Main menu:

Over at my Wordyard blog we're reading and discussing books and essays that shaped today's software world. Join the conversation.

Recent posts about Dreaming in Code from Scott's blog:


All quotations from Open Source Applications Foundation staff and descriptions of scenes at OSAF in this book are drawn from personal observation or based on personal interviews.

About the subtitle: “Two dozen programmers” is a rough tally of the size of the Chandler development team, which started out much smaller and fluctuated over time. “Three years” represents the time I spent observing the Chandler project from January 2003 through December 2005. “4,732 bugs” is the number of bugs entered into the Chandler Bugzilla database on the date I completed writing the manuscript for this book; the number has since climbed.

This page has notes to chapters 0-5. Notes on chapters 6-9 are here. Notes on chapters 10-11 are here.


  • 1 — The game Sumer (also known as Hamurabi or Hammurabi) is documented in Wikipedia at Full Basic code for the game can be found in David H. Ahl, ed., BASIC Computer Games (Creative Computing, 1978).
  • 4 — On “flow,” see Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (Harper Perennial, 1991).
  • 6 — Knuth’s “Software is hard” appears in a number of versions of his “Theory and Practice” talk, for example on p. 134 of Donald E. Knuth, Selected Papers on Computer Science (CSLI Publications/Cambridge University Press, 1996). The explanation of why programmers count from zero is from a Web page titled “So You’ve Hired a Hacker” by Jonathan Hayward of Fordham University, at A. P. Lawrence offers a more technical explanation at
  • 6 — “Maybe you noticed that I’ve called this Chapter 0 . . .”: The occasional practice among programmers of starting books with a Chapter 0 appears to have originated with the classic programming text The C Programming Language, by Brian W. Kernighan and Dennis M. Ritchie (Prentice-Hall, 1978). Ellen Ullman also used it in her essay collection Close to the Machine: Technophilia and Its Discontents (City Lights, 1997).
  • 9 — “Our civilization runs on software” is widely attributed to Bjarne Stroustrup across the Web, and confirmed by him in an email exchange with the author, but is hard to pin down. One original source is in slides from a course he teaches at Texas A&M University where he is a professor:
  • 9 — The Maurice Wilkes quote is from p. 145 of M. V. Wilkes, Memoirs of a Computer Pioneer (MIT Press, 1985) as cited in M. Campbell-Kelly, “The Airy Tape: An Early Chapter on the History of Debugging,” Annals of the History of Computing 14: 4 (1992), pp. 18-28. That article is available at


  • 14 — Netscape developers as a legion of the doomed: See Jamie Zawinski, “Netscape Dorm,” at The conference OSAF staffers attended was the O’Reilly Open Source Conferences held in July 2003.
  • 17 — Brooks’s Law can be found on p. 25 of Frederick Brooks, The Mythical Man-Month Anniversary Edition (Addison Wesley, 1995). “The very unit of effort . . . deceptive myth” is on p. 16.
  • 17 — “Men and months are interchangeable”: Brooks, p. 16.
  • 18 — “Regenerative scheduling disaster”: p. 21.
  • 18 — “Therein lies madness”: p. 25.
  • 18 — “The bearing of a child takes . . .”: p. 17.
  • 18 — “Conceptual integrity”: Brooks, p. 42.
  • 21 — Torvalds’s “Just a hobby” quotation is from his 1991 message announcing the Linux project to the comp.os.minix newsgroup. It is archived many places online, e.g. at
  • 25 — “The total cost of maintaining”: Brooks, p. 121.
  • 26 — “Anyone may use it, fix it, and extend it”: Brooks, p. 6.
  • 26 — “Incompletely delivered”: Brooks, p. 8.
  • 31 — “A baseball manager recognizes”: Brooks, p. 155.


  • 33 — “Sell sugar water”: Steve Jobs’s pitch to John Sculley has become the stuff of legend. The transcript from the PBS documentary Triumph of the Nerds, in which Sculley himself reports it, is a relatively primary source: http://www
  • 35 — Kapor’s estimated $100 million: Business Week, May 30, 1988, p. 92.
  • 36 — “Extricating myself from my own success”: Kapor interview in Inc., January 1, 1987.
  • 37 — The principles behind Agenda are outlined in a development document from the original team, available at James Fallows’s article on Agenda appeared in the Atlantic in May 1992.
  • 42 — Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think” first appeared in the Atlantic in July 1945. It is available at My account of Douglas Engelbart’s work draws on readings from his work collected at the Bootstrap Institute Web site at, as well as the accounts in Thierry Bardini, Bootstrapping (Stanford University Press, 2000); Howard Rheingold, Tools for Thought (Simon & Schuster, 1985); and John Markoff, What the Dormouse Said (Viking, 2005).
  • 45 — “Some astonished visitors”: Bardini, Bootstrapping, p. 145.
  • 46 — “Engelbart, for better or worse”: Alan Kay, quoted in Bardini, Bootstrapping, p. 215.
  • 46 — Jaron Lanier’s story about Marvin Minsky is from a video of the “Engelbart’s Unfinished Revolution” seminar at Stanford, 1998, available at
  • 51 — Robert L. Glass, Software Runaways (Prentice Hall, 1998). Edward Yourdon, Death March (Prentice Hall, 1997). Robert N. Britcher, The Limits of Software (Addison Wesley, 1999).
  • 51 — “May have been the greatest”: Britcher, The Limits of Software, p. 163.
  • 51 — “Like replacing the engine on a car”: Britcher, p. 181.
  • 51 — “The software could not be written”: Britcher, p. 185.
  • 52 — “You can read the Iliad”: Britcher, p. 172.
  • 52 — “One engineer I know”: Britcher, pp. 168-69.
  • 53 — “All programmers are optimists”: Frederick Brooks, The Mythical Man-Month Anniversary Edition (Addison Wesley, 1995), p. 14.
  • 54 — Kapor delivered his “Software Design Manifesto” at the 1990 PC Forum conference. It was later published in Terry Winograd, Bringing Design to Software (Addison Wesley, 1996). It can be found at
  • 55 — “We took the plan out”: From “Painful Birth: Creating New Software Was Agonizing Task for Mitch Kapor Firm” by Paul B. Carroll, Wall Street Journal, May 11, 1990.


