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 where enough passionate to work 24/7, on a deadline, and 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?

+124  A: 

Donald Knuth

Sean Bright
Indeed. He wrote every line of code of TeX himself, and I believe the same is true of Metafont as well. [He often have discussions with other people about important decisions, but all the code was written alone.]
oh. don't forget that he wrote TeX ON PAPER in a notebook completely then just 'typed it in'... oh and he invented a new style (Literate programming) in the process too.
Kevin Won
+1 Knuth - it easy to overlook that the second word of The Art of Computer Programming is "art" when the whole book is an extremely dense manifesto of highly efficient data structures and algorithms. But it really and truly is an art form rather than a science or engineering discipline.
Robert Davis
+86  A: 

Linus Torvalds

Andy Mikula
Linus is more of a manager type then pure dev. the first revision of linux really sucked, it was only after he got others involved that it got good
Matt Briggs
Exactly. Git is the same way. Linus needs a team :)
ditto, and Linus would be the first to tell you where his strengths lie, and dev is not his best skill. Great guy, btw.
Agreed - but there's no disputing that he's famous and has delivered useful software :)
Andy Mikula
Development _is_ a good skill of Linus. He designed and wrote the initial version of Git in about 2 weeks, which was functional.
Eduard - Gabriel Munteanu
Linus doesn't belong here... he doesn't believe in one-man-army programmers
lubos hasko
"the first revision of linux really sucked" If you look at the original code I agree. It is suck a mess and probably still hurts the Linux kernel today. And I still wonder if the monolithic approach was the best way to go.
Berlin Brown
Well, Linus _is_ the army. Whatever he starts, the huge army appears out of nowhere and produces something huge. So, no Linus, no army :)
Dev er dev
Linus wrote his initial kernel on his own because only he appreciated the monolithic design at the time. Once it was out, he happily welcomed other contributors. I think the OP wants examples of a consistent one man army .. someone who just _always_ wants to work alone.
Tim Post
Linus's success is based on not being a one-man-army. The GPL was a very important decision of his.
@tinkertim - there are no such people. Working with others and being ready to compromise is as improtant as programming knowledge itself. The ones you think that always work alone are just the ones that were much more in the spotlight, so you never thought about the others.
+30  A: 

Jon Skeet

So that can't be correct he is a micro celebrity.

David Basarab
When does Jon Skeet have time for *programming*?
He has an NMI fire every 8ns during which he stops answering prayers and writes several bug-free programs.
+1 Just for the comment xD
Andrea Ambu
+1 also from me for the comments :-)
@jrockway: Jon uses Butterflies:
+1 It is Skeet!
What has he worked on?
He's a book writer, forum commenter, not a one-man-arm programmer..
Jon Skeet writes code whilst sleeping.
+16  A: 

This isn't just a feeling, this is the an article in the 20th anniversary edition of a book by Frederick Brooks called The Mythical Man Month. This is actually, I would guess, a very frequent situation. The personality of a software developer leads itself to being somewhat independent anyways. I don't know of prime examples, but you may be interested in the book I linked above.

David Morton
You're not far off, but the theme of MMM is "Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later," also known as Brooks law.
Bill the Lizard
The "No Silver Bullet" article in MMM says: "Study after study shows that the very best designers produce structures that are faster, smaller, simpler, cleaner, and produced with less effort. The differences between the great and the average approach an order of magnitude."
Esko Luontola
It's actually only the theme of that one essay.
Fabian Steeg
But it's the one everyone remembers!
First, the theme of NSB is "that there will be no more technologies or practices that will serve as "silver bullets" and create a twofold improvement in programmer productivity over two years". Second, that article didn't even appear in the original MMM. It got added to the 20th anniversary edition.
Bill the Lizard
I give! So noted.
David Morton
@David: Sorry, I didn't mean to get so pedantic on you. :)
Bill the Lizard
great book, I`ve enjoyed it a lot
+41  A: 

Yukihiro Matsumoto did deliver a lot of Ruby all by himself. Ruby's popular now, and lots of people have contributed to it, but he did single-handedly start the ball rolling.

