Memorable Quotes from Edsger Dijkstra (1930-2002)

Most of these were collected from

"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."

"The use of COBOL cripples the mind; its teaching should, therefore, be regarded as a criminal offense."

"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."

"Program testing can be used to show the presence of bugs, but never to show their absence!"

"The question of whether a computer can think is no more interesting than the question of whether a submarine can swim."

"Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes."

"Progress is possible only if we train ourselves to think about programs without thinking of them as pieces of executable code."

"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."

"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."

"Object-oriented programming is an exceptionally bad idea which could only have originated in California."

"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."

My only personal encounter with Dijkstra occurred at SIGCSE 2000 in Austin, Texas. After the luncheon presentation, during which the speaker discussed his use of Visual Basic in teaching a computer literacy-type course, a number of the conference attendees lined up to meet Dijkstra. When it became my turn to approach the great man, Dijkstra asked me, "What is Visual Basic?" I replied that it was a programming language particularly well-suited for generating graphical user interfaces. To that, he sighed and said, "Ah, bells and whistles."