Please put a direct link to it.


  • Still available online (please put a direct link to it)
  • Must be a speech from a current or former developer
  • Speaker's popularity doesn't matter
  • Target audience should be other developers
  • It is not required that the topic is programming (the task). I'm more looking for subject generally developing here within P.SE rather than SO.
  • Explain why it was inspiring

(please, native english speaker, edit my question)

14 Answers 14


Alan Kay's OOPSLA 1997 speech: The Computer Revolution hasn't happened yet.

  • Hey that's a very interesting one! – user2567 Nov 21 '10 at 15:52
  • 4
    "Arrogance in CS is measured in nano-Dijkstras." Ha ha! – Barry Brown Nov 21 '10 at 19:24
  • I disagree with what he says about HTML. Maybe even he disagrees now. I couldn't do much with HTML as a format if it had lots of proprietary encodings. – Camilo Martin Nov 22 '10 at 20:20
  • It's not about encodings - it's about shipping the data and the operations you can perform on the data together. object = structure + methods. – Frank Shearar Jan 13 '11 at 15:31

I like Guy Steele's Growing a Language. I find it thought-provoking on a number of levels -- not least of which is that I get to know what a computer feels like while it is being programmed by a master :)

  • Just watched it. That was pretty cool. Though I expected him to say more about Lisp. – Barry Brown Nov 21 '10 at 22:19
  • "Fifty is one more than seven-squared." Brilliant talk! – JxB Dec 1 '11 at 4:51

Doug Engelbart: The Demo

Doug Engelbart giving the "mother of all Demos" 1968


Doug's 1968 Demo - web page with links to various versions and archived various at sites, from Douglas Engelbart's web site.

It's unbelievable what was invented back then!

  • Alan Kay has a number of clips from this demo in his OOPSLA speech. Simply amazing stuff. – Frank Shearar Nov 21 '10 at 15:31
  • Sorry, it's Ivan Sutherland's Sketchpad that I was thinking of. – Frank Shearar Nov 21 '10 at 16:20
  • 2
    Englebart's computer makes ours look lame. We might be dwarfs, standing on the toes of giants. – Tim Williscroft Nov 21 '10 at 21:57
  • Indeed, this is friggin' amazing. Even more so if you consider that they had already been using the system for quite some time before that demo. It's really quite sad that we still cannot even do 10% of what they were already capable of in the 60s. – Jörg W Mittag Nov 22 '10 at 4:05

Steve Jobs' commencement speech at Stanford, 2005


3 stories...

  • 4
    Shaky on steve jobs being a programmer though.. – rsman Nov 21 '10 at 17:04

I like Balmer's speech Developer developer developers... and on and on.. Simply because it is entusiastic. How many people we know who love thier jobs so passionaltely.


  • 3
    Or sweat so profusely ..... – Tim Post Nov 21 '10 at 15:03
  • Lol !! very true :-) but makes it look more enrgetic and passionate. – Geek Nov 21 '10 at 15:06

This speech is my current favorite. It's Why the Lucky Stiff's talk at the Art && Code Symposium discussing the problems with the way we currently teach programming. I will admit it might not be the best or most inspiring speech on the list, but I believe the story of _why brings it to another level.

  • _why is one of the most inspiring programmers I have ever run across. The man was more artist than programmer and yet he was a HUGE influence on the Ruby language and its community. – James P. Wright Sep 16 '12 at 21:58

50 in 50 by Guy L. Steele, Jr. and Richard "Dick" P. Gabriel. If you have seen either Dick Gabriel or Guy Steele speak, you might think you can imagine what an experience this is going to be. You're wrong.

Describing it as "Live Multimedia Performance Art Poetry Slam" doesn't even come close to doing it justice.

The topic of this "talk" is to celebrate 50 historically important, relevant, interesting, strange, curious and sometimes just plain silly programming languages in 50 words each.

  • 50 in 50 is right up there with Steele's Growing a Language. – Frank Shearar Nov 22 '10 at 23:36

Integration Tests are a scam made me realize how unit tests are supposed to be written.



JavaScript: The Good Parts by Doug Crockford

JavaScript is a language with more than its share of bad parts. It went from non-existence to global adoption in an alarmingly short period of time. It never had an interval in the lab when it could be tried out and polished. JavaScript has some extraordinarily good parts. In JavaScript there is a beautiful, highly expressive language that is buried under a steaming pile of good intentions and blunders. The best nature of JavaScript was so effectively hidden that for many years the prevailing opinion of JavaScript was that it was an unsightly, incompetent abomination. This session will expose the goodness in JavaScript, an outstanding dynamic programming language. Within the language is an elegant subset that is vastly superior to the language as a whole, being more reliable, readable and maintainable.


The Principles of Agile Design: http://www.infoq.com/presentations/principles-agile-oo-design

Pretty much hits the nail on the head as to why your code becomes unmanegable as time goes by, and what can be done about it.


Rich Hickey's Clojure presentation at the JVM Languages Summit 2008 led me to try it out: http://www.infoq.com/presentations/hickey-clojure


Steve Yegge's talk at OSCON 2007: How to Ignore Marketing and Become Irrelevant in Two Easy Steps.

This talk is inspiring because he did the whole thing with broken PowerPoint slides. The focus of the talk should be on the speaker, not the slides, and the lack of slides did not detract from his talk at all.


“Humanity: Epic FAIL” – Jon Skeet at Stack Overflow Dev Days London was a speech I found pretty inspiring. As the speech shows how computers can have problems with speech, numbers and time, it gave me hope for the future that we may yet beat some of these challenges. There is a fair bit of humor in the speech which may or may not help those watching it.


"The Joys of the Craft" by Frederick P. Brooks Jr in "The Mythical Man Month". Doesn't quite fit your requirement of being a speech - but for me it is still the one essay that perfectly captures the soul of programming.