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TIL that Edsger Dijkstra apparently believed that I and all of my fellow Gen X programmers were "mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration"
62 replies and sub-replies as of Oct 18 2021

So my mother was right!
Was he right?
No. It's like Einstein's "Gott würfelt nicht". Even geniuses are wrong once in a while.
It was actually a good litmus test: You could see who in the best case used BASIC pragmatically only when it was ubiquitous and not worth fighting against in a given use cases, but also walked the extra mile for better tools where it mattered.
I used BASIC in the late 90s and early 2000s and my mental stability is questionable at best.
Correlation is not causation. Esp. with a sample size of one.
Dijkstra had some issues.
If only he knew we would be drowning in YAML…
He'd be apoplectic about modern programming given other quotes by him. Though, in rereading some of them, I can imagine some winks in some of these.
Quick basic and Power basic he wouldn't hate that much I'd think, given liked Pascal and even used goto in that language
Quick Basic was 1985, TEN YEARS after Bill Gates wrote his BASIC interpreter for the Altair 8800 that got reimplemented in the triad of popular home computers Apple ][, Commodore PET and TRS-80, for a decade of essentially Dartmouth BASIC. It's amazing society survived.
When I encountered that quote for the first time BASIC was the only language I knew
Well, Bryan, I thought I word "basic" is metaphor in that statement of a great man! Probably you can see it as "Preconceived dogma" ...the rough term "baggage of some sort" ..which is bloody true for modern day programmer. My understanding might not align with you.But, thats wh
I enjoy a good dijkstra quite from time to time but the notion of programming infohazards stopped me from reading gof for years and in retrospect I think it’s a damaging idea
I am pretty sure he thought that of everyone not named Djikstra.
Dijkstra might have been a genius but he gets a great big 🖕🏻 from this Gen-X'er who started in BASIC.
BASIC is like cable management, there can be something that is pretty okay if you’re disciplined, but most of the time was a disaster.
I'm not Gen X, but I did want to cheat at games on my TI-86 in school, so I have also been mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration.
if gen x programmers were mentally mutilated, what are the kids today who have no conception of a filesystem?
You mean windows kids? Pfft
What about those of us who had to store all our programs on magnetic tape or punched paper tape?
"I don't know how many of you have ever met Dijkstra, but you probably know that arrogance in computer science is measured in nano-Dijkstras." - Alan Kay (More context:… )
Omg 😂😂😂😂😂
I ran across that quote again right about the same time I was experimenting with some Applesoft BASIC under emulation for the first time in awhile. So I wrote a blog post about it. Good times :) #RetroComputing
Applying "Good" Programming To Old BASIC
Open Source and Fediverse Advocate/Developer exploring longvetity and software from a 1st person point of view
I clearly wasn't the only one to think that Dijkstra was rage tweeting from beyond the grave!
Wait. Is that a service that mortuaries offer now? I'm interested
0 ?"{clear}":s=7680:p=275:poke36879,238 1 diml(63):a(0)=-22:a(1)=1:a(2)=22:a(3)=-1:fori=1to60:r=rnd(1)*506:pokes+r,90:next 2 p=p+a(d):l(u)=p+s:c=peek(l(u)):pokel(u),81:pokel(u-f-3and63),32 3 f=f-(c=90):?"{home}"f:u=u+1and63:geta$:d=d+(a$="a")-(a$="d")and3:ifc=32orc=90then2
Wait until he sees what Perl did to us
Doing some research it seems like Dijkstra was frustrated with Dartmouth basic in particular…
this makes me feel better wondering what he’d think of javascript
JavaScript allows multi line if statements, user defined functions, you don’t have to pass parameters with global variables, there are while loops, and variable names can contain more than just one letter, so I think he’d be like “this isn’t so bad, actually”
as I read each bullet point my horror grew more and more. how did people code like this???
Wow. I started with BASIC back in 1975 on a WANG Model 2100 computer and built a great career writing software for over 38 years that is still going on. I have migrated to many different languages and systems over the years.
I'm a boomer and was first exposed to BASIC. But yes, I'm probably hopeless as well.
“Warning Programmers will tell you to read this guy named ‘Dijkstra’ on this subject. I recommend you avoid his writings on this unless you enjoy being yelled at by someone who stopped programming at the same time programming started.” —Zed Shaw, Learn Python the Hard Way
Well my wife sometimes think that I am mentally mutilated beyond any hope of regeneration, she's only not referring to my coding skills.
dude had some issues
That was a fun paper. :-)
If only he was still alive you could really tell him where to GOTO. 🤷‍♂️
BRB adding this to my LinkedIn
can confirm I still put line numbers in my scala code
Wow what would the kernel coders created if it wasn't the perversion of coding in Basic, At it was they created, Linux, dTrace, ZFS, to name a few.
I have heard the man speak / take questions, and he *may* be the grumpiest person I’ve ever shared a room with.
Bill Gates programmed in BASIC. Likely Larry Ellison. Likely Woz. Likely the Gods in computing. and who is this Dijsktra? Sounds like a shitter..
and who is this Dijsktra again disrespecting John Kemeny who also worked on the Manhattan Project? like men, just keep on copy and pasting github source codes, k?
Lol I didn't knew that phrase was from him
Shows that no matter how smart you are, you're not immune to falling for the "kids these days" sentiment syndrome.
It is practically impossible to teach good programming to students that have had a prior exposure to smartphones: as potential programmers they are mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration.
"Arrogance in Computer Science is measured in Nano-Dijkstras." - Alan Kay.
😠 Q Basic represent
I would argue that those of us that started with BASIC have a huge problem solving and optimization advantage over those who started with Java
He actually did have something of a point. Would have been interesting to see him react to PHP.
OMG he's right. I'm going to sue Radio Shack for what they did to me.
tbh BASIC could not possibly have done more irreparable damage to my abilities than my co-workers have
This is explains why I feel the way I do...
As has been pointed out, this was written in 1975, Dijkstra wasn't complaining about Gen X but rather Baby Boomers who were learning (Dartmouth) BASIC. Since then Object Oriented Methodologists have similarly railed against those who learned Structured Programming.
Dijkstra was fond of hyperbole to make a point. I think when you account for this his point was Basic wasn't a great language and some things would need to be unlearned.