Bjarne Stroustrup
Creator of C++

How C++ Combats Global Warming

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Stroustrup talks about exciting trends in technology and about how the efficiency of C++ is helping save the environment.

Bjarne Stroustrup


Bjarne Stroustrup designed and implemented C++. Over the last decade, C++ has become the most widely used language supporting object-oriented programming by making abstraction techniques affordable and manageable for mainstream projects. Using C++ as his tool, Stroustrup has pioneered the use of object-oriented and generic programming techniques in application areas where efficiency is a premium; examples include general systems programming, switching, simulation, graphics, user-interfaces, embedded systems, and scientific computation. The influence of C++ and the ideas it popularized are clearly visible far beyond the C++ community. Languages including C, C#, Java, and Fortran99 provide features pioneered for mainstream use by C++, as do systems such as COM and CORBA.
His book "The C++ Programming Language" (Addison-Wesley, first edition 1985, second edition 1991, third edition 1997, "special" edition 2000) is the most widely read book of its kind and has been translated into at least 19 languages. A later book, "The Design and Evolution of C++" (Addison-Wesley, 1994) broke new ground in the description of the way a programming language was shaped by ideas, ideals, problems, and practical constraints. In addition to his five books, Stroustrup has published more than a hundred academic and more popular papers.

Bjarne Stroustrup is a computer programmer most famous for having designed and implemented the computer programming language C++, one of the most widely used programming languages in the world. His book "The C++ Programming Language" is the most widely read book of its kind and has been translated into at least 19 languages. In addition to his five books, Stroustrup has published hundreds of academic and popular papers. He currently holds the College of Engineering Chair in Computer Science at Texas A&M University. 



Question: What are the most interesting trends in technology?

Bjarne Stroustrup:
Many things are interesting these days.  The interesting thing for me is the computers they have inside it.  And so when you see things, cars driving down there, planes flying and such, you can see them as a distributed computing system with wings or distributed computing system with wheels.  

I was over in Germany earlier in the year to speak to the German automotive software conference.  And I don’t know much about programming cars, but I got an invitation to go down and see how they programmed the BMWs, which is C++, so that'll be interesting.  Not that the other weren’t, but those are cool cars.  And I’ve worked with some people up at Lockheed Martin where they build the F-35s, the new fighter planes, which is C++ also.  So I get some insight in how things are used.  

And so at the bottom of all of this is the technology of the hardware, there’s the technology of the communications stuff between it, networking, and on the hardware side what has happened a lot is the multi-cores.  You get concurrent programming both from the physical distribution and for the... what’s under the chip themselves.  And this is interesting to me because my PhD topic was distribution and concurrency and such.  So I’ve been looking at that.  So that’s interesting.  

And a lot of the most interesting applications these days fall into that category. Take our cell phones: the last time I looked there are several processes.  Take a single... take an SLR camera, it’s got five or six processors in it and the cobble in the lenses, I mean, that's some interesting code there.  And so whether you think of that as technology or gadgets.  I think of them as a gadget.  I mean a cell phone or a new jetliner, they’re gadgets.  They are things you program and there’s programs in it, there’s techniques, lots of computers.  

What I haven’t talked about much about, and what I don’t think that much about is sort of the web kind of thing and the web business.  From my perspective, that’s somebody else’s business except when the scale becomes really huge.  So you have things like the Google search engines with C++ and I get interested, they get interested.  Facebook has recently turned to C++ because they needed the performance.  I guess in some way of saying here’s my contribution to dealing with global warming because if you can double the efficiency of those systems, you don’t need yet another server farm that uses as much energy as a small town.  

So my view is that the software and there’s computers in just about everything and if you look at interesting things, well, you find it.

Recorded August 12, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller