Dijkstra during the 1960s. The following post refers to my journal article about the Dijkstra of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Subsequent posts on this page either discuss this article or address EWDs that Dijkstra wrote during the 1960s.

An analogy between mathematics and programming


October 1961

In his technical report (MR 34) of October 1961, Dijkstra explained why he viewed a good programming language to be one of a small number of very general concepts. To clarify, he used an analogy between mathematics and programming, an analogy which in later years would be scrutinized in several ways by his contemporaries. (See e.g. MacKenzie's 2004 book Mechanizing Proof: Computing, Risk, and Trust.)


Influence of ALGOL 60 on Hardware Design in the USA


9-11 May 1961

Among Dijkstra's possessions is the booklet of the 1961 Western Joint Computer Conference which was held in Los Angeles. The booklet contains the abstracts of the presented lectures, including:

  • J. McCarthy's `A Basis for a Mathematical Theory of Computation' and
  • R.S. Barton's `A New Approach to the Functional Design of a Digital Computer'.

The abstract of the latter paper is briefly discussed here because it may help us understand how ALGOL 60 influenced hardware design in the USA during the early 1960s.


Computer efficiency

Here is what a reviewer had to say about the research paper `Dijkstra’s Rallying Cry ...':

The paper is, in essence, about an argument of generality versus computer efficiency. The argument was eventually settled in favour of the former due to the enormous advances in electronic technology. Today, computer efficiency is not an issue any more.

Is this correct? The last sentence seems to contradict Martin Reiser’s “law” which states that



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