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Computer Programming Quotes

Quotations are selected from this pool (and other quotation pools) in a pseudorandom way every hour and inserted at the top and bottom of some of the major pages on this website. Feel free to copy any of these quotes and paste them for whatever purpose you please, including on your own website, blog, social media page or forum debate posts.

I’s So Dumb I Think I am a Computer

I’m a PC (Personal Computer).

~ woman in an HP (Hewlett Packard) ad (1939 age:78)

This is equivalent to saying I have the IQ (Intelligence Quotient) of a television.

End Of The World

On 2038-01-19 03:14:07 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time/Temps Universel Coordonné) the world will end.

~ 32-bit Unix

Given that even artefacts in the ancient Mayan calendar attract apocalyptic cults, surely Unix will generate them too. Unix has largely switched to 64-bit timestamps which don’t have this Y2K38 problem.

Cost of an Amateur

If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.

~ Red Adair (1915-06-18 2004-08-07 age:89)

Nothing Can Go Wrong

The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.

~ Douglas Adams (1952-03-11 2001-05-11 age:49)

What is a Computer?

First we thought the PC was a calculator. Then we found out how to turn numbers into letters with ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) — and we thought it was a typewriter. Then we discovered graphics and we thought it was a television. With the World Wide Web, we’ve realized it’s a brochure.

~ Douglas Adams (1952-03-11 2001-05-11 age:49)


I wrote an ad for Apple Computer: Macintosh — We might not get everything right, but at least we knew the century was going to end.

~ Douglas Adams (1952-03-11 2001-05-11 age:49)

Management: Place Of Least Damage

The most ineffective workers are systematically moved to the place where they can do the least damage: management.

~ Scott Adams (1957-06-08 age:60) Dilbert Principle

Unix Condescension Masters

If you have any trouble sounding condescending, find a Unix user to show you how it’s done.

~ Scott Adams (1957-06-08 age:60), creator of Dilbert.

Stealing Your Idea

Don’t worry about people stealing an idea; if it’s original, you’ll have to shove it down their throats.

~ Howard Aiken (1900-03-08 1973-03-14 age:73)

Programmer Motto

Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate.
All hope abandon, ye who enter here.

~ Dante Alighieri (1265 1321-09-14 age:56)


To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer.

~ Farmer’s Almanac

Limits To Parallelism

The speedup gained from running a program on a parallel computer is greatly limited by the fraction of that program that can’t be parallelized.

~ Gene Amdahl (1922-11-16 age:95) Amdahl’s Law

Do Not Expect Smooth

Nothing worthwhile ever goes smoothly.

~ Mike Amling


Apple likes me, but they strongly prefer my money.

~ Tom Anderson

We Create the Future

One of the biggest flaws in the common conception of the future is that the future is something that happens to us, not something we create.

~ Michael Anissimov (1985 age:32)

Computer Superstition

Never let a computer know you’re in a hurry.

~ Anonymous

Effect of Meetings

Any simple problem can be made worse if enough meetings are held to discuss it.

~ Anonymous

Fish vs Internet

Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach that person to use the Internet and they won’t bother you for weeks.

~ Anonymous

How To Frustrate

If you give someone a program, you will frustrate them for a day; if you teach them how to program, you will frustrate them for a lifetime.

~ Anonymous


Sedulously eschew obfuscatory hyperverbosity and prolixity.

~ Anonymous


GØD is REAL unless declared INTEGER.

~ Anonymous

In FØRTRAN, variables beginning I…N are implicitly INTEGER, the rest REAL.


Because her father was a mathematician, Martha whimsically decorated her apartment in pepsigons.

~ Anonymous

Picture Equivalency

A picture is worth a thousand words but it takes 3,000 times the disk space.

~ Anonymous

Understanding the Brain

If our brains were simple enough to understand, we wouldn’t be smart enough to understand them.

~ Anonymous

Unix Rope

The Unix philosophy basically involves giving you just enough rope to hang yourself. And then a couple of feet more, just to be sure.

~ Anonymous


For every scientific (or engineering) action, there is an equal and opposite social reaction.

~ Norman Augustine (1935-07-27 age:82) Augustine’s Second Law of Socioscience

It Is Not Necessarily Impossible to Everyone

Because a thing seems difficult for you, do not think it impossible for anyone to accomplish.

~ Marcus Aurelius (121-04-26 AD 180-03-17 AD age:58)

GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out)

On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out? I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.

~ Charles Babbage (1791-12-26 1871-10-18 age:79)

Half a datum is Better than None

Errors using inadequate data are much less than those using no data at all.

