Programmers At Work, 22 Years Later

May 12, 2008

In 1986, the book Programmers at Work presented interviews with 19 programmers and software designers from the early days of personal computing including Charles Simonyi, Andy Hertzfeld, Ray Ozzie, Bill Gates, and Pac Man programmer Toru Iwatani. Leonard Richardson tracked down these pioneers and has compiled a nice summary of where they are now, 22 years later.

Where Are They Now?

Charles Simonyi. Then, Microsoft programmer. Now: super-rich guy, space tourist, endowing Oxford chairs and whatnot. Works at Intentional Software.

Butler Lampson. Then, PARC dude. Now: a Microsoft Fellow.

John Warnock. Then: co-founder of Adobe. Now: retired, serves on boards of directors, apparently runs a bed and breakfast.

Gary Kildall: Then: author of CP/M. Died in 1994. The project he was working on in Programmers at Work became the first encyclopedia distributed on CD-ROM. He also hosted Computer Chronicles for a while.

Bill Gates. Then: founder of Microsoft, popularizer of the word “super”. Now: richest guy in the
world. After a stint in the 90s as pure evil, semi-retired to focus on philanthropic work.

John Page. Then: co-founder of the Software Publishing Company, makers of PFS:FILE, an early database program. Now: I’m not really sure. Here’s a video of him from 2006, so he’s probably still alive, but he’s not on the web. SPC was acquired in 1996. Through some odd corporate synergy the public face of the business now appears to be Harvard Graphics.

C. Wayne Ratliff. Then: author of dBase. Now: retired.

Dan Bricklin. Then: co-author of VisiCalc. Now: Has a weblog and lots of accessible historical information about his projects. Still runs Software Garden. Still looks almost exactly like his illustration in PaW, leading some to speculate on a “Spreadsheet of Dorian Gray” type effect. I secretly hope he will see this in referer logs and invite me to hang out with him.

Bob Frankston. Then: the other half of VisiCalc. Now: worked for Microsoft for a few years, now retired, has a weblog.

Jonathan Sachs. Then: co-author of Lotus 1-2-3. Now: semi-retired. Gives away Pocket PC software from his home page, and sells photography software as Digital Light & Color. More details in this 2004 oral history.

Ray Ozzie. Then: Lotus Symphony dude, left Lotus to write what would eventually be sold as Lotus Notes. Now: Chief Software Architect at Microsoft, after working for IBM and starting Groove Networks. Has a weblog, but hasn’t posted for about a year.

Peter Roizen. Then: author of T/Maker, a spreadsheet program. Now: programmer consultant. Inventor of a Scrabble variant that uses shell glob syntax.

Bob Carr. Then: PARC Alum, Chief Scientist at Ashton-Tate, author of Framework integrated suite. Now: founder of Keep and Share. In between: co-founded Go, worked for Autodesk. Doesn’t seem to have a web presence.

Jef Raskin. Then: Macintosh project creator, founder of Information Appliance. Died in 2005. His excellent web site is still up. Author of well-respected book The Humane Interface. The project he’s working on in PaW, the SwyftCard, was a minor success.

Andy Hertzfeld. Then: Macintosh OS developer. Now: works at the OSAF Google and hosts a bunch of websites, including folklore.org and Susan Kare’s site. (Incidentally, Susan Kare now works for Chumby.) In between: worked at General Magic and Eazel, which probably only people who read this weblog remember.
Most of the people profiled in PaW provide some sample of their programming or thought process. Hertzfeld has the best one: an assembler program that makes Susan Kare’s Macintosh icons bounce around a window.

Toru Iwatani. Then: designer of Pac-Man. Now: retired from Namco in 2007. Visiting professor at a Japanese university (the University of Arts in Osaka or Tokyo Polytechnic, depending on which source you believe). In PaW very proud of a game called Libble Rabble, which I’d never heard of. I believe PaW interview was for a while the only English-language information available about Iwatani.
Significantly, in a recent interview Iwatani refused to comment on Ms. Pac-Man’s relationship to Pac-Man. Possibly because Ms. Pac-Man is actually Pac-Man’s transgendered clone, and Namco doesn’t want word getting out.

Scott Kim. The only person mentioned in PaW I’ve met. Then: basically a puzzle designer. Now: still a puzzle designer. His website. Also has an interest in math education.

Jaron Lanier. Then: working on a visual programming/simulation language. Blows Susan Lammers’s mind with a description of virtual reality (see also “Virtual World” in Future Stuff). Now: scholar in residence at Berkeley, occasional columnist for Discover. Lots of stuff on his website. Here’s video of a game he wrote.

One comment

  1. Hello. Interesting blog, where did you get this info from?

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