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Dijkstra on Webster, users, bugs and Aristotle




Every programmer should read what Edsger Dijkstra wrote as part of their Education. The University of Texas hosts a comprehensive  Archive of Dijkstra's writings

Perhaps my faovourite piece is what he wrote about "Users" in EWD618.


"The computer “user” isn’t a real person of flesh and blood, with passions and brains. No, he is a mythical figure, and not a very pleasant one either. A kind of mongrel with money but without taste, an ugly caricature that is very uninspiring to work for. He is, as a matter of fact, such an uninspiring idiot that his stupidity alone is a sufficient explanation for the ugliness of most computer systems. And oh! Is he uneducated! That is perhaps his most depressing characteristic. He is equally education-resistant as another equally mythical bore, “the average programmer”, whose solid stupidity is the greatest barrier to progress in programming.

In the context of the article Dijkstra was calling this kind of stereotyping out saying that 


... its usage is almost always a symptom of a violent anti-intellectualism.

Read the full paper here : On Webster, users, bugs and Aristotle




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