1986 Bill Gates Interview
Chanced upon a Bill Gates interview back in 1986. It’s very interesting to see his view points on various things - from programming/programmers to mathematics to CD ROM. Bill Gates has suggested a few technologies to come to the fore front; a few have succeeded, a lot haven’t.
Original interview: http://programmersatwork.wordpress.com/bill-gates-1986/
Excerpts (more of notes to self than anything else):
Great programmers are critical to create software products. But we don’t believe in a prima donna approach, where just because somebody’s good we let him not comment his code, or not communicate with other people, or impose his beliefs on everyone else.
At certain levels we’ve got business managers, but we don’t have non-programmers really managing programming projects.
… but I think you’d find that the programmers who sit down and code at the beginning are only using that as a scratch pad. It’s what’s going on in their heads that’s most important.
Little inefficiencies can slip into the program along the way, and if you want to really feel good about it, you’ve got to maintain the thought that you’re not going to let that stuff creep in. …. I’d go back and recode other people’s sections of code, without making any dramatic improvement. That bothers people when you go in and do that, but sometimes you just feel like you have to do it.
Some people just jump in and start coding, and others think it all through before they sit down, but I think you’d find that the programmers who sit down and code at the beginning are only using that as a scratch pad. It’s what’s going on in their heads that’s most important.
Well, first of all, the programming team has got to be made up of people who respect each other, because the work is really intimate; it’s like being in the same play together. So much judgment and creativity goes into a programming project. Some of the great programmers can’t work on teams; they just like to work on their own. But I think there’s an element of greatness that comes in learning how to work with other people and teach them.
Things have changed from what used to be the case with BASIC but high level languages haven’t really gone any far on this one:
Software tools are getting so much better. It is possible that we will eventually be able to take just specifications and a description of what the machine is efficient at, and then have some super high-level compiler do a lot of the work that programmers do now.
Its like people who play cress. When you’re really into playing chess, it’s easy to memorize every move in ten chess games, because you’re involved in it. Other people look at that recall in chess players, or in programmers, and they think it’s like some freak show. But it’s completely natural.
I still think that one of the finest tests of programming ability is to hand the programmer about 30 pages of code and see how quickly he can read through and understand it.
INTERVIEWER: Is studying computer science the best way to prepare to be a programmer?
GATES: No, the best way to prepare is to write programs, and to study great programs that other people have written. In my case, I went to the garbage cans at the Computer Science Center and I fished out listings of their operating system.
If you ever talk to a great programmer, you’ll find he knows his tools like an artist knows his paintbrushes.
I doubt this ever took off to such a large scale. I keep hearing one or two people talk about rule-based programming but that’s about it:
What’s going to really be different is rule-based programming. It’s different, because instead of just writing the program and saying: “If this happens, do this and if this happens, do this,” which is the way programs work now, you’ll write rules, and then you have this little reasoning engine that looks at the current set of facts and the rules. Then it tries to derive new facts and act appropriately.
This is the master piece:
Our goals are very simple. We’re going to create the software that puts a computer on every desk and in every home.
And then there’s a whole lot of discussion about CD ROM - funny to read it now.
We really believe we’re going to have CD ROM machines in every car and in every house. And when you go to a new area of the country, you’re going to stick that little disk in there and pan around and have it show you routes, and have it tell you about points of interest.