I'm Karl Beecher, a scientist and programmer who became an author to make science and technology more accessible for everyone. AMA!

Karl Beecher
Feb 21, 2018

About me

I was a computer scientist and a software developer for over ten years. A couple of years ago, I made the transition to becoming an author.

I write about a variety of things, but my main interests are science and technology, in particular computing. I get my kicks by looking at well-worn issues from a new angle, or by making people enthusiastic about topics they might never before have considered.

I also consider it important to make topics enjoyable to learn and accessible to anyone.

I've already published several books:

You can find out more about them (and other things I've written) on my website, karlbeecher.com.

Quick bio

I've worked at software companies both large (50,000+ people) and small (less than 10 people). I even co-founded my own IT company in 2013.

In 2009, I got a PhD in computer science studying open source software and software evolution.

I was born and raised in the UK, but I now reside in Germany.




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Now that you have transitioned to writing, what do you miss the most about your previous career?
Feb 27, 7:12AM EST0
Did you prefer working with large or small companies? What is the best thing about each?
Feb 26, 7:21AM EST0
Is writing fiction a possibility for you? Would you like to try, and what genre do you think you will be great at?
Feb 25, 4:07PM EST0
Is the IT company you co-founded still up and running? How do you participate in its management?
Feb 25, 12:19PM EST0
Are your books available both online and in print and where can they be purchased?
Feb 23, 3:07PM EST0

I can tell you that all my books are available on Amazon in both electronic and print versions.

If you prefer other vendors, each book is also available via the publisher's website, but that depends on the book (for example, my latest book is publlished by Apress and you can get it via their website).

A quick google search just revealed that they're available on lots of other bookseller's websites like Waterstones, Smashwords or Book Depository.

Feb 24, 7:15AM EST0
Do you enjoy reading as much as you do writing; if so what type of books do you enjoy reading?
Feb 23, 3:01PM EST0

Yes, I love reading. My choice of reading material varies.

I go through periods where I consume lots of non-fiction - I particularly like science, biographies, history, and philosophy.

Sometimes I get fed up with non-fiction and yearn for a good novel. My taste in fiction continues to evolve. For example, I didn't like Terry Pratchett when I tried it as a teenager, but I tried again last year and now I've read four of them. Whereas I used to read lots of science fiction, but today not so much.

Feb 24, 7:22AM EST0
Is it possible for computers to keep getting faster or has the limit been reached?
Feb 23, 1:27PM EST0

In terms of today's computer hardware, there are limits. Typical CPUs get faster because we keep shrinking transistors and being able to fit more into the same space. That shrinking can't go on forever - eventually your transistors approximate the size of individual atoms. We haven't quite reached those limits yet, but from what I understand, we're not far from it.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that we find other ways to make computers faster, for example parallelisation. Older CPUs (roughly ten years and older) used to process one task at a time. Modern CPUs now have several 'cores' and each core can process a task independently - sort of making it several CPUs in one. This way, you can get faster by increasing the number of cores. However, you can't keep doing that forever either, because the effectiveness of splitting up tasks reaches a natural limit.

One distinct possibility for continuing to increase computing speed in future is quantum computing, although this remains in its very early stages.

Feb 24, 7:09AM EST0

Oh thank you so much for this cool response

Feb 25, 12:42AM EST0

In what ways have you books made science and technology more accessible?

Feb 23, 3:26AM EST0

I try to make as few assumptions about the reader's prior knowledge as I can. When the reader needs to know something before tackling part of my books, I spell it out up front.

I also try to use an easily readable style. Mainly by:

  • Cutting jargon where I can.
  • Making the tone light and humourous.
  • Making the sentences more readable (I'm a fan of something called the paramedic method for cutting the fat out of sentences).
Last edited @ Feb 24, 7:35AM EST.
Feb 24, 6:55AM EST0

Would you ever consider branching out of your written genre into that of fiction?