Chris Lutz
+62  A: 

Bill Joy - wrote vi as well as csh, rlogin, rsh, and rcp

Graeme Perrow
Someone buy that man a dictionary!
Mike Robinson
Some might consider those programs to be a good reason to use the word infamous instead. Or at least vi and csh. ;)
Chris Charabaruk
Wasn't Java developed by James Gosling?
Bruce Alderman
Not to mention the TCP/IP stack for BSD:
+5  A: 

Paul Vixie.

+83  A: 

Chris Sawyer. He had a little help with music and graphics, but otherwise RollerCoaster Tycoon was all him. Amazing, especially given the physics engine. Last but not least, the entire game was written in assembly language.

Michael Itzoe
Don't forget Transport Tycoon, which probably has a bigger cult following than RCT.
Erik Forbes
All in assembly too!
That game was the shit back when I was, like, 12.
Chris Lutz
@Chris: And I was in my 30's and playing that game. Are you trying to make some of us feel old?
I just thought that Chris was like 15 now until I checked his profile. Someone stole some years somewhere. ;)
Fastest gun in the West --- you beat me by 5 seconds :) Good thing you added the thing about assembler --- that's what I still find the most striking thing :D
Erik: Indeed, just look at OpenTTD.
That OpenTTD exists is a testament to how enjoyable Transport Tycoon was.
Is it sad that I still play that game from time to time?
Matt Jordan
Had no idea that was built with ASM. Amazing.
David McGraw
is there any reason other than "because I can" he ever gave for doing it in ASM???
Because computers were slow back then, and this game didnt use a videocard to make fast moving first person roller coasters!
Simucal++. I remember TTD as one of the most stable games I could play on my mid-range Win95 Pentium 1. Running in a fullsize DOS window, I remember it hanging *once*, total loss of keyboard and mouse - for about six minutes. Then it just came back to life and carried on trucking. Unbelievable.
+1 Erik for 1st person to mention Transport Tycoon. I *loved* that game liked 10 years ago and had the urge to play it a year ago, so installed it and played it - still good :)
Wow, I loved RCT, I can't believe it was done in assembly. I need to go play it again just based on that fact!
+38  A: 

Oren Eini aka Ayende Rahien, author of Rhino Mocks and other great open source tools. His is some of the best and most elegant code around.

Oren must write code in his sleep, his output is simply tremendous. +1
Matt Briggs
Not only that, but he also posts a whole lot of info on his blog. I suspect he is actually 3 or 4 people :-P Seriously, he is working on a commercial product, a bunch of open source tools, a blog with multiple updates a day. All of this concurrently.
Jamie Penney
He is a MACHINE.
+63  A: 

Guido van Rossum (author of Python)

+89  A: 

Richard M. Stallman (RMS). While known recently for political rants about closed source software, in his day he was quite the programmer. He single handedly kept up with commercial lisp machine code for quite some time. Emacs and gcc are some of the things he created.

There's a great description of him in the book in Hackers by Steven Levy.

Steve Rowe
That's a great book!
I liked his work with emacs, but it is too bad I haven't heard about any other projects.
Berlin Brown
Berlin: like gcc, gdb and make?
RMS was a one man army keeping up with commercial LISP machines only because he was the only one nuts enough and able to do it :) He did the initial emacs on his own because the concept was just too complex to articulate to anyone else.. but after that, he happily worked with others.
Tim Post
I didn't realize he wrote gcc as well. Learn something new every day.
Jason Baker
In his defense, Symbolics people would design Lisp machines probably sitting around offices and tables, allowing RMS to hack up imitations on MIT systems of their designs and feature decisions. He would become a one-man army again to keep Emacs apace with the XEmacs fork.
+10  A: 

