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I have to say, this is a great book, almost unique in its scope; I wish there were more books like this. There are many collections of short biographies of mathematicians, and a few of computer scientists, but that's not quite the same as programmers. If you want to know what programmers do, the best thing is to read their code, but failing that (or in addition to that) you need to read interviews like this. I wish someone would do another book like this covering programmers of the last 15 years, but this one has a very good selection of programmers from the early PC era, and the interviews are very well-done: they let the programmer speak, yet the interviewer keeps them on track. I'm sure some people will object: "How can this be a great book; it's from Microsoft Press! It features Bill Gates on the cover! Four times larger than anyone else!" Perhaps it would be better if Gates' picture were smaller, but admit it -- how many of the other faces do you recognize? And the fact is, billg was an extremely influential programmer, and the interview with him is a good one. I liked it so much I was inspired to write a short fiction piece on the subject (search for "Y2K Saga"). But don't just take my word on this book: trust the "customers who bought this"; they're also buying heroes of the open source movement like Joel and ESR, as well as (to my mind) the two best author/consultants in the business, Demarco and Weinberg. It may still take you ten years to become an expert programmer, but carefully reading this book should speed up your quest, or at least let you understand better the programmers around you.
Review: Programmers at Work: Interviews With 19 Programmers Who Shaped the Computer Industry (Tempus)User Review - Goodreads
Really inspiring, and good insights about how people are working, debugging, interacting with their surroundings. Read full review