I’ve never talked about my professional life here, but today the software world lost a giant, albeit one most developers have never heard of.

Joe Armstrong was an engineer at Ericsson when he and two others developed a new programming language designed for telecom switches called Erlang. It was a very pragmatic, practical language designed to solve hard engineering problems. It never had a marketing machine behind it like Java, nor was it exposed directly to users like JavaScript, and was never pushed hard by its corporate sponsor like Go; in fact, Ericsson at one point banned it because the world was obviously going with C++ so what was the point?


Fortunately that brief period of exile made it possible for those who loved it to make it open source, and it has been a staple of backend systems programming ever since. For a few glorious years it was the language I used in my daily job, and all else pales before it in my eyes. If you’re really curious what makes it so special, and can put up with me lecturing you on the topic, you can see my favorite talk here:

Joe was a renaissance man in the best ways, always curious about the world around him, both technical and not. I’ve never met someone his age, or almost any age, with such a strong passion to learn about everything.

I suppose you could say we were friends; we spent some quality time together several years ago, and I’m pretty sure he’s my only contact on LinkedIn. My career has gone in a different direction and we haven’t talked in quite a while, so it was a shock today to discover that he passed away a few hours ago, seemingly unexpectedly.

Joe, I don’t think I’ve on my best day ever been as passionate and curious about technology as you were on your worst. I hope I can find a way to channel some of that, and I promise I’ll finally go look up that water painter you told me about years ago.


Rest In Peace.