Writing software. Fast.

Inspired by Elad Gil’s blogpost and Patrick Collison’s website, I’ve compiled a list of people that hacked something together in a relatively short period of time. Most of them did it because they wanted to solve a problem they experienced (reminds me of starting a startup).

The list may be a refresher to some folks but I hope you find it inspiring nonetheless. Obviously we can’t overlook the role of luck so let’s also keep that in mind.

  • Isaac Schlueter created NPM because he didn’t like the way modules were packaged.
  • Marc Andreessen wrote Mosaic (first internet web browser that actually worked) when he was ~21 yo.
  • Guido van Rossum created Python as a “‘hobby’ programming project that would keep [him] occupied during the week around Christmas”.
  • Brendan Eich wrote the first implementation of JavaScript in 10 days.
  • Adrian Holovaty and Simon Willison created Django while building the website for a newspaper publisher (they weren’t even working at a fancy tech company).
  • Ryan Dahl wrote the earlier implementation of NodeJS in less than a year.
  • Paul Buchheit created Gmail even though email was considered too late (Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, etc). He wasn’t happy with existing email providers.
  • Jordan Walke created React after being inspired by XHP and shipped a search element on FB.
  • Vitalik Buterin published Ethereum whitepaper when he was ~21 yo.
  • Chris Lattner designed and implemented LLVM… and Swift programming language.
  • Linus Torvalds built his own operating system (Linux) after being frustrated by the licensing of MINIX at which time was limited to educational purposes only.
  • David Axmark and Michael Widenius created MySQL for personal usage from mSQL based on the low-level language ISAM, which they considered too slow.
  • Rasmus Lerdorf ended up creating PHP while trying to maintain his own personal website.
  • Roy Fielding came up with the idea of REST… and HTTP 1.1 when he realized that the web at the time was terribly designed.
  • Håkon Wium Lie proposed CSS while working with Tim Berners-Lee at CERN.
  • Tony Hoare developed the Quicksort algorithm while visiting the Soviet Union. Insertion Sort (which he also created) was apparently not fast enough to sort words in Russian sentences so he eventually developed Quicksort.
  • Trygve Reenskaug came up with the MVC design pattern when he wanted to create a solution to the problem of users controlling a large and complex data set.