Life and Times of Anders Hejlsberg

I think THE person at the top of the technical heroes list has got to be Anders Hejlsberg.

That sentence might seem so obvious it’s not worth stating. True, he is the chief designer and architect of the C# language. But that’s not really why I place him at the top of the list. He is the ultimate software legend (even outshining members of Microsoft’s now defunct “software legends” program). But I suppose, if I had to capture what makes him so great, the word that would come to mind is “wisdom.”

I just ran across a fabulous hour-long retrospective interview of Anders on Channel 9: Life and Times of Anders Hejlsberg. The show, “Behind the Code,” included pointed questions (what about J++?), a walk down memory lane, and an autographed rendition of his favorite data structure. I was absolutely riveted and, like those in the audience, in a state of semi-adoration.

Anders embodies a unique history of extraordinary successes that steered the software industry in entirely new directions. Yet, in all this, he still remains probably one of the most humble, unassuming people I’ve seen — which reinforces my hypothesis that those truly wise and knowledgeable are most keenly aware of the limits of their knowledge. As the saying goes, “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”

In addition, what truly impresses me are the set of guiding principles he uses to govern his technical and architectural decisions, the foremost of which is simplicity. The best ideas, as Anders says, are always simple. Simplicity, in turn, makes a technology more usable. This principle was what made the Delphi IDE and component model years ahead of its competitors. (See the classic book, Delphi Component Design, by Danny Thorpe.)

Along with simplicity, Anders also spoke about style and taste, as well as his greatest struggle (learning to be a team player). Every member of the human race makes mistakes. What distinguishes those who attain greatness is their ability to learn from their mistakes, and use those lessons to acquire wisdom and pass it along to others. Keep it the good work Anders!

About Tony Sneed

Married with three children.
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