Interviewing Joe Armstrong

Are our speakers awesome? Duh, everybody knows that! But what’s really under the surface? We’ve asked our speakers to answer a few questions about themselves so we can get to know a bit more about how their minds work.

Joe Armstrong, co-creator of the Erlang platform

When at the Ericsson computer science lab in 1986, Joe was part of the team who designed and implemented the first version of Erlang. He has written several Erlang books including Programming Erlang. Joe is an adjunct professor of Computer Science at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden and is an expert in the construction of fault tolerant systems.

Seen anything great lately that inspired you?

Chopins Waltz in C# minor Op 64 no 2.

What is the last good book you’ve read?

Play it again Sam — by Alan Rusbridger.

Most inspiration book I’ve read for a long time. It’s subtitled “An amateur against the impossible”

Alan Rusbringer, editor of the Guardian, sets out to Play Chopin’s Ballade No. 1 in a year.

Have you recently published a book yourself or are you preparing a workshop related to your talk that you’d like us to share with the audience?

Sort of — I’m working on two book ideas. One is a “how we got into the mess we got into” type of book. It’s a follow up to my “The Mess we’re in” lecture.

The other is a “8 computers which changed the world” — a bit of history. The “Manchester Small Scale Experimental machine” and “Cray 1" etc.

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve been working on lately?

Functional and Tonal Harmony and a kind of distributed music thing.

Can you give us any hints about upcoming Erlang/OTP features, now that the platform is picking up so much momentum?

Wait and see … I think the momentum is being caused by people discovering features that have been present 15 years ago, not new features. New features are overrated — the old features are pretty good.

An old feature completely understood, is better than a new feature that is misunderstood.

If you add a new feature to a language, it might take ten years before you know if it was a good idea.

I think the place to add new features is in Elixir, not Erlang. If we add anything to Erlang we should probably take something out, since I like keeping things simple. But removing things is terribly difficult.

Does the near future satisfy your childhood expectation? How did you imagine it to be?

Goodness — I don’t know if I had expectations. When I was a child I thought the world was a strange and exciting place. Now I realize it’s even stranger than I could possibly imagine.

I heard a wise man say that the way to happiness was to have extremely low expectations :-)


Joe is speaking at Full Stack Fest 2016 in Barcelona: Super early bird tickets are currently on sale. Don’t miss out the chance to see him & the rest of our amazing speakers on stage!

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Note that we also have a Call For Papers open. We provide paid travel & accommodation for all our speakers, regardless of the selection process. Submit your talk and get early feedback so you increase your chances to get selected!


“The Mess We’re In” — Joe Armstrong at Strange Loop

You can follow Joe Armstrong on Twitter (@joeerl) and on GitHub