“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

L Peter Deutsch

A prodigy, L Peter Deutsch started programming in the late ’50s, at age 11, when his father brought home a memo about the programming of design calculations for the Cambridge Electron Accelerator at Harvard. He was soon hanging out at MIT, implementing Lisp on a PDP-1, and hacking on and improving code written by MIT hackers nearly twice his age.

As a sophomore at UC Berkeley, he got involved with Project Genie, one of the first minicomputer-based timesharing systems, writing most of the operating system’s kernel. (Ken Thompson, inventor of Unix and the subject of Chapter 12, would also work on the project while a grad student at Berkeley, influencing his later work on Unix.) After participating in a failed attempt to commercialize the Project Genie system, Deutsch moved to Xerox PARC, where he worked on the Interlisp system and on the Smalltalk virtual machine, helping to invent the technique of just-in-time compilation.

He served as Chief Scientist at the PARC spin-off, ParcPlace, and was a Fellow at Sun Microsystems, where he put to paper the now famous “Seven Fallacies of Distributed Computing.” He is also the author of Ghostscript, the Postscript viewer. In 1992, he was part of the group that received the Association for Computing Machinery Software System Award, for their work on Interlisp, and in 1994 he was elected a Fellow of the ACM.

In 2002 Deutsch quit work on Ghostscript in order to study musical composition. Today he is more likely to be working on a new musical composition than on a new program, but still can’t resist the urge to hack every now and then, mostly on a musical score editor of his own devising.

Among the topics we covered in our conversation were the deep problems he sees with any computer language that includes the notion of a pointer or a reference, why software should be treated as a capital asset rather than an expense, and why he ultimately retired from professional programming.