Feb 22, 8:25PM EST0

Who says I'm not already working on it....? ;-)

Feb 24, 6:51AM EST0

How do you balance your love for computers  with your love for writing?

Feb 22, 7:34PM EST0

With difficulty :-)

Both are creative and time-consuming endeavours. Now that I have a young family, it's become harder than ever. That's partly why I decided to choose to focus on writing. Thankfully, I can write about computers, so they still get to stay in my life.

Feb 24, 7:26AM EST0

When did you decide to move to Germany and why? Was it work-related?

Feb 21, 12:46PM EST0

As I was finishing my PhD, I decided to take the opportunity to do a post-doctorate abroad. I wanted to experience living and working in another country and, thanks to EU freedom of movement, it was easy to do that in Europe (it may not be for much longer).

I found a great post-doc at the Free University of Berlin and anticipated I might stay for a year or eighteen months. Eight years later, I'm still here, although I'm no longer at the Free University.

Feb 21, 1:24PM EST0

Do you often get contacted by your readers, and how do you feel when you do?

Feb 21, 11:14AM EST0

It depends on what they say when they contact me :-) but I'm always happy to hear from readers, even if they criticise, so long as it's honest and constructive.

Feb 21, 1:16PM EST0

Which is harder to write: the first word or the last word?

Feb 21, 8:17AM EST0

Ooooh, profound :-)

Is there really ever a last word?

For me, the first word is hardest. That's because I have to overcome the urge to find the best way to start and instead just get started. Once I do, I get into the flow and the words pour out. By the time I get to the last word, I'm glad to be finished so that I can go back and edit.

Feb 21, 8:55AM EST0

Before writing, what’s your research process like?

Feb 20, 2:00PM EST0

Long and arduous :-)

Not really. I enjoy research (I spent about five years working in academia), but it's a hard process to describe and it varies depending on what I'm writing. The trick is knowing when you have done enough and can stop, because it's easy to keep going on and on indefinitely.

I try to do all my research before the first word is written but after the book exists in a planned form. It can take several weeks of reading and note-taking (and, if appropriate, interviewing).

Also, when you write books in a specific field you're familiar with,  as I do, 'research' is an ongoing process. You're continually stocking up on material. That means before even I start research, I already have a partially complete list of references.

Feb 21, 8:50AM EST0

What sparked your interest in the field of computing?

Feb 20, 8:17AM EST0

My parents bought a Commodore Vic-20 when I was about four of five years old. Then I learned how you could make it do stuff, like this:


20 GOTO 10

I've been a programmer ever since (except that, today, I write infinite loops by accident rather than on purpose).

Feb 21, 8:38AM EST0

How did you decide the name "Brown Dogs and Barbers" for one of your books on computer science?

Feb 19, 10:45PM EST0

Because it's a light-hearted, comical book, I wanted to give it a quirky name. 'Brown Dogs and Barbers' is the name of one of the chapters.

My second favourite choice was 'Microwavable Chickens and Round Robins' (also another chapter title).

Feb 21, 8:33AM EST0

What according to you are some good computer tricks that are not commonly known to people?

Feb 19, 4:47PM EST0

Sorry, I'm not sure what you mean by 'tricks'. Could you be more specific?

Feb 21, 2:02PM EST0

Was that a goal for you, to be a writer? Did you just kind of come into writing on accident or was it something you always wanted to do?

Feb 19, 2:05PM EST0

On some level, I've always wanted to do it. I used to write all the time as a kid. For some reason I got sidetracked into a more 'respectable' career when the time came to choose, but the urge stayed with me. I took advantage of some recent changes in life circumstances to go for it.

Feb 21, 8:30AM EST0

In few words how would you describe your childhood and your interest while growing up?

Feb 19, 12:33AM EST0

What are your thoughts on cloud computing and where do you see cloud computing going within the next 10 years?

Feb 18, 9:22AM EST0
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