If you’re reading this, you’ve got a leg up on one of the best computer scientists.

Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (try saying that if you’re not Dutch) is known for a lot of important advancements in computer science, won the 1972 Turing Award, was so cool that the ACM PODC Influential Paper Award was renamed to the Dijkstra award after he won it in 2002, and wrote over 1300 papers that were passed by word of mouth only throughout the world computer science community.

And every one of those papers was written by hand, as Dijkstra didn’t own a computer. Read one of his funnier ones.

In fact, he didn’t quite like the way some people viewed computer science. He said the job of working with computers became “prematurely known as ‘computer science,’ which actually is like referring to surgery as ‘knife science.'”

Edsger Dijkstra. Looks like a hipster, codes like a boss.

There’s a kind of sad truth to this, in that CS isn’t all about computers. As you might know, CS involves a good amount of math and computational thinking, and isn’t totally about actually writing code. That’s why we can have awesome programs like CS Unplugged

There’s no doubt that Dijkstra is a philosophically inspiring dude. He had a great sense of humor and often poked fun at how the CS industry works, such as his with pastime hobby of acting as ‘Chairman of the Board’ of the made-up Mathematics Inc., a company that commercialized mathematical theorems the same way that software companies commercialized computer programs. His point in making this company up was to illustrate how silly it is to “own” a bit of code or computing knowledge.

Dijkstra accomplished all these things and did a lot to influence the computer science world. Thanks in part to him, it’s the way it is today. And he did all this without a computer.

Mapping the human genome is one of the greatest accomplishments of Bioinformantics, the biological branch of computer science

If you’re reading this, you have–or at least have access to–a computer of some kind. And that means you’ve got a leg up on him. You have access to code compilers; free/open-source digital textbooks; online lectures from Stanford, Yale, SETI, TED and others–all the tools someone learning CS could ever want.

Computer science has infinite application. All the knowledge in the world is being digitized, and it needs to be organized and used somehow. Whether you just want to help people in third-world countries, create an innovative robot, design the next great videogame, do research to cure cancer, increase efficiency of our electric grid, or just make a script that prints everything in a folder, computer science is how you do it.

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One thought on “If you’re reading this, you’ve got a leg up on one of the best computer scientists.

  1. Pingback: You ought to Hopper on board with CS, Kay? | Get Real

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