~ Charles Babbage (1791-12-26 1871-10-18 age:79)

Internet Content

While you are destroying your mind watching the worthless, brain-rotting drivel on TV, we on the Internet are exchanging, freely and openly, the most uninhibited, intimate and, yes, shocking details about our CONFIG.SYS settings.

~ Dave Barry (1947-07-03 age:70)

In the DOS (Disk Operating System) days CONFIG.SYS was a global configuration file.

The Most Articulate Vegetable

Microsoft has a new version out, Windows XP, which according to everybody is the most reliable Windows ever. To me, this is like saying that asparagus is the most articulate vegetable ever.

~ Dave Barry (1947-07-03 age:70)

Exponential Function

The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.

~ Dr. Albert A. Bartlett (1923-03-21 age:95) click to watch

Need for Testing

I don’t need to test my programs. I have an error-correcting modem.

~ Om I. Baud

Design Quality Derivative

How good the design is doesn’t matter near as much as whether the design is getting better or worse. If it is getting better, day by day, I can live with it forever. If it is getting worse, I will die.

~ Kent Beck (1961 age:56), evangelist for extreme programming.

Experiment vs Speculation

I tell people to start implementing when they are pretty sure there aren’t more important stories out there. An iteration’s worth of data is worth months of speculation.

~ Kent Beck (1961 age:56), evangelist for extreme programming.

Rapid Feedback

Learning research tells us that the time lag from experiment to feedback is critical.

~ Kent Beck (1961 age:56), evangelist for extreme programming.

Responsible Development

Responsible Development shares many practices with XP but the roots are different. Responsible Development’s values are honesty, transparency, accountability and responsibility. These lead me to pairing, test-first, incremental design, continuous integration and so on because they support the values.

~ Kent Beck (1961 age:56), evangelist for extreme programming.

Responsible Development

Responsible Development is the style of development I aspire to now. It can be summarized by answering the question, How would I develop if it were my money? I’m amazed how many theoretical arguments evaporate when faced with this question.

~ Kent Beck (1961 age:56), evangelist for extreme programming.

SCID (Source Code In Database)

I mean, source code in files; how quaint, how seventies!

~ Kent Beck (1961 age:56), evangelist for extreme programming.

Testing Is Not Enough

Testing is not the point. The point is about responsibility.

~ Kent Beck (1961 age:56), evangelist for extreme programming.

Early Coffee Love

A cup of coffee — real coffee — home-browned, home ground, home made, that comes to you dark as a hazel-eye, but changes to a golden bronze as you temper it with cream that never cheated, but was real cream from its birth, thick, tenderly yellow, perfectly sweet, neither lumpy nor frothing on the Java: such a cup of coffee is a match for twenty blue devils and will exorcise them all.

~ Henry Ward Beecher (1813-06-24 1887-03-08 age:73)

Bugs Are Inextinguishable

Every method you use to prevent or find bugs leaves a residue of subtler bugs against which those methods are ineffectual.

~ Bruce Beizer Pesticide Paradox

Resisting New Ideas

The human mind likes a strange idea as the body likes a strange protein and resists it with a similar energy.

~ William Ian Beardmore Beveridge (1908 2006-08-14 age:98)

Bible on von Neumann Architectures

Let all things be done decently and in order.

~ I Corinthians 14:40

Apparently, Yahweh disapproves of multi-core CPUs (Central Processing Units), parallel processing and Java Threads.


Some things are so serious that one can only joke about them.

~ Niels Bohr (1885-10-07 1962-11-18 age:77)

Understanding Quantum Theory

Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it.

~ Niels Bohr (1885-10-07 1962-11-18 age:77)

Understanding Quantum Theory

If you think you can talk about quantum theory without feeling dizzy, you haven’t understood the first thing about it.

~ Niels Bohr (1885-10-07 1962-11-18 age:77)

Incompetence is More Probable than Incompetence

Never ascribe to malice, that which can be explained by incompetence.

~ Napoléon Bonaparte (1769-08-15 1821-05-05 age:51)

Do Not Disturb

If you think something is impossible, don’t disturb the person who is doing it!

~ Amar Bose (1929-11-02 2013-07-12 age:83)

Intelligent Stumbling

Invention is arrived at by intelligent stumbling.

~ Amar Bose (1929-11-02 2013-07-12 age:83)

Wild Elephant Riding

He who mounts a wild elephant goes where the wild elephant goes.

~ Randolph Bourne (1886-05-30 1918-12-22 age:32)

Library Education

I spent three days a week for 10 years educating myself in the public library and it’s better than college. People should educate themselves. You can get a complete education for no money. At the end of 10 years, I had read every book in the library and I’d written a thousand stories.

