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Alan Perlis (1922 – 1990)


American computer scientist known for his pioneering work in programming languages, most notably as a member of the team that developed the ALGOL programming language.
Alan Perlis
117: It goes against the grain of modern education to teach students to program. What fun is there to making plans, acquiring discipline in organizing thoughts, devoting attention to detail and, learning to be self-critical?
Perlis quotes
80: Prolonged contact with the computer turns mathematicians into clerks and vice versa.
Perlis
75: The computing field is always in need of new cliches: Banality sooths our nerves.




Perlis Alan quotes
8: A programming language is low level when its programs require attention to the irrelevant.
Perlis Alan
I think it is inevitable that people program poorly. Training will not substantially help matters. We have to learn to live with it.
Alan Perlis quotes
11: If you have a procedure with 10 parameters, you probably missed some.
Alan Perlis
116: You think you know when you learn, are more sure when you can write, even more when you can teach, but certain when you can program.
Perlis Alan quotes
We toast the Lisp programmer who pens his thoughts within nests of parentheses.
Perlis
41: Some programming languages manage to absorb change, but withstand progress.
Perlis Alan
39: A picture is worth 10K words - but only those to describe the picture. Hardly any sets of 10K words can be adequately described with pictures.
Alan Perlis
31: Simplicity does not precede complexity, but follows it.




Alan Perlis quotes
57: It is easier to change the specification to fit the program than vice versa.
Alan Perlis
Both knowledge and wisdom extend man's reach. Knowledge led to computers, wisdom to chopsticks.
Perlis quotes
I think that it's extraordinarily important that we in computer science keep fun in computing. When it started out, it was an awful lot of fun. Of course, the paying customers got shafted every now and then, and after a while we began to take their complaints seriously. We began to feel as if we really were responsible for the successful, error-free perfect use of these machines. I don't think we are. I think we're responsible for stretching them, setting them off in new directions, and keeping fun in the house. I hope the field of computer science never loses its sense of fun. Above all, I hope we don't become missionaries. Don't feel as if you're Bible salesmen. The world has too many of those already. What you know about computing other people will learn. Don't feel as if the key to successful computing is only in your hands. What's in your hands, I think and hope, is intelligence: the ability to see the machine as more than when you were first led up to it, that you can make it more.
Perlis Alan
The vision we have of conversational programming takes in much more than rapid turn around time and convenient debugging aids: our most interesting programs are never wrong and never final. [...] What is new is the requirement to make variable in our languages what we had previously taken as fixed. I do not refer to new data classes now, but to variables whose values are programs or parts of programs, syntax or parts of syntax, and regimes of control.
Perlis Alan quotes
16 Every program has (at least) two purposes: the one for which it was written and another for which it wasn't.
Alan Perlis
95: Don't have good ideas if you aren't willing to be responsible for them.
Alan Perlis quotes
64: Often it is means that justify ends: Goals advance technique and technique survives even when goal structures crumble.
Alan Perlis
Programmers should never be satisfied with languages which permit them to program everything, but to program nothing of interest easily.
Perlis Alan
There is an appreciated substance to the phrase "ALGOL-like" which is often used in arguments about programming, languages and computation. ALGOL appears to be a durable model, and even flourishes under surgery be it explorative, plastic, or amputative.


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