Monthly Archives: March 2014

EWD 920

“Can computing science save the computer industry?”, E. W. Dijkstra, 1985

“The prime paradigma of the pragmatic designer is known as “poor man’s induction”, i.e. he believes in his design as long as “it works”, i.e. until faced with evidence to the contrary. (He will then “fix the design”.) The scientific designer, however, believes in his design because he understands why it will work under all circumstances. The transition from pragmatic to scientific design would indeed be a drastic change within the computer industry.”

EWD 952

“Science fiction and science reality in computing”, E. W. Dijkstra, 1986

“Recently, British Rail has installed its first computerized signalling system along one of its tracks and they advertised the system in the hope of selling it to other railroad companies by revealing that, in order to avoid the risk of using a compiler, the system had for safety’s sake been written in machine code.”

“… this is the paradox faced by all directors of industrial research laboratories: after having attracted the right people, they cannot serve their company better than by leaving those people alone.”

“…hiring a technical writer is rarely a solution; the act is usually not much more than an admission that the system’s designers are in some sense functionally illiterate.”

My favorite EWD

“On the cruelty of really teaching computing science”, E. W. Dijkstra, 1988

“…all by itself, a program is no more than half a conjecture. The other half of the conjecture is the functional specification the program is supposed to satisfy. The programmer’s task is to present such complete conjectures as proven theorems.”