~ Ray Bradbury (1920-08-22 2012-06-05 age:91)

In principle, every university lecture, every university textbook and every book could be made available on the Internet for negligible cost to educate anyone, anywhere in the world who could afford the time to educate themselves. Right now we waste 90% of the world’s Einsteins who had the misfortune to be born in the third world.

Preventing the Future

I don’t try to describe the future. I try to prevent it.

~ Ray Bradbury (1920-08-22 2012-06-05 age:91)

Computers Produced with Unskilled Labour

Man is the best computer we can put aboard a spacecraft… and the only one that can be mass produced with unskilled labor.

~ Werner von Braun (1912-03-23 1977-06-16 age:65)

Unskilled Labour

The best computer is a man and it’s the only one that can be mass-produced by unskilled labor.

~ Werner von Braun (1912-03-23 1977-06-16 age:65)

von Braun is the classic nerd who became a mass murderer by refusing to think about the V2 missiles he was developing as anything but interesting toys.

Adding Manpower

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.

~ Fred Brooks (1931-04-19 age:87) Brooks’ Law

The Internet is a Life Substitute

Internet is so big, so powerful and pointless that for some people it is a complete substitute for life.

~ Andrew Brown (1955 age:62)


Everyone generalises from one example. At least, I do.

~ Steven Brust (1955-11-23 age:62)

Vow of the Bodhisattvas

~ The Programmer Buddha

Golden Tact

It is tact that is golden, not silence.

~ Samuel Butler (1835-12-04 1902-06-18 age:66)

Inventive Lying

Any fool can tell the truth, but it requires a man of some sense to know how to lie well.

~ Samuel Butler (1835-12-04 1902-06-18 age:66)

Living Beyond Your Income

All progress is based on a universal innate desire on the part of every organism to live beyond its income.

~ Samuel Butler (1835-12-04 1902-06-18 age:66)

Intelligent Life

I was reading about how countless species are being pushed toward extinction by man’s destruction of forests. Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.

~ Calvin (1985-11-18 1995-12-31 age:10) in Calvin & Hobbes comic strip by Bill Waterston

No Mercy

Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.

~ Joseph Campbell (1904-03-26 1987-10-31 age:83)

90% Complete

The first 90% of the code accounts for the first 90% of the development time. The remaining 10% of the code accounts for the other 90% of the development time.

~ Tom Cargill Ninety-ninety Law

Code Sharing

Sharing the code just seems like The Right Thing to Do, it costs us rather little, but it benefits a lot of people in sometimes very significant ways. There are many university research projects, proof of concept publisher demos and new platform test beds that have leveraged the code. Free software that people value adds wealth to the world.

~ John D. Carmack (1970-08-20 age:47) Making the Magic Happen 2010-07-20


I’m doubtful about the temper of your flamingo. Shall I try the experiment?

~ Lewis Caroll (1832-01-27 1898-01-14 age:65) The Duchess, The Mock Turtle’s Story, Alice in Wonderland

Perhaps because they have seen too many Star Trek movies where computers explode if you give them incorrect instruction, Java newbies are often loathe to perform even the simplest experiments. They insist on finding the answers in manuals or by asking other people. Granted, experiments tell you only how a system behaves now, not how it is promised to behave in future or how other platforms behave.


When I use a word, Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.

~ Lewis Carroll (1832-01-27 1898-01-14 age:65) — Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 6

Grammatically Correct

Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

~ Noam Chomsky (1928-12-07 age:89)

An example of a grammatically correct sentence that has no meaning. It is neither true nor false.

Conservative Prophesies

If we have learned one thing from the history of invention and discovery, it is that, in the long run — and often in the short one — the most daring prophecies seem laughably conservative.

~ Arthur C. Clarke (1917-12-16 2008-03-19 age:90)

Self-Destructing Aliens

I believe any malevolent supercivilisation would have rapidly self-destructed as we may be in the process of doing ourselves. If we do have contact, physical contact with aliens, I think it will be benign.

~ Arthur C. Clarke (1917-12-16 2008-03-19 age:90)

Stages of an Idea

Every revolutionary idea seems to evoke three stages of reaction. They may be summed up by the phrases:

  1. It’s completely impossible.
  2. It’s possible, but it’s not worth doing.
  3. I said it was a good idea all along.
~ Arthur C. Clarke (1917-12-16 2008-03-19 age:90)

Three Laws Of Prediction

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right.
  2. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
~ Arthur C. Clarke (1917-12-16 2008-03-19 age:90)

Waning Technology

No communication technology has ever disappeared, but instead becomes increasingly less important as the technological horizon widens.

