An Interview with Bjarne Stroustrup

By Michael Miller

Dr. Stroustrup has been interviewed many times and most ask the same questions. As such I felt it was more important to focus on him as a person and not so much on his achievements.

Michael Miller: How many spoken or written languages do you know?

Bjarne Stroustrup: At widely varying levels of fluency: Danish, English, German, French, C++, C, Simula, Smalltalk, ML, Fortran, Java, C#, Ada. I must have used two dozen more programming languages over the years.

MM: Many novice programmers get a feeling of euphoria when their program compiles and runs while many of the professional programmers seem jaded. Do you still get that type of feeling [euphoria] when working on a project [and it] works?

BS: Definitely when it's "interesting code", that is a kind of code I haven't gotten to work a few times before. "Variety is the spice of life" applies to programming also.

MM: What would be the one piece of advice you would give to someone that is starting to learn C++?

BS: One piece? That's tough. Focus on concepts and ideals; don't get lost in language-technical details. Look for useful information on my home pages: (I guess that was two pieces of advice, sorry).

MM: You stated in your August 28, 2003 interview with Linux Journal that you hardly play computer games any more. When you did have the time what genre of games did you play?

BS: The 80s. Mostly games that you could stop and go back to, such as Zork and Sim City. I was never a fan of games appealing mostly to the adrenaline rush of instant reaction. Nor do I like blood-and-gore games.

MM: Pascal was created as a learning language but has started falling towards the wayside in recent years. Do you believe that there is merit in a learning language?

BS: Only if the learning language is immediately followed by a real language. If not, people get a false sense of accomplishment that sets them up for failure. Pascal was never meant as just a teaching language. I used Pascal when it first came out (about 1972) and read all of the early papers.

MM: What is your feeling towards the Open Source "movement"?

BS: I like the pragmatic end of the movement (as typified by Linus Thorvald) and I am suspicious of the political end of the spectrum (as typified by Richard Stallman).

MM: What is your method for dealing with the fame?

BS: What fame?

MM: Are there any people that inspired you?

BS: In computing, I have the deepest respect for the designers of the languages I relied the most on when I built C++: Kristen Nygaard and Dennis Ritchie. They were/are real gentlemen. Maurice Wilkes (look him up :-) is amazing.

I would like to thank Dr. Stroustrup for taking the time to answer my questions. For those of you who would like to see him answer some more technical questions you can view quite a few of them at his website which has over 20 interviews.