can dig up the tapes...Thanks for getting me off my duff on this one...finally. And remember it's a work in progress... thanks

Posted by Reichart at Wed Feb 27 2008 21:38

Of note… Jef Raskin (Macintosh project creator) Has a son Aza, who continues to make cool UI. Check out his project…


The Apple did not fall far from the tree… : )

- - -

Baron RK Von Wolfsheild
CSA Qtask, Inc.

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