John McCarthy -- wrote the first version of lisp

ICBW, but I thought he designed it as a language to run on a chalkboard. One/more of his students surprised him by actually implementing it.
Alister Bulman
+1 - the original implementation of 'eval' was done by a grad student.
+28  A: 

Jamie Zawinski (links to one of the most epic stories in the history of computer science)

Matt Briggs
Wow. I'm never bitching about an ergonomic keyboard again.
Mike Robinson
Chris Charabaruk
That is brilliant.
Ali A
+6  A: 

Derek Smart of Battlecruiser 3000AD was pretty big in his day. Apparently he was pretty good at flame wars too...

Mike Robinson
Good at flame wars and fighting vending machines, if that old story is true.
Chris Charabaruk
It's not, to the best of my knowledge (re: vending machine), which may well be poor. Also, Do. Not. Mention. The. Phd. Except in reverence.If Cleve would finish Grimoire he would belong in the clown category too. ;)
+109  A: 

Steve Wozniak pretty much was apple's programming staff for the first bit.

Jason Baker
can't believe I didn't think of the Woz. +1
Matt Briggs
He designed their early hardware too.
Bill the Lizard
Woz did some of the early Apple programming, but he was really a hardware guy.
Chris Upchurch
His book 'iWoz' is an interesting read.He is one of the greatest *inventors* of his era.
Al pacino
Honestly I can't help feeling that Apple at that time were not very special or even very innovative. I am almost sure there were greater minds at other companies. Woz has just been boosted by modern day Apple hype, mythology and in part history fabrication.
I remember Woz being known as pretty hot stuff back in the 80s so if it's hype, it's been going on a loooooong time.
'Some of' the early software? In the Apple ][ with Integer BASIC, practically every byte was by Wozniak, IIRC. I don't know of any other personal computer ever sold for which that was true.
Darius Bacon
+21  A: 

Steve Gibson

+173  A: 

John Carmack

The guy that wrote the engine for the Doom games, Wolfenstein, the Quake games, etc. Read Masters of Doom, it is a great history of what he and John Romero have done.

Jamie Penney
Just don't ask about Daikatana :)
Daikatana was done by Romero after he left iD, don't think there was much Carmack involved ;-)
Jasper Bekkers
Carmack wasn't involved with Daikatana at all. That was Romero and his own company. Read Masters of Doom, you'll find Romero did some pretty good work in the beginning.
Jamie Penney
So its not really fair to say Carmack was a one man army.
Romero didn't do any of the graphics engine stuff AFAIK. That was purely Carmack.
Jamie Penney
I used to read J. Carmack's blog/finger posts in the early 90's and what few papers he wrote... He is and still one of the Einsteins of video game engines and he's literally a rocket scientist :)
I would agree, think John Carmack will voted for one of the best programmers out there.
Berlin Brown
Carmack's games are as games rather dull but his programming is somewhere near insanely impressive and godlike so his name has to be upvoted.
i ve read wiki, he is great
Barbaros Alp
@Esko "Carmack's games are as games rather dull but his programming.." I'd say yes, but they're dull in an attractive way.
Carmack is also building sub-orbital spacecrafts. Rocket science is actually *not* rocket science for him...
Stringer Bell
+55  A: 

Just for completeness (not really competitive with today's programming "heros", but truly a "one-man-army" in her times ;-): Ada Lovelace

Drats, you posted before I got mine on. delete mine, +1 to you.
A one-woman-army programmer really :)
+13  A: 

Khaled Mardam-Bey, author of mIRC, the famous IRC client.

+1 - Almost forgot about Khaled and his dedication to IRC.
Kyle Rozendo
+50  A: 

Bjarne Stroustrup for the invention and 1st implementation of C++

+13  A: 

In the gaming world:

  • Jon Van Caneghem - Known for the Might and Magic series, he single-handedly wrote, designed and developed the first entry in the series, with just a little help for artwork.
  • Dan Bunten - Created M.U.L.E., Seven Cities of Gold and a variety of other games, again, back in the early days when game designers were one-man (and, come 1992 for her, one-woman) armies.
  • Bill Budge - Created Pinball Construction Set, alongside many other games. From scratch. Himself. A great Gamasutra piece on PCS's legacy was published recently.

