Talk:Computer science

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Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes[edit]

Hoi Ruud, you might have seen I rearranged the computer science article, more in line with the rest. I also weakened you statement about Edsger Dijkstra, and added some more data. I think this makeover improves the readability. I hope you appreciate the changes. -- Mdd (talk) 22:18, 27 November 2012 (UTC)

Hoi Marcel, I don't think I completely agree with these changes for various reasons:
  1. "Computer Science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes." is the quote that became famous. The various possible origins of this quotation have not, or at least to a lesser extent. However, in the new layout they dominate the article more than they did in the previous version. In particular, I don't think the full quotes by Abelson and Hebenstreit would have deserved a mentioning here if it wasn't for their supporting role as a source of the shorter quote.
  2. I had tried to order the quotes—undoubtely somehwat subjectively—by their notability and incidentally by subject. I think it's pretty hard to go through an undergradute program in computer science without having heard the quotes about telescopes, indirection and premature optimization several times, roughly in that order. The quotes on the scientific status of computer science—while amusing—and by Richard Hamming, I'm fairly sure I first encountered here at Wikiquotes.
It may be interesting to note that Ian Parberry put up the webpage currently used as a source, was put up by him after an email conversation we had on the origin of this quote. This was, however, before I found the article by Hebenstreit and I have not yet gotten back to him on this issue. I was also still planning to contact Haines, as his thesis is indeed the first availble (electonically indexed) attribution of this quote to Dijkstra. Groet, —Ruud 22:51, 27 November 2012 (UTC)
Thanks Ruud, I will give this some seconds thoughts. I guess we both agree, that this article should give an overview of the most notable quotes about computer science and/or quotes from notable people about this subject.
First, I got the impression that the article you created, see here started with a reflection of the two most notable quotes in the field. This created a very atypical order of quotes. I think we should keep it simple: No order by notability, not by subject, but simple alphabetical.
Second, it even seems, you wanted to prove the hypothesis, that the quote "often attributed to Edsger Dijkstra... appears to be folklore." I think this is to much original research. Wikiquote/Wikipedia article are not meant to present/prove original theses.
The article is restructured into a regularly ordered article. If some quotes are not notable enough, I guess, we should remove those quotes. -- Mdd (talk) 23:30, 27 November 2012 (UTC)
Now I trimmed the article, leaving the notable quotes. This seems like a good base for the article (and for possible further improvement). I am well aware that it is not what you have in mind. I have altered/weakened your claim. It is indeed interesting that you are in contact with Ian Parberry about this subject. But it is not up to the both of you to decide. I admit there is a lot to improve here, and appreciate further comment here -- Mdd (talk) 23:55, 27 November 2012 (UTC)
I still disagree with several of your changes, but I probably won't have time to comment constructively until Saturday. —Ruud 00:55, 28 November 2012 (UTC)


I just noticed the Edsger W. Dijkstra article also lists the quote as misattributed, see here. I doubt that... I still think the prove given in the article (now and earlier) is inconclusive. -- Mdd (talk) 01:02, 28 November 2012 (UTC)

As a start, I have moved the quote (here and there) in a "disputed box". I will wait for your further arguments. -- Mdd (talk) 01:22, 28 November 2012 (UTC)
Hi Ruud, I did some more double checking and found some more typical things:
  1. The quote is attributed to Dijkstra in the new millennium in over 100 books and articles. In none of them I found an original source. Some related to earlier sources in the new millenium.
  2. Before the year 2000 the quote is attributed to Dijkstra just a couple of time, also without source.
  3. The E. W. Dijkstra Archive at the University of Texas is presenting over 1300 of Dijkstra's papers online.
  4. The quote can't be found there. Also, a search shows Dijkstra spoke about computer science and astronomy only in one article, see here
These observations make it highly likely Matthew Dennis Haines misattributed the quote to Dijkstra in 1993. I seem to have come to the same conclusion you made earlier that the quote is misattributed to Dijkstra. The quote should be attributed to Micheal R. Fellows, Ian Parberry. -- Mdd (talk) 22:12, 29 November 2012 (UTC)

Older sources of the "Computer science and astronomy" quote[edit]

I discovered some older sources of the quote misattributed to Dijkstra: Jacques Arsac in his various texts like

"La science et le sens de la vie" (1993)

"nous percevions n'était pas plus la science des ordinateurs que l'astronomie n'est la science des télescopes"

"Jacques Arsac, un informaticien: entretien avec Jacques Vauthier " (1989)

"...disant qu'il est mal fait, qu'il n'y a pas de science d'un instrument, que l'informatique n'est pas plus la science des ordinateurs que l'astronomie n'est celle des télescopes."

"Les machines à penser: des ordinateurs et des hommes" (1987)

" n'y a pas de science d'un instrument L'astronomie n'est pas la science des télescopes, ni la thermodynamique celle des thermomètres."

and he says that he read this quote in an Alan Perlis' text in 1968.

Arsac, however writes in

Arsac, however writes in "COMMENT ENSEIGNER ?: Les dilemmes de la culture et de la pédagogie" (1999)

that this text "le fit remarquer Perlis en 1968 dans une note polycopiée qu'il me remit mais ne publia pas", i.e. Perlis didn't publish this quote in 1968, so it seems that Jacques Arsac published for the first time this Alan Perlis' quote in 1987. Anyone can found some older sources of this quote?