“Computer science is no longer about computers”

“Computer science is no longer about computers”

Edsger W. Dijkstra? Alan Perlis? Jacques Arsac? George Johnson? Donald Knuth? Matthew Dennis Haines? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Computers are the classic instrument employed internal the sphere of computer science; nonetheless, the self-discipline transcends this instrument. Listed below are three attempts to advise this standpoint:

Computer science is no longer any more about computers than astronomy is set telescopes.

Biology Is no longer about microscopes, and computer science is no longer about computers.

“Computer science” is a abominable name. Astronomy is no longer called “telescope science”, and biology is no longer called “microscope science”.

This announcing has been attributed to Dutch computer scientist Edsger W. Dijkstra. Would you please detect this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest shut match positioned by QI seemed in the 1986 book “Equipment of the Mind: Contained in the New Science of Man made Intelligence” by science journalist George Johnson. The attribution used to be nameless. Boldface added to excerpts: 1

The likelihood of a science at some point soon of which the entire world is believed of computationally casts the peep of computers in a really mighty contemporary light. As its practitioners are fond of announcing, computer science is no longer about computers, any longer than astronomy is set telescopes, or biology about microscopes. These devices are tools for observing worlds otherwise inaccessible. The computer is a instrument for exploring the sphere of advanced processes, whether or no longer they get cells, stars, or the human mind.

This announcing has been complicated to designate, and this text most efficient gifts a snapshot of contemporary compare. There is evidence that the underlying thought emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, however the preliminary formulations were no longer concise and reveal.

Below are extra selected citations in chronological show.

In 1971 computer scientist Anthony Ralston published “Introduction To Programming and Computer Science”. He presented a thematically pertinent analogy basically basically based on astronomers and telescopes: 2

Computer science is no longer by myself among the sciences in its dependence upon a particular machine or machine; astronomy comes straight to mind. Nonetheless ultimate as astronomers in total use in theoretical compare which attain no longer require a telescope, compare in computer science doesn’t necessarily get computers straight. One such location of computer science is automata belief.

In 1974 Australian computer scientist W. N. Holmes published “The Social Implications of the Australian Computer Society”, and he criticized the phrase “computer science”: 3

Nonetheless, if one is true, the two terms computer and science are incompatible as a outcome of computer is no longer an adjective to be applied to a self-discipline. Grammatically, computer science need to nonetheless be contrasted to physical science, pure science, and medical science.

Along with grammatically, the sick-usage will likely be seen by brooding about why there may possibly be no longer a telescope science embracing astronomy, surveying, and fire-spotting, or a microscope science embracing biology, metallurgy, and philately, or a phone science embracing salesmanship, management and espionage. In completely different phrases, a science need to nonetheless no longer be circumscribed by the applicability of 1 of its instruments.

In 1982 “Annals of the Historical past of Computing” printed an interview with prominent computer scientist Donald Knuth. He urged that of us in the sphere called computer science were drawn collectively thanks to their “unfamiliar method of thinking”: 4

Nonetheless being a handy instrument is no longer ample in itself to memoir for the truth that computer science is now thriving in thousands of locations. As an illustration, an electron microscope is a marvelous instrument, but “electron microscope science” has no longer taken the sphere by storm; something completely different than the usefulness of computers need to memoir for the rapidly spread of computer science.

What in truth came about used to be that the individuals who acquired drawn to computers began to realise that their unfamiliar method of thinking used to be shared by others, so they began to congregate in locations the place they are able to procure people like themselves to work with. Right here is how computer science came to exist.

In 1986 journalist George Johnson included an nameless instance of the announcing in the book “Equipment of the Mind” as mentioned beforehand.

In 1989 an interview with prominent French computer scientist Jacques Arsac seemed. Arsac credited the announcing to computer scientist Alan Perlis with a date of 1968. The passage in French below is adopted by an English translation: 5

J’ai un texte de Perlis datant de 1968 dans lequel il critique le terme de Computer Science en 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. Il y avait cette prise de sense of right and wrong: une science nouvelle apparaît. Le nom est peut-être mal choisi, mais c’est une science nouvelle.

I procure a text from Perlis dating from 1968 at some point soon of which he criticizes the term Computer Science by announcing that it’s far spoiled, that there may possibly be no longer any science of an instrument, that computer science is no longer any more the science of computers than astronomy is that of telescopes. There used to be this realization: a brand contemporary science is rising. The name may possibly no longer be correctly chosen, nonetheless it’s far a brand contemporary science.

In 1993 the Division of Computer Science of Colorado Suppose College launched a technical file containing the Ph.D. dissertation of Matthew Dennis Haines. The epigraph of chapter two attributed the announcing to Edsger W. Dijkstra: 6

Computer Science is no longer any more about computers than astronomy is set telescopes.

— E. W. Dijkstra

In 1995 the textbook “C++: An Introduction to Computing” by Joel Adams, Sanford Leestma, and Larry Nyhoff contained a germane passage: 7

The term “computer science” has been the source of much confusion. Though there are sciences called physics and biology, there are no longer disciplines called “telescope science” or “microscope science.” How can there be a “computer science” if a pc is merely any other scientific instrument or instrument?

In conclusion, the earliest published evidence of a shut match seemed in George Johnson’s 1986 book, however the attribution used to be nameless. In 1974 W. N. Holmes made a the same point in a chunk of writing published in “The Australian Computer Journal”. Nonetheless he did no longer contemporary a compact and reveal assertion.

There is indirect evidence from Jacques Arsac who acknowledged in 1989 that he read the announcing internal a manuscript from Alan Perlis dated 1968. Nonetheless the manuscript used to be never published. Thus, this tell is dependent on the accuracy of Arsac’s memory.

Describe Notes: Public domain listing of the NASA Hubble Put Telescope; credit NASA. Describe has been cropped and resized.

(Immense thanks to Michele De Russi whose inquiry led QI to formulate this quiz and fabricate this exploration. Michele De Russi informed QI regarding the dear 1989 quotation from Jacques Arsac and completely different citations from Arsac.)

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