Not to mention all the Atari alumni who went on to Activision. Remember: In the early days, these were all one-man jobs.

John Rudy
A lot of early games were one-man-shows.The last couple assembly language games I worked on had 3 or 4 people. This was before source control and we had nightmarish Friday code integrations.
GAH! I can't even IMAGINE!
John Rudy
+3  A: 

Shaun Inman I guess he was solo

+9  A: 

There are so many great answers here, but I'll add in my own suggestions, and these come from the 1980's heydays of computer games on the Commodore 64:

Andrew Braybrook (Paradroid, Morpheus, Gribbly's Day Out)

Archer MacLean (Jimmy White's Snooker, Dropzone)

Stavros Fasoulas (Sanxion, Delta)

Martin Walker (Citadel)

Jon Hare/Chris Yates (aka Sensible Software) (Wizball, Sensible Soccer)

Ok, that last one is more of a "two-man" army, however, many of these guys worked (mostly) alone, coded mostly in assembler (6510) and also did sound, music and graphics all by themselves.

(Useless trivia - My gravatar is Gribbly Grobbly from Gribbly's day out!)

The Morpheus diary:
+1 because i loved sensible soccer :))
Shadi Almosri
+51  A: 

Larry Wall - Perl.

And for a fun trip to see what goes in that fabulous mind of his , C programmers can read the winning entry in the international C obfuscation contest in 1986. It's filed under wall.c

He also wrote patch and rn, iirc
+6  A: 

Matthew Smith, wrote Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy all on his lonesome.

Coder 42
+3  A: 

Paul Lutus (Apple Writer, among others)

+9  A: 

Richard Greenblatt, wrote much stuff at MIT AI Lab, including chess program, Lisp Machine, etc. etc.

Mike Dunlavey
Also mentioned in the book hackers, by Steven Levy. Always yield to the Hands-On Imperative!
+3  A: 

Wayne Ratliff - dBASE. Best example of foundational PC software, written the hard way (in assembler).

le dorfier
+7  A: 

Nick Bradbury. He wrote HomeSite, TopStyle, and FeedDemon. All three programs top notch. Plus, he pays a lot of attention to his users - that can't be easy for a one-man shop.

Craig O
+18  A: 

John Backus - Fortran

Stephen Wolfram - Mathematica package

Sid Meier - Civilization

Tim Berners-Lee - inventor of World Wide Web

Phil Zimmermann - PGP

Wow Civilization is a great game, cant imagine doing all that with just 1 guy... amazing
I never followed the sequels, but the first one was always credited to him.
+1 for civilization
3 downvotes with no comment. Really tells something about the character of a person.Besides, what in the world could have bothered them in a list like this, is beyond me ...
+16  A: 

Chuck Moore - Created Forth, ported it to dozens of architectures, designed several microprocessors, made his own CAD system, earned millions on hardware patents, created colorForth... and so on.

I said 'Slava' because of Factor.
Berlin Brown
+7  A: 

Simon Tatham wrote PuTTY. Arguably, one of the most popular [citation needed] windows SSH clients.

Matt Wright wrote a lot of (in)famous Perl scripts that are still in use.

+46  A: 

Anders Hejlsberg creator of Turbo Pascal, Delphi, C# (and partly .NET), ....

+5  A: 

My $0.02: Cleve Moler - original author of MATLAB.

+39  A: 

Bram Cohen, at least his little project is now causing 50% of all internet traffic[citation needed].

