Charles Babcock published his take on the greatest software ever written. As he says, most people have an opinion, but sitting down and doing an evaluation isn't so easy. Says he "Greatness is easier to assess given a long historical perspective. The closer you get to the present, however, the harder it is to name the greatest software."
Charles goes through his top twelve in Letterman fashion, What piece of software or feat of programming would you put on the list? from bottom to top. I don't agree with every choice he made, but he does mention some very important pieces of programming. I would probably agree with his choice for number one: UNIX, specifically BSD Systems 4.3. I'll let you read the article to understand his reasoning.
I found the companion piece to the article on the five that almost made the list equally interesting. I'd have probably put some of those, like Alan Kaye's Smalltalk, in my top ten. I have notes on two talks Alan gave last spring on Computer Science as an Oxymoron and the $100 laptop on my blog. Alan's influence, even just with Smalltalk, has been immense.
What piece of software does Charles miss that would definitely be on my top ten? Lisp. The influence of Lisp has been tremendous. Even if you've never used it, the languages you use are better because of Lisp and the ideas it embodies. Some of those ideas have yet to be made widely available and account for Lisp's continued use. I interviewed Peter Seibel about his new book on Lisp earlier this year for IT Conversations. I was impressed with Peter's book. If you're wondering why people (like me) continue to make a big deal of Lisp, get the book and work through the first 4 or 5 chapters. You'll see some of the power of Lisp.
What piece of software or feat of programming would you put on the list?