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Masterminds of Programming: Conversations with the Creators of Major Programming Languages

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  336 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
Masterminds of Programming features exclusive interviews with the creators of several historic and highly influential programming languages. In this unique collection, you'll learn about the processes that led to specific design decisions, including the goals they had in mind, the trade-offs they had to make, and how their experiences have left an impact on programming tod ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published April 3rd 2009 by O'Reilly Media, Inc.
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Doran Barton
Sep 25, 2009 Doran Barton rated it really liked it
Masterminds of Programming Conversations with the Creators of Major Programming Languages by Federico Biancuzzi and Shane Warden and published by O’Reilly and Associates is a large (480 pages), dense book packed full of exposition about language design, software engineering practices, software development lifecycle methodologies, Computer Science curricula, and unique insights into computer and computation history.

The format of the book is straightforward. Each chapter is dedicated to a programm
G. Branden
May 27, 2009 G. Branden rated it liked it
Interesting and fairly engaging, but not essential.

This was an impulse buy which threw an interrupt into my current-reading stack.

I'm glad I got it at a steep discount, because much of this looks like material one could just as profitably read on a webpage, and O'Reilly's listing it at $39.99.

As far as the content goes, I can say that it consistently held my interest. There are some entertaining snipes between various language designers about each others' work, but also a diplomatic (and, I woul
Rene Stein
Feb 11, 2012 Rene Stein rated it really liked it
Výborná kniha, na kterou mě upozornil Ondřej Sýkora.
Jestliže vás programovací jazyky zajímají víc než jen jako důmyslné "lopaty" pro zápis algoritmů za účelem pravidelného zvýšení zůstatku na účtu, budete z této série rozhovorů s duchovními otci jazyků C++, C#, Java, Python, UML, Eiffel a mnoha dalších nadšeni. Rozhovory mají vysokou úroveň nejen kvůli odborným i lidským kvalitám zpovídaných individualit, ale také proto, že dotazy, které jsou jim pokládány, jsou většinou promyšlené, dostatečně o
Nov 01, 2012 Kai rated it really liked it
Shelves: it
In everyday life people usually discuss a programming language looking at their practical usefulness, either for certain tasks or for the applicability to a wide range of problems and fields. It is absolutely natural for engineers and business people to focus on this aspect of economy. However, there's a second stream (not a creek!) that speaks about the beauty of a language or program code, about elegance, coherence, etc. To a person who comes from the humanities' end of the academic spectrum, ...more
Nov 24, 2010 Will rated it liked it
You know what would help in this book? Actual detailed technical nerding out.

I want to see hardcore geek action.
I want to see the Liskov Substitution Principle flying.
I want to feel the monads land on my face.
I want wall to wall Hindley-Milner inference debates.

But you don't get that here. These are interviews at the most general level, done for casual interest and bragging rights. The details that make programming langages interesting are the ones that can't be given in a general interview.
Feb 10, 2013 Serhii rated it it was amazing
Absolutely astonishing book. Not "must read", but very tasteful and refined reading.
By the way this book is great example of sophisticated interviewing.
Mar 08, 2013 Julian rated it it was ok
I was very excited about the prospect of this book, but in the end, it wasn't terribly satisfying — I gained no particular insights about language design, except that everyone, even the designers of utterly baroque languages, likes to quote Einstein ("... as simple as possible, and no simpler."). This book is worth skimming, but certainly not worth owning.

The interviewer is, generally, knowledgeable and passionate, but the interviews are poorly edited, giving the sense that many of the interview
Angus Fletcher
Programming is a fickle profession. It's one that encompasses pragmatism and elegance, fashion and science. Much of the entire body of knowledge involves things somebody has already figured out and the rest of us have forgotten. It's a young discipline, and a confused one. We fight turf wars over all the wrong things. Is OO the best? Is functional programming the best? What IS true OO? What IS true functional? What language should I use for everything? What is the killer app of this language? Wh ...more
Dec 28, 2010 Ilya rated it liked it
Shelves: computer-science
Over 400 pages of interviews with a bunch of programming language designers, who come out all too human. Bjarne Stroustrup thinks that C++ is superior to Java because in C++ you can write a multiplication operator to multiply a matrix and a vector, and in Java you have to arbitrarily assign it to the matrix class or to the vector class. James Gosling thinks that C#'s unsafe pointers are "grotesquely stupid". Anders Hejlsberg is "puzzled" about why Sun doesn't evolve the Java virtual machine. Chu ...more
Aug 27, 2014 Mona rated it did not like it
At first, I planned to read this book because someone recommend me to do it, and I didn't have any interests of any other languages but java and SQL. So I decided to only read about them.