Michael Stum
OOO, these are all good.
Berlin Brown
Can you use bittorrent for anything but getting CDs and movies.
Berlin Brown
you can use it for anything that needs to be transported to people.
Yes, BitTorrent is used for example by Blizzard to distribute their World of Warcraft Patches or digital downloads from their online store. Also, Linux distributions use it for their DVDs. I will use it for my stuff because 4 GB Webspace is $$$.
Michael Stum
@svish - I'd like a chocolate bar please, can you seed?
+12  A: 
I'd say you're pushing the term "famous" a little too far with this one :) Compared to the others in the bunch here.
I don't think the Ruby people would agree :)
+3  A: 

Markus Frind CEO of

One man show . Created one of largest dating site by himself using Gross upwards of 30k day .

why is this getting voted down?
I wonder this too.
I would say this is due to him being more of a standard website developer rather than a technical innovator in the field.
Shadi Almosri
+3  A: 

Probably not on the scale of RMS or Carmack, but Jonathan Blow made Braid single-handedly. Look at how the audio and particle systems reverse in sync with the gameplay; it's a pretty neat effort.

I can't imagine Braid without David Hellman's lovely artwork, though. It'd still be tons of fun, but I don't think it would draw you in quite as much as it does now :-). Check out, it's a fascinating read.
Wow, thanks - that was indeed fascinating. If only one could upmod comments!
+31  A: 

DJ Bernstein. qmail, djbdns, and many many others.

Oh, and suing the United States so people here can freely publish cryptography tools on the Internet. Not exactly programming, but totally one-man-army.

djb's a great entry; I'm not sure how many of the other entries are "one-man-army" programmers, but it's certainly something djb is noted for. Or so I've heard tell on the interwebs.
+5  A: 

Charles Babbage - Originator of the concept of a programmable computer.

David HAust
+18  A: 

Phil Katz absolutely deserves mention. Where would we have been without PKZip.

Jim Blizard
We'd be using SEA's ARC :-) But yes, PKZIP was quite important when Modems were still slower than postal mail.
Michael Stum
+6  A: 

Has anyone mentioned Gary Kildall (CP/M) or are you guys too young to remember?

+12  A: 

This is one of those great programmers who doesn't have the "Knuth" fame - Fabrice Bellard. He wrote the original FFmpeg distribution, is the project leader for QEMU, discovered the fastest current pi algorithm, and has not one, but two, wins in the The International Obfuscated C Code Contest. To use a line from one of my favorite CS professors, the man is a rock star.

Two decades ago, he also wrote a program used by many MS-DOS programmers: LZEXE. It's like PKLITE (or UPX, these days), but he was definitely a pioneer.
Chris Jester-Young
+3  A: 

dark_alex - though branded as hacker, its still falls under this one-man-army category

+4  A: 

Pixel - Cave Story

+2  A:

Slava Pestov. Factor creator (Factor is one of the most advanced programming languages out there).

Created Jedit (at 15 years old?)

Berlin Brown
Slava Pestov, born 3 March 1984... jEdit, first release 1998... *jaw drops*
Michael Myers
That is pretty cool
Berlin Brown
+2  A: 

Jon Tackabury - Binary Fortress

+2  A: 

Doug Cutting

Started Lucene, started Nutch, created Hadoop after Google publish there paper on Map Reduce...

That is one of my favorite java projects. Yes, upmodded.
Berlin Brown
+5  A: 

Eugene Roshal for creation of FAR file manager, RAR file format and WinRAR file archiver.

+2  A: 

Rich Hickey - author of Clojure.

Dev er dev
+1  A: 

I've always been impressed by Scawen Roberts, who has been single-handedly programming the game Live for Speed for the last five or so years.

+5  A: 

Steve Streeting whom created Ogre3D, the Object-Oriented Graphics Rendering Engine.

