Answers to questions from students of Software Engineering

[The approximate reconstruction of the questions is left as an exercise to the reader.]

Blackboard -> Overhead Projector -> Power Point

[Medical researchers are not required to suffer from the diseases they investigate.]

[Medical researchers are not required to develop new diseases so as to create a market for more pharmaceutical products.]

[The things society asks for are generally understood, and you don't need a University for that; the university has to offer what no one else can provide.]

[Many years ago, if I could use a new assistant, one prerequisite would be "No prior exposure to FORTRAN", and at high schools in Siberia, the teaching of BASIC was not allowed.]

We should never forget that programmers live in a world of artefacts, a fact that distinguishes them from most other scientists. The programmer should not ask how applicable the techniques of sound programming are, he should create a world in which they are applicable; it is his only way of delivering a high-quality design. To which I should add a quotation from EWD898 (1984)

"Machine capacities now give us room galore for making a mess of it. Opportunities unlimited for fouling things up! Developing the austere intellectual discipline of keeping things sufficiently simple is in this environment a formidable challenge, both technically and educationally."

"Back to our original question: can computing science save the computer industry? My answer is "If the computer industry can be saved, only computing science can do it.". But it may take a long time before the computer industry —in particular the well-established companies— will share this view. It will almost certainly take longer than the limited period over which they plan their futures. In the mean time, the academic world —which traditionally plans much further ahead— has no choice. It has to refine and to teach to the best of its abilities how computing should be done; would it ever yield to the pressure to propagate the malpractice of today, it had better fold up.".

But to stress how much patience we need, let me give you another old quotation (from 1988)

"Too few people recognize that the high technology so celebrated today is essentially a mathematical technology."

(from the 2nd David-report, so named after the committee's chairman Dr. E. E. David Jr.)

Austin, 28 November 2000


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

Transcription by James Lu.
Last revision: Sat, 24 Nov 2007.