Talking C++

Published January 25th ,2020 at 8:41pm  
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Lets rewind a little bit. There are a lot of stories floating around about how you created C++ at Bell Labs in 79. Can you give us a window to that worldwhat brought you to Bell Labs? What was life like there?
In the 1970s, 80s, and 90s,

Let’s rewind a little bit. There are a lot of stories floating around about how you created C++ at Bell Labs in ’79. Can you give us a window to that world—what brought you to Bell Labs? What was life like there?

In the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, Bell Labs Computer Science Research Center was the greatest place on earth for practical computer science—and some theoretical CS also.

There was no place like it. Towards the end of my Ph.D. studies in Cambridge, I called someone from Bell Labs who had visited to give a talk and asked if they had any jobs. They didn’t but I was welcome to stop by and present my work. I did and after days of grueling interviewing, it turned out that they had a position after all.


The number of really bright, knowledgeable, and creative people was extraordinary. Many were also extremely patient listeners and helpful in developing new ideas and systems. Whatever you wanted to know about, you’d find an expert nearby. The building in Murray Hill where the core research was located had about 1000 PhDs in a variety of scientific and engineering fields. Researchers were given a lot of freedom to choose what to work on—much more than was the case in most other places, then and now. All that was required was that eventually, you produced something great. That sounds cushy, but the ideas of what constituted “great” was quite demanding; to quote the Wikipedia:

“Researchers working at Bell Labs are credited with the development of radio astronomy, the transistor, the laser, the photovoltaic cell, the charge-coupled device (CCD), information theory, the Unix operating system, and the programming languages C, C++, and S. Nine Nobel Prizes have been awarded for work completed at Bell Laboratories.”

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Kwame Duodu

Am a computer programmer

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