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Joseph (Joe) Armstrong: A Tribute

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Following the sad news about Joe Armstrong passing away, some of his former colleagues from Ericsson wrote a good-bye note and asked if InfoQ would publish it.  Their note is below:

Joseph (Joe) Armstrong has passed away from an illness lasting a few months. He was 68 years of age. Our thoughts are with his wife Helen and his children Thomas and Claire.

He grew up in Bournemouth and at an early age became interested in programming and software technology. He studied Theoretical Physics at University College London and then moved to Edinburgh to do research into Artificial Intelligence.

In 1974, Joe moved to Kiruna in Sweden to do research on Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). From there he continued to the Swedish Space Corporation where he developed the ground station software for the Swedish Viking satellite.

Following that, Joe was recruited to Ericsson’s research laboratory for software technology where he led the team working on new technology for software development. This resulted in creating a new programming language called Erlang. Erlang was then used in many important projects and, in 1998, Ericsson released it for use outside of the company as open source. This wider use provided much valuable feedback and further development. Today, Erlang is used by several new companies like Klarna, as well as well-known companies like Cisco and WhatsApp. Joe’s first book on Erlang was published in 1992.

Joe worked for a while at SICS (Swedish Institute of Computer Science) and received his PhD in 2003 where his thesis dealt with the error handling mechanism in Erlang.

Joe finished his career as an Associate Professor at the Royal Institute of Technology where he worked on collaborative projects between industry and research.

Nobody could avoid being affected by Joe’s good mood and boundless enthusiasm. He was highly appreciated as a speaker and panel member at  many international conferences. Many programmers can testify to just how important Joe has been for them in developing their profession.

Joe had many interests besides his work, not least music, politics, literature and photography.

On behalf of former colleagues at Ericsson and of Erlang friends all over the world,
Bjarne Däcker and Michael C Williams

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