Anders Hejlsberg

2010 Career Achievement
Over the past two decades, Hejlsberg’s myriad technical innovations have profoundly improved developer productivity.

When we say the world has been transformed by the magic of software, we are really tipping our hats to the millions of developers working behind the scenes as the drivers of that change. And driving those drivers is Microsoft Technical Fellow Anders Hejlsberg, a man who has fundamentally changed how developers build software, giving them more productive and powerful frameworks, more elegant and higher-level languages, and a more tightly integrated toolset.

Hejlsberg is no stranger to the Technical Recognition Awards: He and his C# team shared the Outstanding Technical Achievement Award in 2007. But in awarding him the 2010 Career Achievement Award, Microsoft is now recognizing his entire body of work, one that has been profoundly important in improving developer productivity over the last 20 years.

Hejlsberg had already made his mark on the developer world before joining Microsoft in 1996. His achievements in PolyPascal, Turbo Pascal, and Borland Delphi were all groundbreaking; Turbo Pascal in particular set a productivity standard for its day, and served as the "first IDE" (Integrated Development Environment) for a generation of developers.

After joining Microsoft, Hejlsberg led the company’s efforts in Visual J++ and Windows Foundation Classes (WFC). By pairing a highly productive Java development environment with a Windows class library without the least common denominator problem of other Java frameworks, Hejlsberg helped make Visual J++ the most popular and most productive Java IDE in the late '90s.

It was then that Hejlsberg proposed designing a new language that would be delivered synchronously with the .NET framework. "At the time there were two camps, debating what we were going to do," recalls Hejlsberg. "There was sort of the evolutionaries or the revolutionaries. I was pretty much in the revolutionaries' camp. I felt that it was not good enough to just modernize what we already had, or try to fix some of the problems. I thought we were at an inflection point, and the time was right for us to clean out the closet and build new, and get rid of all the old ghosts, if you will. Of course there was a lot of back and forth on that, and I was by no means the only person advocating this, but certainly I was part of that.

"I felt there was a need for us to build a new programming language. I also had come to see that Microsoft functions best when it controls its own destiny. This was an opportunity for us to build a language that would best suit our customers, as opposed to trying to build on someone else's technology, or trying to reinvent an existing thing."

Hejlsberg led this idea from its conception, starting with his "What is Cool" paper that defined the essential elements, and then working through delivery of Visual C# .NET 2002 and Visual C# 2003, 2005, and 2008. Hejlsberg's recent work on Language Integrated Query (LINQ), including support in multiple languages (C# and VB) and multiple data domains (objects, relational, XML, DataSet, and others) has helped establish Microsoft as a thought leader in programming language, object-relational mapping, and data/language integration. This work is breaking down the barriers separating the worlds of object-oriented programming languages, relational databases, and XML documents. Hejlsberg and his team's work on C# and .NET helped both gain immense popularity.

Today, the number of .NET developers worldwide surpasses the number of Java developers, and C# is one of the most popular and fastest growing languages in the industry. Quite an achievement for a man who began his career 30 years ago in a Copenhagen computer store, coding on 8-bit kit computers.

"It gives you great pleasure to know that millions of developers, day to day, make their living using the software that you created," says Hejlsberg. "That's about as good as it gets in this industry, in terms of job satisfaction. It makes you feel that your work is highly relevant to a lot of people. That's very satisfying."

Watch our Behind-the-Code broadcast to learn more about Hejlsberg.

View Hejlsberg's official press profile.