A step over the mark

(Dutch title: Een scheve schaats)

Translated by

In [0], a Liber Amicorum, published on the occasion of the retirement of colleague Kruseman Aretz, we read on p. 159 the following historical outline:

"In Eindhoven is van het begin van de jaren 60 tot medio (de) jaren 80 een monocultuur gegroeid onder leiding van Dijkstra. Deze monocultuur duiden wij vaak aan als de Eindhovense programmeerstijl of de Eindhovense school. In een monocultuur passen geen andere gewassen en deze worden door de kwekers van de monocultuur al snel onkruid genoemd. Velen die iets ander wilden kweken zijn in die tijd gesneuveld, maar jij niet."

"In Eindhoven from the start of the 60's until about the middle of the 80's a monoculture prospered under the leadership of Dijkstra. This monoculture is often called the Eindhoven programming-style or Eindhoven School. In a monoculture, no other plants fit and the growers of the monoculture are soon calling them weeds. Many who wanted to grow something else during that time died, but not you."


It is difficult to read something other than accusations of an unhealthy, one-sided and intolerant nature here.

The accusation of one-sidedness is surprising considering that Dijkstra was (already in 1984) professionally involved in a wider area than most others, and prompts one to ask if the author looked further than the end of his nose.

It is true though that Dijkstra was not active in all areas of Information Technology. Examples that come to mind are file management, "trace" theory and the study of translation techniques. For the sake of decency, we should of course note that this represents a clearly chosen division of labour between Dijkstra and his colleagues.

The accusation, unmeasured and unfounded, of deadly intolerance is even more surprising: considering it is a complete mystery who these "many" that "died" were. We can only conclude that the author pulled the victims out of thin air. Naturally Dijkstra judged and considered as every professional should, because this is what society (rightly) expects of her experts. Maybe the author didn't consider that a judgement in the name of tolerance, that always approves of everything, produces no information and hence represents nothing. (Another explanation is that the author was barely aware of the insinuating nonsense that he wrote).

The quoted text is so far off the mark that we can simply disregard this author as a spiteful piece of snot. Harder to accept, because it's more disturbing, is that this libellous script appeared in an official publication of the Technische Universiteit Eindhoven. Luckily and with apparent foresight, the colophon finishes with:

"Hoewel dit boek met zeer veel zorg is samengesteld, aanvaarden schrijver(s) noch uitgever enige aansprakelijkheid voor schade ontstaan door eventuele fouten en/of onvolkomenheden in dit boek."

"Although this book was compiled with much care, neither the author(s) nor the publisher accept any responsibility for damages caused by mistakes and/or imperfections in this book."

[0] E.H.L. Aarts et. al. (Ed.) Simplex Sigillum Veri, Een Liber Amicorum voor prof. dr. F.E.J. Kruseman Aretz, TU Eindhoven, 1995
ISBN 90-386-0197-2

Austin, 14th March 1996

Prof. dr. Edsger W. Dijkstra,
Department of Computer Sciences,
The University of Texas at Austin,
Austin, TX 78712-1188

revised Thu, 24 Jun 2004