Top 100+ Best Interesting Quotes By Edsger Dijkstra

Top 100+ Best Interesting Quotes By Edsger Dijkstra Quotes Curated by Factober

Written by Vishal for Factober

FACTOBER KNOWLEDGE & INSPIRATION

October 6, 2020

Dijkstra Quotes

Read these top 100+ best quotes by Edsger Dijkstra a computer scientist. He was a Dutch computer scientist, programmer, software engineer, systems scientist, science essayist, and pioneer in computing science. If you’re a computer engineering or science student, you might probably already heard about him.

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  1. A most important, but also most elusive, aspect of any tool is its influence on the habits of those who train themselves in its use. If the tool is a programming language this influence is, whether we like it or not, an influence on our thinking habits…. A programming language is a tool that has a profound influence on our thinking habits. Edsger Dijkstra
  2. 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.
  3. Aim for brevity while avoiding jargon.
  4. APL is a mistake, carried through to perfection. It is the language of the future for the programming techniques of the past: it creates a new generation of coding bums.
  5. Are you quite sure that all those bells and whistles, all those wonderful facilities of your so called powerful programming languages, belong to the solution set rather than the problem set?
  6. Besides a mathematical inclination, an exceptionally good mastery of one’s native tongue is the most vital asset of a competent programmer. Edsger Dijkstra
  7. Beware of “the real world”. A speaker’s apeal to it is always an invitation not to challenge his tacit assumptions. Edsger Dijkstra
  8. Brainpower is by far our scarcest resource.
  9. Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes, biology is about microscopes or chemistry is about beakers and test tubes. Science is not about tools. It is about how we use them, and what we find out when we do.
  10. Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes. Edsger Dijkstra
  11. Do only what only you can do.
  12. Don’t blame me for the fact that competent programming, as I view it as an intellectual possibility, will be too difficult for “the average programmer” — you must not fall into the trap of rejecting a surgical technique because it is beyond the capabilities of the barber in his shop around the corner. Edsger W. Dijkstra
  13. Don’t compete with me: firstly, I have more experience, and secondly, I have chosen the weapons.
  14. Elegance is not a dispensable luxury but a factor that decides between success and failure. Edsger Dijkstra
  15. Experience does by no means automatically leads to wisdom and understanding. Edsger Dijkstra
  16. For me, the first challenge for computing science is to discover how to maintain order in a finite, but very large, discrete universe that is intricately intertwined. And a second, but not less important challenge is how to mould what you have achieved in solving the first problem, into a teachable discipline: it does not suffice to hone your own intellect (that will join you in your grave), you must teach others how to hone theirs. The more you concentrate on these two challenges, the clearer you will see that they are only two sides of the same coin: teaching yourself is discovering what is teachable.
  17. FORTRAN, ‘the infantile disorder’, by now nearly 20 years old, is hopelessly inadequate for whatever computer application you have in mind today: it is now too clumsy, too risky, and too expensive to use.
  18. How do we convince people that in programming simplicity and clarity – in short: what mathematicians call elegance – are not a dispensable luxury, but a crucial matter that decides between success and failure? Edsger Dijkstra
  19. How do we tell truths that might hurt?
  20. I don’t need to waste my time with a computer just because I am a computer scientist. Edsger Dijkstra
  21. I mean, if 10 years from now, when you are doing something quick and dirty, you suddenly visualize that I am looking over your shoulders and say to yourself ‘Dijkstra would not have liked this’, well, that would be enough immortality for me.
  22. I mentioned the non-competitive spirit explicitly, because these days, excellence is a fashionable concept. But excellence is a competitive notion, and that is not what we are heading for: we are heading for perfection.
  23. I realized that my prior projects were just finger warm-ups. Now I have to tackle complexity itself. But it took long, before I had assembled the courage to do so.
  24. I think of the company advertising “Thought Processors” or the college pretending that learning BASIC suffices or at least helps, whereas the teaching of BASIC should be rated as a criminal offence: it mutilates the mind beyond recovery.
  25. I would therefore like to posit that computing’s central challenge, how not to make a mess of it, has not yet been met.
  26. If debugging is the process of removing software bugs, then programming must be the process of putting them in. Edsger Dijkstra
  27. If in physics there’s something you don’t understand, you can always hide behind the uncharted depths of nature. You can always blame God. You didn’t make it so complex yourself. But if your program doesn’t work, there is no one to hide behind. You cannot hide behind an obstinate nature. If it doesn’t work, you’ve messed up.
  28. If there is one ‘scientific’ discovery I am proud of, it is the discovery of the habit of writing without publication in mind.
  29. If we wish to count lines of code, we should not regard them as ‘lines produced’ but as ‘lines spent.’ Edsger Dijkstra
  30. In passing I draw attention to another English expression which often occurs in Dutch texts: “the real world”. In Dutch – and I am afraid not in Dutch alone – its usage is almost always a symptom of a violent anti-intellectualism.
  31. In the good old days physicists repeated each other’s experiments, just to be sure. Today they stick to FORTRAN, so that they can share each other’s programs, bugs included.
