Wow. Things have been hopping on this site. I guess folks are excited about all the changes in leadership at Microsoft and Bill Gates going back to work!
The world of programming has changed a great deal over the past 40 years since Programmers at Work was first published back in 1985. With Bill Gates announcing that he intends to go back to work to read the technology tea leaves and help steer the technical ship of Microsoft, a lot of people must be asking what was the magic he had back in his glory days. Well, you can definitely get some insights from the interview featured in Programmers at Work and on this site.
One of the things I know is that no matter how much the world advances and no matter what vehicle is used for expression, the creative process remains much the same over time. It’s about playing in a sandbox, seeing old practices in new ways (Dan Bricklin and the first spreadsheet, Lotus 1-2-3) or using technology for transformational powers (John Warnock and Adobe Postscript) to rearrange our reality, being unafraid of being wrong, seeing the promise and possibility, believing, constructing, tinkering and keeping after it! Programmers just like artists have many aha moments in the shower.
When companies, creators, artists run into trouble is when they become too burdened or wedded to the first creation and forget how to play in the sandbox. We’ll see if Bill can still has that spark, that ability to question and demand the best, and the energy to inspire others to play in the sandbox and create something that the world doesn’t even know it wants or needs.
I guess all the news about Satya Nadella and Bill Gates teaming up has stirred up excitement. After all these years, people tell me Programmers at Work still provides a window into the minds of the technologists who got to the PC sandbox first and gave birth to products that would shape and propel the technical world for decades. THey had a clean slate to work with…we are far from that today. It was a true technology renaissance because it opened up PC technology to programmers in garages everywhere and to the neophyte masses to use for the first time.
So the question now with Bill Gates resuming a formal role at Microsoft is whether his deep history as a leader of programmers and his understanding of the industry will give him the freedom and ability to inspire Microsoft’s creative team to play, or will it burden them with the weight and “forms” of the past. He’s a cool cat with at least nine lives, so it will be fun to see where Microsoft goes from here.
My book is ultimately about creativity and the creative process. That hasn’t changed. The creative minds behind the PC industry were some of the best on our planet and their words and thoughts shared from the 1980s still speak to readers. While the book is out of print, I still have a few boxes in my basement. I sell it on Amazon. If you are interested in buying it, get it while you can and I’m happy to sign it for you. I also have some first edition copies that I may put up for sale soon.
Enjoy the interviews here on this site too.