Subject: Re: Is mediocrity the norm in computer science ?
From: (Rob Warnock)
Date: 1 Jul 2002 02:13:37 GMT
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <afodsh$59ki2$>
Gordon Joly <> wrote:
| "Programming is one of the most difficult branches of applied
| mathematics; the poorer mathematicians had better remain pure
| mathematicians."
| "How do we tell truths that might hurt?"
| Edsger W. Dijkstra, 18 June 1975

Indeed! Many of the other "truths that might hurt" in that article
are still very applicable today, too. E.g., the one that's my
favorite when I think of Common Lisp versus other languages:

	"About the use of language: it is impossible to sharpen
	a pencil with a blunt axe. It is equally vain to try to
	do it with ten blunt axes instead."
	"Besides a mathematical inclination, an exceptionally
	good mastery of one's native tongue is the most vital
	asset of a competent programmer."

Note: Dijkstra is *not* a native speaker on English. Yet (at
least in his technical writing, as I have not heard him speak)
his English is a delight to read, unvaryingly precise and pellucid
(albeit with occasional quaintly-archaic grammar).

| quoted from
| University of Virginia, Department of Computer Science
| CS655: Programming Languages, Spring 2001

Hmmm... That seems to have been transcribed from the
original. A more authoritative copy may be found at
<URL:>, where all
of the publicly-available EWD### reports are archived:


[Note: Most of these are PDFs of scanned images of Dijkstra's
orginal hand-typed manuscripts. Not always the best quality,
but historically interesting.]

And he's still cranking out some goodies, e.g.:

	"The end of computing science?"

in which he argues that we *still* don't have a clue about how
to separate the complexity intrinsic to a given problem from that
"accidentally" added by the implementation of a chosen solution.
[Although one might suggest that the PLT group's "How To Design
Programs" <URL:> takes a useful step in that


Rob Warnock, 30-3-510		<>
SGI Network Engineering		<>
1600 Amphitheatre Pkwy.		Phone: 650-933-1673
Mountain View, CA  94043	PP-ASEL-IA

[Note: and aren't for humans ]