+26  A: 

Read this article for example, starting twowards the middle at about the place where it says,

... the privately held company Celera appeared on the verge of beating the combined scientific teams of the rest of the world to the goal of sequencing the human genome. Celera's approach was less rigorous but faster than the Human Genome Project's approach, and for a very understandable reason: Celera's goal was not to advance science but to win the race by any means fair or foul and thereby claim what would have been the most astonishing conquistadorial prize in human history. For had Celera won the race to sequence the genome, and had it filed patents aggressively, it is conceivable that one tiny company could have laid claim to royalties on virtually all medical progress thenceforward. Nay, they could have claimed proprietary interest in the evolutionary future of the human race.

Never mind that the proposition was more ludicrous, on the face of it, than a private company's laying claim to the moon. The threat was real, and scientists were scared.

This state of affairs was remedied by the heroic efforts of a once obscure University of California at Santa Cruz biology graduate student named Jim Kent, who, over the course of 40 days of coding so furiously that he literally had to soak his wrists in ice baths every night, wrote a program to assemble and make public the Human Genome Project's own map. He completed the task one day ahead of Celera.

Kent's stealth attack thereby beat Celera at its own game virtually single-handedly, in a feat that deserves to become as iconic as Watson and Crick's.

His wrists? I would've moved to a more finger-based technique, then.
+2  A: 

Most of the notable hackers of the world for good or ill:

Eric Corley, Kevin Mitnick, Solar Designer, Lamo? Poulson?

+2  A: 

Wayne Venables, allegedly wrote the Fruitshow forum software in 3 hours

Wayne is the best in my book.
Berlin Brown
+4  A: 

Arthur Whitney, the developer of the "K" programming language.

Where I heard about him: Superstar programmers

Thought experiment:

The requirement is to build from scratch an SQL engine working on in memory data (take > this as a given. Try to estimate the no. of lines of code (programming language/environment of your choice) this is going to take, and the time it will take you to build it.

Try to estimate the same considering someone you consider good, and someone you consider average.

Scroll down when you've written down your estimates.

Did you ?

Well ?

Using the programming language K, [ ], a 14 line implementation, took Stevan Apter a couple of hours to write; But that's just the backend. You want an SQL interface? Arthur Whitney just published one in [ ], taking all of 20 lines (admittedly, denser than Stevan's); 3 for lexing, ~8 for parsing, the rest for evaluating. I don't know how long it took Arthur, but a day would probably be way too long.

+3  A: 

Al Lowe for Leisure Suit Larry series :) Will Wright for SimCity and finally David Braben for Elite

Perhaps Ron Gilbert should also get a mention for bringing the world Monkey Island (tm)

+1 I was about to post Al Lowe
+39  A: 

John Resig, creator of the jQuery javacript framework.

Jonathan Sampson
you had me at 'jQuery'
+1 I like his works.
+1 great guy - and a great blog too.
+2  A: 

Didier Dambrin: Original creator of FruityLoops. Written in Delphi.

+14  A: 

Sid Meier

Co-founded Microprose and wrote Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, and Sid Meier's Colonization,[2][3], Sid Meier's Civilization IV and a bunch more

I don't know about the others, but I'm pretty sure he didn't have much to do with Civ2. See
+1: Civ IV was and still is the best video game i've ever played. Do you know it a V is coming out?
@Gaurav. Looks like you're right on.
He didn't write Alpha Centauri by himself, either. He became famous for writing Civ 1, and it seems like he has mostly done collaboration/team management since then.
he was already stated "upstairs" :)
This is like giving Bill Gates credit for Windows 7... Sid Meier is more a manager than anything else. With recent games, it seems like his name is just a brand...
@Bob. The question was - a one man army ...wrote software in the past...Not, was the latest piece of software written solely by this person...
Is there any evidence that he wrote Civ by himself? And if he did, due to preference rather than necessity? That's what this thread is about.
Kirk Broadhurst
+5  A: 

Walter Bright was once a one-man show for several years when it came to Digital Mars' C++ compiler. He also started the D language and wrote a C++ version of Empire by himslef (later ported it to D).

