Many people believe that Linus Torvalds should rank first among the gods that programmers should worship, because he is the creator of Linux and Git.

However, I will attempt to refute this viewpoint, because there is another great programmer on Earth, whose development tools are used by over four million coders to make a living.

Linus has only used C programming for less than 30 years, and this legendary programmer has been creating trendsetting development tools (Turbo Pascal/Delphi/C#/TypeScript) for nearly four decades.

He is Anders Hejlsberg.

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Anders does not have a university degree, but this is not important at all. Bob Muglia, the head of Microsoft’s Server division, believed that there are only a few people in the world who can create great development tool architectures, and Anders is one of the best, at the very top of the top.

At that time, Anders was working at Borland, a competitor of Microsoft. Microsoft tried to poach him for a year, but all attempts were politely declined.

Bill Gates called Anders and asked: “What can I do to make you come?” Later, Anders remembered this as a particularly awkward moment in his life. He was already financially independent and only wanted to do what he loved.

In 1996, there were some disagreements among Anders and Borland’s senior management. Taking advantage of the situation, Microsoft offered a high salary of three million dollars per year along with the promise of full collaboration resources. As a result, this hero was finally recruited to their team. Judging from the contributions he made later, even if Microsoft paid thirty million dollars for Anders, it would not have been a loss.

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Anders was born in Denmark in 1960, into a typical technology family - his father was an engineer at Motorola. Anders started programming while he was in middle school, using an HP 2100 with paper tape programming. While in college, a senior student who loved playing the Mousehole card game kept losing money to Anders and was impressed with his skills. The senior student decided to partner with Anders to form a small company called Polydata.

Anders has a Z80 computer with only a 4Mhz CPU and 32K memory, and it has Microsoft Basic installed on it. However, he quickly grew tired of playing with it after just one day and started playing with assembly language instead. A prodigy at the age of 20, he managed to write a Pascal compiler in just two or three weeks and sold it to a company in England. After that, he dropped out of school and rewrote his Pascal compiler on multiple platforms, including DOS.

In 1983, Borland was still a Danish company and had created a poor-quality compiler on their own. They then discovered Anders and purchased his compiler, which was integrated into Turbo Pascal. The Microsoft CTO once stated on a program that this was probably the first true integrated development environment (IDE) on a PC, but Anders humbly claimed he was unaware of this.

At that time, Anders had not joined Borland because Borland had moved to Silicon Valley. Anders chose remote services because there was no internet or email at that time, and code was sent via FedEx.

In 1989, due to poor performance of his own company, Polydata, and his girlfriend’s longing to go to the United States, Anders decided to join Borland.

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Borland was naturally thrilled and appointed Anders as the chief programmer. Following the success of Turbo Pascal, Borland released Turbo C, which further cemented their reputation. It seems that the first generation of Chinese programmers primarily used Turbo C, including the great comrade Wang Xiaobo.

Anders’ main task was to secretly develop a super IDE with a visual environment: Delphi. At the time, Microsoft had already released their own highly praised Visual Basic, but when it came to directly compiling binary EXEs, Delphi was instantly deemed superior.

Delphi uses Object Pascal, whose language design is extremely elegant and perfectly geared towards object-oriented programming. It seamlessly integrates with databases and allows for direct manipulation of the operating system (including hardware and networking), making it an ideal tool for developing native Windows programs. Interestingly, the VCL and RTL libraries in Delphi were developed using Delphi itself, and the included source code enables programmers to learn from the true masters of programming.


Delphi 2 screenshot.

In previous years, many renowned programs in China were developed using Delphi, including Zhang Xiaolong’s Foxmail and Lei Jun’s WPS.

Later, the famous Borland C++ was directly ported onto Delphi, which is now known as C++ Builder.

At this moment, I seemed to hear Gates sighing, saying “I must have this person.”

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When Anders joined Microsoft, the Internet was undergoing a huge upheaval. Sun had just released Java, a cross-platform language that can run anywhere, making Microsoft feel threatened and prompting them to quickly develop Visual J++ and WFC. Anders became the key figure in these developments. VJ++ quickly became the fastest Java compiler in the world, and supported Microsoft’s eco-products, such as ActiveX.

Sun discovered that Microsoft did not use its own Java virtual machine and instead created something faster. They were deeply concerned that Microsoft was fragmenting Java, so they promptly sued Microsoft. As a result, Microsoft lost the lawsuit and was forced to admit on the VJ++ page that it was not compatible with Sun’s Java, which ultimately led to the failure of VJ++.

Anders experienced his first product failure not due to performance issues, and he admits his naivete. However, he quickly recovered and reverted to his expertise, stating that Microsoft should develop a platform to compete with Java.

This is the C# and .NET platform released in 2000. C#, designed by Anders, is a beautiful object-oriented language with speeds often faster than Java. Over a decade has passed, and C# remains one of the main languages for internet development.

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In recent years, the popularity of open source software has been on the rise, with PHP/Python/Ruby/Swift and others gaining increasing attention. The younger generation has even forgotten about elders like Anders. However, unexpectedly, the master returns to the forefront once again.

JavaScript (JS) is the most widely used scripting language on the internet. This was not originally Anders’ forte, as he specializes in high-level machine code compilers rather than low-level scripts. However, Anders once again shocked the programming community with the release of TypeScript.

TypeScript is a tool that compiles to JavaScript and is a superset of JS. It can be used to output not only client-side JS, but also the popular server-side Node.js. TypeScript significantly improves programmer efficiency and reduces the likelihood of errors when writing JS.

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In the current time where many emerging languages are becoming increasingly bloated and complex, how do programmers evaluate Anders’s work? They describe it as tasteful, elegant, and concise. Anders says this is because he is passionate about programming.

Anders, who is almost 60 years old, is still coding today. He believes that if he stops writing code, he will become out-of-touch and forget what programmers truly need. We can still see him submitting code to Github every month.

(github screenshot)

I myself used Delphi in the 1990s, so there is certainly some bias in my ranking it as number one. Therefore, with this article, I pay tribute to the greatest programmer in my mind: Anders Hejlsberg.