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Lately I have been learning of more and more programmers who think that if they were working alone, they would be faster and would deliver more quality. Usually that feeling is attached to a feeling that they do the best programming in their team and at the end of the day the idea is quite plausible. If they ARE doing the best programming, and worked alone (and more maybe) the final result would be a better piece of software.

I know this idea would only work if you were passionate enough to work 24/7, on a deadline, with great discipline.

So after considering the idea and trying to learn a little more, I wonder if there are famous one-man-army programmers that have delivered any (useful) software in the past?


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Net productivity drops when hours go to high. Don't assume the best of the best are there merely because they invest more time. If that were the case, anyone could become a great programmer. – Brian Feb 9 '09 at 20:31
@Brian, well yea, i kind of a agree, but your know being persistent and giving a lot of time to (learning and developing) programming is a huge part of the key element of all the famous software – DFectuoso Feb 9 '09 at 20:41
Wow it will be interesting who of this guys will get more votes, its quite an impressive list – DFectuoso Feb 9 '09 at 21:00
Most of the answers are wrong. Anders didn't build C# or Turbo Pascal all by himself, for example. – Robert S. Feb 10 '09 at 2:01
Its weird that the number of votes to close is constant, while this question have 22 up votes and 14 favs, it only needs 4 votes to have it closed huh? – DFectuoso Feb 10 '09 at 17:21

111 Answers 111

  • Mike Pall: singlehandedly wrote LuaJIT, which is arguably the fastest dynamic language VM ever created.
  • Fabrice Bellard: created ffmpeg, qemu, TCC, and on the side also discovered the fastest known algorithm for calculating the nth digit of pi.
  • Julian Seward: created bzip2 and Valgrind.

Some personal favorites

Avery Lee of Virtualdub - Not really widespread use but the amount of code is impressive, not to mention he seems to have an obsession in assembly optimizing everything.

Gabest of Media Player Classic - As far as lines of code and impact, I think he deserves some appreciation for its early development.


Austin Meyer, creator of X-Plane.

See this story.

Pilot and programmer how come that he just got one (mine) upvote.. – Nils Feb 13 '11 at 11:29

Justin Frankel - creator of Winamp and Gnutella, the first serverless P2P system, still in use


Markus Persson("Notch") is the one guy behind the game design, programming and graphics of Minecraft.


Eddir Kohler, author of the Click modular router


Some not yet mentioned

  • L. Peter Deutsch - Ghostscript, PDP 1 version of Lisp (at 12)
  • Notch creator of MineCraft

Charles Simonyi (Microsoft Word and Excel)

Simon Peyton-Jones (Haskell)

Joe Armstrong (Erlang)

Bertrand Meyer (Eiffel)


Daisuke Amaya aka Pixel

He created Cave Story.


Allan Odgaard, author of TextMate.


Andrew Tridgell.

rsync & samba


How about Jeff Atwood? He created this website you're using right now.


Carl Friedrich Gauss - the man behind most of humanities understanding probably fits this description.

doesn't count as programmer I would say.. – Nils Feb 13 '11 at 11:28

Brian O'Kelley - king of Ad tech


I would posit that most really cool software came from one person. We could just as well ask "Does anyone know of any brilliantly designed software out there that is the result of a committee rather than a single individual?"


Paul Lutus developed Apple Writer alone in a remote cabin in Oregon. He still puts out some excellent ruby and python scripts.


James Clark wrote groff, sgmls, expat, and was a key contributor in creating XML and Relax NG.


Gabriel Weinberg, creator of DuckDuckGo.


Lennart Poettering - Author of Avahi, pulseaudio , systemd

He is also know for his famous alternative patch to linux kernel for the performance optimization – zer0c00l Feb 13 '11 at 8:49

Chris Crawford (of Atari, at the time) author of numerous ground-breaking games, including Eastern Front (1941) and Balance of Power.


Chuck Norris. What? You didn't know he could program too? =)


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