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A collection of interviews
on 6 February 2010
This book is literally the transcription of 15 interviews, do not expect more than that. Interviewed are fifteen programmers who have left a visible imprint on the world of programming as it stands now. The author reminds us in a short introduction that the field of computer programming is only 70 years old and a large part of the programmers he interviews started in the field punching cards roughly 40 years ago. The author asks similar questions to all his interlocutors enabling the reader to draw comparison on some topics such as: How do you proceed when you write new code? How do you debug code? How do you approach other coders programs? What do you look for when hiring programmers? How did you start coding...
I read that book cover to cover, in places it could have been better edited. In terms of content, I found it both interesting and lacking. Interesting, because the programmers interviewed achieved a lot and one always gain something from learning about the circumstances of those achievements. On the lacking side of my impression, well it is hard to define: The author promises on the back-cover to give us insight into how great programmers learned how to code and how they go about programming and he certainly delivers that in their own words, but, as could be expected, out of 15 interviews you get 15 different answers and it is impossible to draw any conclusion.
In a sense I am not sure the question "how do you code?" has a lot of meaning, I get the feeling that it is similar to asking mathematicians how they think when they do mathematics. In the end it probably is the body of produced code that should be the focus of our interest and actually, quite a few of the programmers interviewed in the book mentioned that they themselves devoted time to reading other programmers code to further their mastery of the field (or satisfy their curiosity about how programs, be they compilers or applications, work). I think the book would have gained from leaving aside the questions of how the interviewed programmers code and focusing more (because there is some of that in the book) on their opinions about the evolution of their different fields of expertise.