  • 61 — “Plan to throw one away” and “promise to deliver a throwaway”: Frederick Brooks, The Mythical Man-Month (Addison Wesley, 1995), pp. 115-16.
  • 64 — “The programmer, like the poet”: Brooks, p. 7.
  • 64 — “The lunatic, the lover, and the poet”: William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V, sc. i.
  • 67 — “Close to the machine”: Title of Ellen Ullman’s book Close to the Machine (City Lights, 1997).
  • 67 — “Virtually eliminate coding and debugging”: The words are from page 2 of a 1954 report titled “Preliminary Report, Specifications for the IBM Mathematical FORmula TRANslating System, FORTRAN,” as cited later in John Backus, “The History of Fortran I, II, and III,” IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 20: 4, (Oct.-Dec., 1998) pp. 68-78, available at
  • 67 — “Hand-to-hand combat with the machine”: Backus’s phrase is quoted in Steve Lohr, Go To: The Story of the Math Majors, Bridge Players, Engineers, Chess Wizards, Maverick Scientists and Iconoclasts — the Programmers Who Created the Software Revolution (Basic, 2001), p. 13.
  • 73 — “One observer’s characterization”: The observer is Danny O’Brien in his NTK newsletter from August 6, 2004, at
  • 74 — “I spent a few weeks trying”: Benjamin Pierce in a June 2001 message on a private mailing list; full quote confirmed in email to author.
  • 79 — Vaporware Hall of Fame: Jon Zilber in MacUser, January 1, 1990.
  • 81 — Dan Gillmor’s piece: “Software Idea May Be Just Crazy Enough to Work,” San Jose Mercury News, October 20, 2002.


  • 87 — David/Rys McCusker’s blog postings are no longer online.
  • 95 — Robert Glass’s observations on “reuse in the small” are from Robert L. Glass, Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering (Addison Wesley, 2003), pp. 43-49.
  • 95 — “It is not a will problem”: Glass, Facts and Fallacies, p. 47.
  • 95 — “Transform programming from a solitary”: This and later quotes from Brad Cox are from Cox’s “Planning the Software Industrial Revolution,” IEEE Software, November 1990, and also at
  • 96 — Brad Cox, Superdistribution: Objects as Property on the Electronic Frontier (Addison Wesley, 1995).
  • 97 — “They do have an economic model”: Author interview with Brad Cox, June 2005.
  • 97 — “Unfortunately, most programmers like to program”: Larry L. Constantine, Constantine on Peopleware (Prentice Hall, 1995), pp. 123-24.


  • 126 — “Management is about human beings”: Peter Drucker, “Management as Social Function and Liberal Art,” in The Essential Drucker (Harper Business, 2001), p. 10.
  • 130 — According to, geek “is a variant of geck, a term of Low German/Dutch origin that dates in English to 1511. It means a fool, simpleton, or dupe.” Geck appears in Twelfth Night, Act V, scene i; a variant, geeke, turns up in Cymbeline, Act V, scene iv.
  • 130 — “One who eats (computer) bugs”: The original definition of computer geek is from Eric Raymond, ed., The New Hacker’s Dictionary, 3rd ed. (MIT Press, 1996), p. 120.
  • 133 — “A lot of people feel that”: Abby Mackness presentation at the Systems & Software Technology Conference, Salt Lake City, April 2004.
  • 135 — “The typical behavior of a student”: Gerald Weinberg,The Psychology of Computer Programming, Silver Anniversary Edition (Dorset House, 1998), p. 50.
  • 138 — “I figured, OK, I’m running this repository”: Ward Cunningham’s talk at the OOPSLA Conference, October 2004,Vancouver, B.C.
  • 142 — Brooks’s discussion of the Tower of Babel is in The Mythical Man-Month Anniversary Edition, (Addison Wesley, 1995), p. 74.

On to the notes for Chapters 6-9