  32. In the software business there are many enterprises for which it is not clear that science can help them; that science should try is not clear either.
  33. In the wake of the Cultural Revolution and now of the recession I observe a mounting pressure to co-operate and to promote “teamwork”. For its anti-individualistic streak, such a drive is of course highly suspect; some people may not be so sensitive to it, but having seen the Hitlerjugend in action suffices for the rest of your life to be very wary of “team spirit”. Very.
  34. In their capacity as a tool, computers will be but a ripple on the surface of our culture. In their capacity as intellectual challenge, they are without precedent in the cultural history of mankind.
  35. Industry suffers from the managerial dogma that for the sake of stability and continuity, the company should be independent of the competence of individual employees. Edsger Dijkstra
  36. It is not the task of the University to offer what society asks for, but to give what society needs.
  37. It is practically impossible to teach good programming to students that have had a prior exposure to BASIC: as potential programmers they are mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration.
  38. John von Neumann draws attention to what seemed to him a contrast. He remarked that for simple mechanisms, it is often easier to describe how they work than what they do, while for more complicated mechanisms, it is usually the other way around.
  39. Lisp has jokingly been called “the most intelligent way to misuse a computer”. I think that description is a great compliment because it transmits the full flavor of liberation: it has assisted a number of our most gifted fellow humans in thinking previously impossible thoughts.
  40. Many mathematicians derive part of their self-esteem by feeling themselves the proud heirs of a long tradition of rational thinking; I am afraid they idealize their cultural ancestors.
  41. Mathematicians are like managers – they want improvement without change. Edsger Dijkstra
  42. Mentally mutilated potential programmers beyond hope of regeneration.
  43. Object-oriented programming is an exceptionally bad idea which could only have originated in California.
  44. Perfecting oneself is as much unlearning as it is learning. Edsger Dijkstra
  45. PL/1, the fatal disease, belongs more to the problem set than to the solution set.
  46. Please don’t fall into the trap of believing that I am terribly dogmatic about [the go to statement]. I have the uncomfortable feeling that others are making a religion out of it, as if the conceptual problems of programming could be solved by a simple trick, by a simple form of coding discipline! Edsger W. Dijkstra
  47. Probably I am very naive, but I also think I prefer to remain so, at least for the time being and perhaps for the rest of my life.
  48. Program testing can be a very effective way to show the presence of bugs, but is hopelessly inadequate for showing their absence.
  49. Program testing can be used to show the presence of bugs, but never to show their absence! Edsger Dijkstra
  50. Programming in Basic causes brain damage.
  51. Programming is one of the most difficult branches of applied mathematics; the poorer mathematicians had better remain pure mathematicians.
  52. Progress is possible only if we train ourselves to think about programs without thinking of them as pieces of executable code.
  53. Raise your quality standards as high as you can live with, avoid wasting your time on routine problems, and always try to work as closely as possible at the boundary of your abilities. Do this, because it is the only way of discovering how that boundary should be moved forward. Edsger Dijkstra
  54. Several people have told me that my inability to suffer fools gladly is one of my main weaknesses. Edsger W. Dijkstra
  55. Simplicity is a great virtue but it requires hard work to achieve it and education to appreciate it. And to make matters worse: complexity sells better. Edsger W. Dijkstra
  56. Simplicity is prerequisite for reliability. Edsger Dijkstra
  57. So-called “natural language” is wonderful for the purposes it was created for, such as to be rude in, to tell jokes in, to cheat or to make love in (and Theorists of Literary Criticism can even be content-free in it), but it is hopelessly inadequate when we have to deal unambiguously with situations of great intricacy, situations which unavoidably arise in such activities as legislation, arbitration, mathematics or programming.
  58. Some consider the puzzles that are created by their omissions as spicy challenges, without which their texts would be boring; others shun clarity lest their work is considered trivial.
  59. Teaching to unsuspecting youngsters the effective use of formal methods is one of the joys of life because it is so extremely rewarding.
  60. Testing shows the presence, not the absence of bugs. Edsger Dijkstra
  61. Thank goodness we don’t have only serious problems, but ridiculous ones as well. Edsger W. Dijkstra
  62. Thanks to the greatly improved possibility of communication, we overrate its importance. Even stronger, we underrate the importance of isolation.
  63. The ability of discerning high quality unavoidably implies the ability of identifying shortcomings.
  64. The art of programming is the art of organizing complexity, of mastering multitude and avoiding its bastard chaos as effectively as possible.
  65. The competent programmer is fully aware of the limited size of his own skull. He therefore approaches his task with full humility, and avoids clever tricks like the plague.
  66. The effective exploitation of his powers of abstraction must be regarded as one of the most vital activities of a competent programmer. Edsger Dijkstra
  67. The effort of using machines to mimic the human mind has always struck me as rather silly. I would rather use them to mimic something better.
  68. The lurking suspicion that something could be simplified is the world’s richest source of rewarding challenges. Edsger Dijkstra
  69. The prisoner falls in love with his chains.
