coders-at-work-cover-bigThe book “Coders At Work” is a collection of interviews of famous coders. The book takes a reader through 15 career stories. It inspires and gives insight into minds of great programmers.

Most of the selected coders are of older generations, so at times, it is hard or, rather, not exceptionally interesting to follow some of their career endeavours. Especially, if the whole career was around one system or one language that is “dead” today (think of COBOL, Fortran, PDP-1, etc). I don’t mind to know the history of the industry, but I’m not interested in too much of the details (you can blame me if you wish). On the other hand, it was very interesting to try to understand how these people think and how they approached problems they had. I really believe there is a lot to learn from them.

The author, Peter Seibel, starts interviews with a usual but interesting question about how the interviewees got involved in programming. Then, the author proceeds to questions that relate somehow to what interviewees have done in their careers. There are standard questions about debugging, favorite editor, opinion on some programming language, and other.

I liked answers to the question on how they hired people and what advise they can give to the young programmers.

There were a couple of questions that I didn’t like. One was “Do you consider yourself a scientist, an engineer, an artist, or a craftsman?”. I think it is a pointless question. These nouns can be interpreted in different ways and any answer would be just fine.

Throughout the book there was a discussion about the importance of computer science education and one of the questions was if interviewees have read the book “The Art Of Computer Programming”. It was kind of introduction to the last interview with Donald Knuth. I liked the interview with him, but I’m not sure if the author had to put so much emphasis on this personality.

The list of interviews is available at book’s website with short descriptions of who those people are and what they did. To be honest, before reading “Coders At Work”, I only knew about Douglas Crockford, Joshua Bloch, and Donald Knuth.


The book gives insight into how some of the great programmers achieved what they have achieved. It educates and inspires, though some of the stories might not be very exciting. At times, you may think that other big names would have made the book even more interesting. Nevertheless, I liked reading the book “Coders At Work”.

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