Max Lybbert
+8  A: 

Shawn Fanning, creator of Napster.

Lurker Indeed
+2  A: 

DJ Delorie for DJGPP? Not sure if that was a one man job, though.

+3  A: 

Rod Johnson, creator of Spring framework

+2  A: 

Peldi Guilizzoni, the creator of Balsamiq--an Adobe AIR application for creating mockups. The blog post with statistical numbers about first (not full) year of company operation provides a lot of information to think about.


Al Gore - He wrote the entire Internet!

Aww, c'mon. It was a fluff question. Fluff answers should get some love too.
They're just trying to reward you with a Peer Pressure badge. :)
I already have it, so it is safe to upvote me now. =)I can spare the 3 rep points for a chance to take a jab at Mr. Green McGreeny. It was worth it.
+2  A: 

Nasir Gebelli wrote some of the early great Apple II games: Gorgon, Space Eggs, Firebird and Zenith (and many others.)

David Stafford
+7  A: 

Bram Moolenaar -- wrote almost all of VIM by himself :]

Richard Marquez
Curse the day! I am still avoiding vim, but it's always waiting in ambush.
+1  A: 

Simon Peyton Jones - Functional programming researcher and original author of the Glasgow Haskell Compiler.

Jared Updike
+4  A: 

Wil Shipley of Delicious Library -

Benny Wong
+5  A: 

Joe Hewitt, creator of Firebug and DOM Inspector.

I love Firebug. It made web page debugging way easier.

+4  A: 

Juan Valdez. Ok, he did't wrote a single line of code. But he helped to code most of apps that we use today.

Not everyone drinks Columbian! ;)

Kernighan, Ritchie, James Clark, Audrey Tang. Bob Scheifler and Jim Gettys (X11). Jon Bentley. John Ousterhout (tcl/tk).

+2  A: 

I am the creator of this post.... one man army


Donald Knuth, Ken Thompson, RMS, linus torvalds, Fabrice Bellard, ZeroCool :)

+3  A: 

The Build Engine History

The Build engine was written by Ken Silverman in 1994 and has gone through several major enhancements from its initial version. Ken wrote a game named "Ken's Labyrinth" in 1992 which he sent demos of to several games companies. One of those companies was Apogee Software. Apogee wasn't interested in the game but they were interested in the engine. He later started writing a demo named "Build" in 1993 which he also sent out to several companies. Apogee offered him a contract to write the Build engine for them.

Ken has a page on his website which features a timeline outlining the development and events surrounding the Build engine. Ken also has available for download old demos of the engine at various points in it's development and now the full source code!


John Carmack - No need for introduction ;)

Dave Cutler - Only guy on the planet to have worked on 3 major OS kernels. Not sure if he is a one-man-army kinda guy, but certainly did a lot on his own.

Michael Abrash - Optimization god! If he can't optimize it, it probably can't be done at all!

Tim Sweeney - Unreal Engine (Currently working alone on the 4th generation of Unreal Technology)

Steve Wozniak - Apple's one-many-army

C.W.Holeman II

Paul Lutus the father of Apple Writter for the Apple II


Peter Blum, creator of a nice collection of very useful custom ASP.NET controls. On top of everything else he does, his documentation is some of the most detailed I've ever seen even outdoing Microsoft's in granularity. And yet he still does it all himself.

Steve Wortham

Matt Mullenweg?

Created WordPress, BBPress (wrote in a few days), etc.

Pretty influential in web development with regard to weblogs. Doing well for a 25 y/o.

From a technical view wordpress is not really impressive.. but it works great none the less :P

Gus Mueller.

Paul D. Waite
+1  A: 

I can't believe I'm the first person to mention this:

Alan Turing

Robert Davis
+2  A: 

Jordan Mechner

He programmed first Prince of Persia games. All animations on those games were based on his brother's moves. I guess he isn't programming anymore.

Ufuk Hacıoğulları

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