The book is an interview between the writer and each creator of the languages, just question-answer conversation.

In SQL, it talks about the story behind the invention of this language and the challenges and the methods they used and he mentioned some of the useful tips that might helped if you are claiming to c
Feb 11, 2015 Joseph rated it liked it
[3.5 stars]

Pretty interesting look into the thought processes of the people who invented various different programming languages. Mostly for how closely intertwined the objective aspects of the language were with the various tastes and prejudices of their authors (though of course they probably wouldn't see it that way). Chuck Moore of Forth thinks you've been swindled into buying a machine with an operating system (who needs that?), Larry Wall of Perl fame views himself as the linguist out to s
Ondrej Sykora
Feb 12, 2012 Ondrej Sykora rated it really liked it
A book of interviews with the authors of some of the current popular and interesting programming languages. For a book of interviews, the quality and interestingness is directly proportional to the interestingness of the people in the interview. Not surprisingly, some of the interviews are more engaging than others, but the overall quality is surprisingly high.

The book is an interesting view to the minds of the people responsible for the languages. And for some of the people, it was interesting
Craig Cecil
Feb 24, 2012 Craig Cecil rated it really liked it
Shelves: computers
This book provides an interview format where the author (interviewer) asks the same questions (for the most part) to the creators of popular programming languages (C++, Python, FORTRAN, BASIC, Haskell, UML, Postscript, etc). This format allows the reader to compare and contrast the thought processes, perspectives, and beliefs among the various creators. In that vein, it really succeeds, and you'll no doubt notice many more similarities than differences. But when there are differences, they are v ...more
Feb 23, 2015 Yury rated it liked it
Очень неровная книга. Каждая глава имеет свой стиль. Обычно после первых пяти-шести страниц становится понятно, стоит ли дочитывать главу до конца - кто-то из мастермайндов жутко зануден и все вопросы сводит к одной и той же теме, кто-то говорит сплошными абстракциями, так что после десятка страниц ни черта не понимаешь, о чем вообще речь, а кто-то вообще несет адский маркетинг-буллшит, как будто презентацию своего языка докладывает. Однако посреди этого есть несколько довольно интересных бесед. ...more
Sep 30, 2011 Jon rated it really liked it
I think I have a hangover from my computer science undergraduate days as seeing language developers with a certain amount of awe. One side-effect of reading this set of interviews is that I have a much better picture of the diversity of language designers and it seems much more approachable now.[return][return]A few of the interviews seem rough, as if the interviewer and interviewee weren't quite talking about the same thing. Also, it seemed like for one or two of the group interviews that there ...more
Alex Fürstenau
Jan 06, 2016 Alex Fürstenau rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I read only the first three or four interviews. It was kind of interesting to read about the programming languages I use or I had used in the past but the majority was totally boring for me.

If you want to dig a little bit into several programming languages I recommend "Seven languages in seven weeks. I think an interview part would fit to this book much better but a book of pure interviews was just boring over time.

An audio version of the book with the voice of the real visionaries might be bett
Slávek Rydval
Jul 04, 2012 Slávek Rydval rated it really liked it
To be honest, I didn't read the whole book but just the UML chapter. It contains very inspirative interviews with three authors of UML not always about UML. I write down all interesting thoughts or mentions and make some comments on them (, sorry, in Czech only).

