Friday, August 12, 2005

Messiness and computing

Heidi recently wrote an entry in praise of messiness in science, which set me thinking about messiness in mathematics and in computing. While reading some of Dijkstra's old writings, I came across this tidbit, which seemed apropos:

We should never forget that programmers live in a world of artifacts, a fact that distinguishes them from most other scientists. A 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 simple is in this environment a formidable challenge, both technically and educationally.

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