In 1986, Microsoft Press editor Susan Lammers assembled a collection of interviews with software pioneers into a book titled Programmers at Work. It was one of the first times in history that computer programming was shown to blend both art and science and not just the domain of computer engineers and university computer scientists.
The 19 programmers and software designers featured were not without ambition: Andy Hertzfield wrote much of the original Macintosh operated system. Jef Rasking created the original concept for the Mac. Charles Simonyi, a Xerox veteran who then worked at Microsoft for two decades, generally regarded as one of the most talented programmers there. Oh, and Bill Gates was in there, too, but does the richest man in the world really need his bio introduced?
Twenty-two years later, programmer and author Leonard Richardson tracked down the book’s original group to see what they’re doing today. The upshot? Most are awash in riches and enjoying the freedom that comes with it.
Bill Gates is soon to retire and focus solely on his philanthropic work. Charles Simonyi is described as a “super-rich guy, space tourist, endowing Oxford chairs and whatnot” while running Intentional Software. John Warnock, once a co-founder of Adobe, is now retired, serves on boards of directors and runs a bed-and-breakfast “nestled in the foothills of Utah.” Toru Iwatani, who designed Pac-Man, retired in 2007, became a visiting professor with very little English-language information available about him.
Seven have retired. At least six blog. Almost all still work with computers in some way.