I am about to read about SQL and C# in the future. Am missing the chapter dedicated to Pascal which I used to use for 13 years before I dropped out of programming.
Blair Conrad
Jul 08, 2011 Blair Conrad rated it liked it
Shelves: library, nonfiction
Not a bad set of interviews with language creators. As you might expect with a collection of this sort, some interviews were better than others. And YMMV, depending on your tastes and familiarity with the various languages. Nearly no code was included, so it's accessible to any programmer type, even if they don't know all of the languages (although I found that my attention wandered for most of the interviews with creators whose languages I didn't know).
Feb 10, 2011 Mitchell rated it did not like it
This book was unreadable. I quite liked Design and Evolution of C++ by Stroustrup. And I've liked the various other interview/survey the greats of software - but not this one. The questions were dumb, the answers uninteresting. There weren't enough details. Perhaps it gets better later - but 100 pages in - C++, Python, APL, Forth, BASIC - I think I've got enough of a feel for it. Though Forth still looks cool. 1 of 5.
Jun 22, 2011 Einar rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful book - I wish there were more like it. The author does a brilliant job of going pretty deep with each of the subjects. This is reflected in how clearly the personality of each "mastermind" shines through - in some cases revealing almost hurtful arrogance, in others a deep respect for the work of others. I found it to be a very entertaining and educational read.
Aug 25, 2015 Jose rated it it was amazing
Excellent read for software types. This is one of those books like "Coders at Work" or "Founders at Work" where the author goes around interviewing masters of the trade, and collect wisdom from all of them. The premise being that the aggregation of their collective sums up to the "GREAT TRUTHS" of the trade. Good read.
May 01, 2011 Richard rated it liked it
More enjoyable than I expected. That may sound like faint praise, but after having this book sitting on my shelf for a couple of years I simply decided I wasn't interested in the history and motivations of language designers. But I started flicking though, and conversations about language adoption, attitudes to change and marketing issues were illuminating.
Andrew Nicholson
Nov 22, 2011 Andrew Nicholson rated it liked it
Shelves: software
Interesting interviews, and a few nuggets of insight from language designers who've shaped the modern software industry, even if their language(s) are not mainstream/in wide use.

Worth a read, but don't expect to be held spellbound throughout, as it's pretty dry in places.

Would have been better with more story & background.
Dave Bolton
Aug 20, 2012 Dave Bolton rated it it was ok
Vaguely interesting, but overall it just seemed directionless, and there wasn't anything particularly profound in there. As another reviewer said, many of the masterminds just seemed "provincial". I can't think of any of my programmer friends who'd really get a kick out of this... they'd probably rather be programming.
Jan 22, 2013 Luis rated it really liked it
Shelves: computing
As the subtitle suggests, this is a collection of conversations with the people behind some of the most important programming languages ever. In spite of some glaring omissions, such as Dennis Richie, it makes for wonderful reading.

Of course, not all subjects provide equally interesting insights (Adin Falkoff's one liners are sometimes exasperating), but very enjoyable nonetheless.
Vasil Kolev
Jan 09, 2014 Vasil Kolev rated it really liked it
Shelves: tech
This was pretty interesting, to see how the people who designed the languages think. Seems like you can find out a lot about a person by just using their language... Some chapters really turned me off some of the languages.

There was some loss of the thread of the conversation in some of the interviews that could've been fixed in editing.
Daniel Noventa
Apr 08, 2015 Daniel Noventa rated it it was amazing
Excellent book! Gives you insight and reason for the way programming languages were developed and how they grow.
Sep 18, 2010 Parthan rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-hold
A nice book where creators of famous programming languages share their experiences, ideologies, reasons and secrets about their brain-child
May 03, 2010 Michael rated it really liked it
Shelves: computing, 2010_read
Highlights: APL, Erlang, Perl, Objective-C
Steve Whiting
Feb 17, 2016 Steve Whiting rated it liked it
Interesting, but not especially insightful - I would have liked to see the interviewees pressed a lot harder on why they made certain design decisions in their languages
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“Components are how people solve problems above a modest scale; it’s one thing that separates us from chimpanzees. We invented a way of solving problems by simply making it the other guy’s problem. It’s called specialization of labor, and it’s as simple as that. That’s how the humans differ from chimpanzees: they never invented that. They know how to make tools, they have a language, so for most of the obvious things there are no differences between chimps and humans. We discovered how to solve problems by making it the other guy’s problem — through an economic system.” 2 likes
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