Keynote: What Programming is Really About

Mike Williams
Co-inventor of Erlang

Programming is a constructive art, not a science and in most cases will remain so. Being an art, it is a trial and error process. No specification is ever complete and the minute details of what is required and how it is to be done are added successively as a program is developed.

This talk will illustrate some of the popular misconceptions about programming and try to show how things really get done. Technology like Erlang fits in with this reality.


Mike is originally from South Wales, but has in fact lived in Sweden longer than he has anywhere else. He now lives in Pembrokeshire in West Wales.

Way back in the 1960's after working as a Atheistic Missionary in Malawi, Mike went to University in Cambridge where he learnt a lot about drinking beer and rather less about "Mechanical Sciences". He then moved to Sweden in 1970 (guess why :-) and joined Ericsson as a hardware designer. The price of beer in Sweden being horrendously expensive enabled Mike to concentrate on other things, He joined Bjarne Dacker and a few others to found the Ericsson Computer Science Laboratory 1980. One of the things they did in the Computer Science lab was to "invent" Erlang. Mike's role was to develop the first Erlang virtual machine (Joe developed the compiler and machine architecture, Robert made his own Erlang VM and wrote the first libraries). He worked out the primitives for fault handling and dynamic code replacement.

In 1990 Mike glided into management by a complete accident, and found he rather liked it. He has been in charge of both large and small units which develop software in Ericsson. In 2012 Mike retired from Ericsson and joined the Board of Directors at Erlang Solutions.

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