  70. The problems of the real world are primarily those you are left with when you refuse to apply their effective solutions. Edsger W. Dijkstra
  71. The purpose of abstraction is not to be vague, but to create a new semantic level in which one can be absolutely precise. Edsger Dijkstra
  72. The question of whether a computer can think is no more interesting than the question of whether a submarine can swim.
  73. The question of whether Machines Can Think… is about as relevant as the question of whether Submarines Can Swim. Edsger W. Dijkstra
  74. The required techniques of effective reasoning are pretty formal, but as long as programming is done by people that don’t master them, the software crisis will remain with us and will be considered an incurable disease. And you know what incurable diseases do: they invite the quacks and charlatans in, who in this case take the form of Software Engineering gurus.
  75. The tools we use have a profound and devious influence on our thinking habits, and therefore on our thinking abilities.
  76. The traditional mathematician recognizes and appreciates mathematical elegance when he sees it. I propose to go one step further, and to consider elegance an essential ingredient of mathematics: if it is clumsy, it is not mathematics.
  77. The use of anthropomorphic terminology forces you linguistically to adopt an operational view. And it makes it practically impossible to argue about programs independently of their being executed. Edsger Dijkstra
  78. The use of COBOL cripples the mind; its teaching should, therefore, be regarded as a criminal offense. Edsger Dijkstra
  79. There are many different styles of composition. I characterize them always as Mozart versus Beethoven. When Mozart began to write at that time he had the composition ready in his mind. He wrote the manuscript and it was ‘aus einem Guss’ (casted as one). And it was also written very beautiful. Beethoven was an indecisive and a tinkerer and wrote down before he had the composition ready and plastered parts over to change them. There was a certain place where he plastered over nine times and one did remove that carefully to see what happened and it turned out the last version was the same as the first one.
  80. There is very little point in trying to urge the world to mend its ways as long as that world is still convinced that its ways are perfectly adequate.
  81. There should be no such thing as boring mathematics. Edsger Dijkstra
  82. Though computer science is a fairly new discipline, it is predominantly based on the Cartesian world view. As Edsgar W. Dijkstra has pointed out] A scientific discipline emerges with the – usually rather slow! – discovery of which aspects can be meaningfully studied in isolation for the sake of their own consistency. Edsger W. Dijkstra
  83. Too few people recognize that the high technology so celebrated today is essentially a mathematical technology.
  84. We are all shaped by the tools we use, in particular: the formalisms we use shape our thinking habits, for better or for worse, and that means that we have to be very careful in the choice of what we learn and teach, for unlearning is not really possible.
  85. We can found no scientific discipline, nor a hearty profession, on the technical mistakes of the Department of Defense and, mainly, one computer manufacturer.
  86. We must be very careful when we give advice to younger people: sometimes they follow it!
  87. We must not put mistakes into programs because of sloppiness, we have to do it systematically and with care.
  88. We shall do a much better programming job, provided that we approach the task with a full appreciation of its tremendous difficulty, provided that we stick to modest and elegant programming languages, provided that we respect the intrinsic limitations of the human mind and approach the task as Very Humble Programmers.
  89. When building sand castles on the beach, we can ignore the waves but should watch the tide.
  90. When I came back from Munich, it was September, and I was Professor of Mathematics at the Eindhoven University of Technology. Later I learned that I had been the Department’s third choice, after two numerical analysts had turned the invitation down; the decision to invite me had not been an easy one, on the one hand because I had not really studied mathematics, and on the other hand because of my sandals, my beard and my “arrogance” (whatever that may be).
  91. When we had no computers, we had no programming problem either. When we had a few computers, we had a mild programming problem. Confronted with machines a million times as powerful, we are faced with a gigantic programming problem.
  92. When we take the position that it is not only the programmer’s responsibility to produce a correct program but also to demonstrate its correctness in a convincing manner, then the above remarks have a profound influence on the programmer’s activity: the object he has to produce must be usefully structured. Edsger Dijkstra
  93. Why has elegance found so little following? That is the reality of it. Elegance has the disadvantage, if that’s what it is, that hard work is needed to achieve it and a good education to appreciate it.
  94. Write a paper promising salvation, make it a ‘structured’ something or a ‘virtual’ something, or ‘abstract’, ‘distributed’ or ‘higher-order’ or ‘applicative’ and you can almost be certain of having started a new cult.
  95. Yes, I share your concern: how to program well -though a teachable topic- is hardly taught. The situation is similar to that in mathematics, where the explicit curriculum is confined to mathematical results; how to do mathematics is something the student must absorb by osmosis, so to speak. One reason for preferring symbol-manipulating, calculating arguments is that their design is much better teachable than the design of verbal/pictorial arguments. Large-scale introduction of courses on such calculational methodology, however, would encounter unsurmoutable political problems.
  96. You must not give the world what it asks for, but what it needs.

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