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Heard on .NET Rocks!: A Stroll Down RAM Lane with David Treadwell

Interviewers Carl Franklin and Richard Campbell catch up with Microsoft's David Treadwell at the PDC, who discusses his early experiences, right out of college, programming the Windows NT kernel.




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am the host of ".NET Rocks!", an Internet audio talk show for .NET developers online at www.dotnetrocks.com and msdn.microsoft.com/dotnetrocks. My co-host Richard Campbell and I interview the movers and shakers in the .NET community. We now have over 155 shows archived online, and we publish a new show every Monday morning. For more history of the show check out the May/June 2004 issue of CoDe Magazine, in which the first column appeared. In each issue of "Heard on .NET Rocks" I like to highlight some of my favorite moments from a recent show. In show #131, Richard and I caught up with David Treadwell at the 2005 Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles. David is corporate vice president of the .NET Developer Platform team in the Developer Division at Microsoft Corp. Even though he's a VP, he got his start at Microsoft as a developer on perhaps the most important project to come out of Redmond.

Carl Franklin: So David, hi. Tell us about yourself: Who are you, and what do you do? David Treadwell: I am the Vice President of Microsoft .NET Developer Platform team. Essentially I am responsible for the engineering of the platform components of .NET. That includes things like the CLR, ASP.NET, the compact framework, several other lower-level technologies.

Carl Franklin: So I guess you are in charge of .NET—that's a colloquial way to say that. David Treadwell: Well that's broad. I mean, .NET has many other components including the Web services stuff and the tools aspects and what not…

Carl Franklin: The framework and the run time. David Treadwell: …Yeah, the framework and the run time components is what I am responsible for.

Carl Franklin: We should establish also for the listeners that you're a developer. David Treadwell: Yes. I started at Microsoft 16 years ago, writing code with Kernigan and Ritchie beside my desk when we had to do NT operating system kernel stuff.

Richard Campbell: Excellent. Carl Franklin: So what kinds of things were you working on way back? Windows 1.0? Were you back in that age?

David Treadwell: Actually I wasn't in the traditional Windows groups. I started on the NT team, which was basically a bunch of folks from Digital who came to Microsoft to create a new operating system and one college kid, which was me, and so I had the opportunity… Richard Campbell: You were the college kid.

David Treadwell: I was the college kid. I had the opportunity to work with a bunch with people who knew what they were doing. Richard Campbell: Wow that's cool.

David Treadwell: Yeah it was fun. Richard Campbell: What a team to be on.

David Treadwell: And I was a kid out of college. I had, frankly, no life outside of Microsoft as I was working 80 hours a week just writing code all day long. Richard Campbell: I thought that's how all Microsoft employees work.

David Treadwell: That's what I say. Everybody out of college—you start 80 hours a week. That's kind of the normal thing to do. Carl Franklin: And in college you studied computer science, I take it?

David Treadwell: Actually, I studied electrical engineering in college. It's a funny story. I only took one CS course in college. It was called Systems. Throughout my college career it was the worst grade I got in college and I think I decided that I wanted some sort of challenge because I went into the industry to basically work on computer systems. Richard Campbell: That's funny. I know a lot of electrical engineers that ended up in the computer industry. Really, the engineering discipline is an excellent discipline for writing great applications.

David Treadwell: At its core, most of college as a technical person is learning how to solve problems and the technology is going to change quickly over time. It's not so much exactly what you learn; it's your ability to solve problems. Carl Franklin: Dan Appleman is an EE.

Richard Campbell: Exactly true. The disciplined mind that it takes to succeed as an engineer is exactly the kind of mind it takes to write programs. Carl Franklin: Especially NT. So, [you went from] no operating system experience to NT? I mean, that's quite a leap.

David Treadwell: It was quite a leap. I needed to spend 80 hours a week to get 40 hours a week of work done. It was a lot of work. Carl Franklin: So did you work with David Cutler and those guys?

David Treadwell: Yeah. Actually, Dave was a big brother when I came to Microsoft, an exceptionally respected engineer… somebody I thought I could learn from… and I talked to him before I came to Microsoft and was super impressed with the guy. Carl Franklin: So was he like a mentor then?

David Treadwell: I wouldn't call him a mentor per se…. If you know Dave, that's not really his style. Carl Franklin: I don't know. I never met him.

David Treadwell: He was maybe a quiet mentor in the sense that his code served as an example and his work ethic and his focus on quality are things that inspire people. Carl Franklin: So getting on to this idea of learning about operating systems, where did that take place? Did it take place at the desk? Did you read up on books? Where did your education in OSs come from?

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