“Absolutely amazing! A page turner, just like Harry Potter for the technically minded.” —Tobias Svensson from review at return 42;

“This book is so interesting I did 60 minutes on the treadmill yesterday instead of the usual 30 because I couldn’t stop reading.” —Joel Spolsky on Joel on Software

“Coders at Work should inspire readers to learn about the wider context of their craft and stop the reinvention of the proverbial wheel” —Vladimir Sedach from review at Slashdot

“Peter Seibel asks the sort of questions only a fellow programmer would ask. Reading this book may be the next best thing to chatting with these illustrious programmers in person.” —Ehud Lamm, Founder of Lambda the Ultimate - the programming languages weblog

“I highly recommend it.” —Andy Mulholland, CTO, Capgemini

“I have long known the names and of the work of about half of the programmers in Peter Seibel’s wonderful book, Coders at Work; and it is fascinating to read their ideas about their lives and their ideas about programming. Better yet, I have now learned about the lives and philosophies of the other half of the programmers in the book, whose systems were known to me but the programmers themselves were not. Anyone interested in computer programming and what makes a great computer programmer will enjoy this book.” —Dave Walden, original member of the BBN ARPANET team

“These are wonderful interviews and this looks to be a bible for any programmer who aspires to be better.” —Peter Christensen, Founder of GeekStack.com

“This book is dead sexy. When it comes out, you should definitely get a copy.” —Joseph F. Miklojcik III from review at jfm3> _

“Superb book!” —Prakash Swaminathan from review at CloudKnow

“Read it, because then you will know the greatest coding brains.” —Amit Shaw from review at Teleported Bits

“One of the other core questions Peter asks is, what books would you recommend to help a developer learn programming? For me, this book joins my short list—it takes you away from the limitations of learning within a single company or community, and shows you the breadth of experiences that can make someone a great developer.” —Marc Hedlund from review at O’Reilly Radar

“The range of topics covered is just astounding.” —Chris Hartjes from review at @TheKeyboard

Fran Allen

Planning to be a math teacher but needing to pay off her student loans, in 1957 Fran Allen took what she intended to be a temporary job as a programmer at IBM Research. Her first assignment: teach resistive IBM scientists the newly invented language Fortran.

Instead of returning to teaching, Allen stayed at IBM for 45 years and worked on a series of compiler projects, including the compilers for the STRETCH-HARVEST machine and the ambitious but never-built ACS-1 supercomputer as well as her own PTRAN project, which developed techniques for automatic parallelization of Fortran programs and developed the Static Single Assignment intermediate representation, which is now widely used in both static and just-in-time compilers.

In 2002 Allen was awarded the Turing Award for her “pioneering contributions to the theory and practice of optimizing compiler techniques,” becoming the first female recipient in the 40-year history of the prize. She was also the first woman to be named an IBM Fellow, IBM’s top technical honor. She is also a fellow of the IEEE and the Association for Computing Machinery and a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society.

Over her career, Allen has observed the changing role of women in computing, from her earliest days when women were specifically recruited by companies like IBM for the new and ill-defined job of “programmer,” to later decades when the field became largely male-dominated.

In our conversation she talks about what that transition was like as well as why it is important to increase the diversity in the field and how C has grievously wounded the study of computer science.