~ Arthur C. Clarke (1917-12-16 2008-03-19 age:90)

Software Reflects Its Creator

Any piece of software reflects the organizational structure that produced it.

~ Melvin Conway Conway’s Law

Random Numbers

The generation of random numbers is too important to be left to chance.

~ Robert R. Coveyou (1915 1996-02-19 age:80)

Rotten Apple Effect

A program is only as good as its worst piece of code.

~ Joshua Cramer

Monitoring Programmers

The trouble with programmers is that you can never tell what a programmer is doing until it’s too late.

~ Seymour Cray (1925-09-28 1996-10-05 age:71)

Computer Surprises

Computers are machines that do exactly what you tell them, but they still can surprise you with the results.

~ Dr. Richard Dawkins (1941-03-26 age:77),   The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design

On RAM (Random Access Memory)

The term RAM is misleading. Therefore I won’t mention it.

~ Dr. Richard Dawkins (1941-03-26 age:77),   The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design

Paranoid Fear of Computer Intelligence

I’ve noticed lately that the paranoid fear of computers becoming intelligent and taking over the world has almost entirely disappeared from the common culture. Near as I can tell, this coincides with the release of MS-DOS.

~ Larry DeLuca

Programming ⇒ Understanding

If we can’t program it, we can’t understand it.

~ David Deutsch (1953 age:64)


Doing what the user expects with respect to navigation is absurdly important for user satisfaction.

~ anonymous Google Android developer

Advising the Young

We must be very careful when we give advice to younger people: sometimes they follow it!

~ Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (1930-05-11 2002-08-06 age:72)

AI (Artificial Intelligence)

The effort of using machines to mimic the human mind has always struck me as rather silly. I would rather use them to mimic something better.

~ Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (1930-05-11 2002-08-06 age:72)


The use of COBOL cripples the mind; its teaching should, therefore, be regarded as a criminal offense.

~ Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (1930-05-11 2002-08-06 age:72)

Avoid Debugging

If you want more effective programmers, you will discover that they should not waste their time debugging, they should not introduce the bugs to start with.

~ Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (1930-05-11 2002-08-06 age:72)


Programming in Basic causes brain damage.

~ Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (1930-05-11 2002-08-06 age:72)

Basic Damage

It is practically impossible to teach good programming to students that have had a prior exposure to BASIC: as potential programmers they are mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration.

~ Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (1930-05-11 2002-08-06 age:72)

In particular, he is talking about Bill Gates.


Beauty is our business.

~ Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (1930-05-11 2002-08-06 age:72)

Referring to computer science.

Can Submarines Swim?

The question of whether machines can think is about as relevant as the question of whether submarines can swim.

~ Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (1930-05-11 2002-08-06 age:72)

Computer Cults

Write a paper promising salvation, make it a structured something or a virtual something, or abstract, distributed or higher-order or applicative and you can almost be certain of having started a new cult.

~ Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (1930-05-11 2002-08-06 age:72)

Computer Science Without Computers

I don’t need to waste my time with a computer just because I am a computer scientist.

~ Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (1930-05-11 2002-08-06 age:72)

Difficult Programming

Don’t blame me for the fact that competent programming, as I view it as an intellectual possibility, will be too difficult for the average programmer, you must not fall into the trap of rejecting a surgical technique because it is beyond the capabilities of the barber in his shop around the corner.

~ Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (1930-05-11 2002-08-06 age:72)


How do we convince people that in programming simplicity and clarity — in short: what mathematicians call elegance — are not a dispensable luxury, but a crucial matter that decides between success and failure?

~ Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (1930-05-11 2002-08-06 age:72)

Function of Testing

Testing shows the presence, not the absence of bugs.

~ Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (1930-05-11 2002-08-06 age:72)


In the good old days physicists repeated each other’s experiments, just to be sure. Today they stick to FØRTRAN, so that they can share each other’s programs, bugs included.

~ Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (1930-05-11 2002-08-06 age:72)

Language Skills

Besides a mathematical inclination, an exceptionally good mastery of one’s native tongue is the most vital asset of a competent programmer.

~ Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (1930-05-11 2002-08-06 age:72)

Personal Responsibility

If in physics there’s something you don’t understand, you can always hide behind the uncharted depths of nature. You can always blame God. You didn’t make it so complex yourself. But if your program doesn’t work, there is no one to hide behind. You cannot hide behind an obstinate nature. If it doesn’t work, you’ve messed up.

~ Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (1930-05-11 2002-08-06 age:72)

Providing Reliability

Simplicity is prerequisite for reliability,

~ Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (1930-05-11 2002-08-06 age:72)

The main way to create simplicity is to decompose complexity into a set of black boxes that have minimal possible interaction with each other. Complexity is manageable, so long as it is tightly contained. In the Java idiom, the black boxes are classes with just a few public methods and the private methods hide the complexity inside the black box.

Quick and Dirty

I mean, if 10 years from now, when you are doing something quick and dirty, you suddenly visualize that I am looking over your shoulders and say to yourself Dijkstra would not have liked this, well, that would be enough immortality for me.

~ Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (1930-05-11 2002-08-06 age:72)

Sharpen Your Axe

About the use of language: it is impossible to sharpen a pencil with a blunt ax. It is equally vain to try to do it with ten blunt axes instead.

~ Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (1930-05-11 2002-08-06 age:72)

Simplicity is Hard Work

Simplicity is a great virtue but it requires hard work to achieve it and education to appreciate it. And to make matters worse: complexity sells better.

~ Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (1930-05-11 2002-08-06 age:72)

Subject of Computer Science

Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.

~ Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (1930-05-11 2002-08-06 age:72)

Task of a University

It is not the task of the University to offer what society asks for, but to give what society needs.

~ Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (1930-05-11 2002-08-06 age:72)

Computer Error Haiku

Death, taxes and lost data. Guess which has occurred.

~ David Dixon 1998, winning entry of the Haiku Error Messages 21st Challenge by Charlie Varon and Jim Rosenau, sponsored by

The Future

I can predict the future by assuming that money and male hormones are the driving forces for new technology. Therefore, when virtual reality gets cheaper than dating, society is doomed.

~ Dogbert

Artificial Plants

Plants with leaves no more efficient than today’s solar cells could out-compete real plants, crowding the biosphere with an inedible foliage. Tough omnivorous bacteria could out-compete real bacteria: They could spread like blowing pollen, replicate swiftly and reduce the biosphere to dust in a matter of days. Dangerous replicators could easily be too tough, small and rapidly spreading to stop — at least if we make no preparation. We have trouble enough controlling viruses and fruit flies.

~ Eric Drexler (1955-04-25 age:63) Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology

Appeal of Nukes

have felt it myself. The glitter of nuclear weapons. It is irresistible if you come to them as a scientist. To feel it’s there in your hands, to release this energy that fuels the stars, to let it do your bidding. To perform these miracles, to lift a million tons of rock into the sky. It is something that gives people an illusion of illimitable power and it is, in some ways, responsible for all our troubles — this, what you might call technical arrogance, that overcomes people when they see what they can do with their minds.

~ Freeman Dyson (1923-12-15 age:94) The Day After Trinity

Building Tools

There is a great satisfaction in building good tools for other people to use.

~ Freeman Dyson (1923-12-15 age:94)

Crackpot Papers

Most of the crackpot papers which are submitted to The Physical Review are rejected, not because it is impossible to understand them, but because it is possible. Those which are impossible to understand are usually published. When the great innovation appears, it will almost certainly be in a muddled, incomplete and confusing form. To the discoverer himself it will be only half-understood; to everybody else it will be a mystery. For any speculation which does not at first glance look crazy, there is no hope.

~ Freeman Dyson (1923-12-15 age:94)

Engineers Should Not Innovate

A good scientist is a person with original ideas. A good engineer is a person who makes a design that works with as few original ideas as possible. There are no prima donnas in engineering.

~ Freeman Dyson (1923-12-15 age:94)

Extraterrestrial Life

The biggest breakthrough in the next 50 years will be the discovery of extraterrestrial life. We have been searching for it for 50 years and found nothing. That proves life is rarer than we hoped, but does not prove that the universe is lifeless. We are only now developing the tools to make our searches efficient and far-reaching, as optical and radio detection and data processing move forward.

~ Freeman Dyson (1923-12-15 age:94)

Hay Technology

The technologies which have had the most profound effects on human life are usually simple. A good example of a simple technology with profound historical consequences is hay. Nobody knows who invented hay, the idea of cutting grass in the autumn and storing it in large enough quantities to keep horses and cows alive through the winter. All we know is that the technology of hay was unknown to the Roman Empire but was known to every village of medieval Europe. Like many other crucially important technologies, hay emerged anonymously during the so-called Dark Ages. According to the Hay Theory of History, the invention of hay was the decisive event which moved the center of gravity of urban civilization from the Mediterranean basin to Northern and Western Europe. The Roman Empire did not need hay because in a Mediterranean climate the grass grows well enough in winter for animals to graze. North of the Alps, great cities dependent on horses and oxen for motive power could not exist without hay. So it was hay that allowed populations to grow and civilizations to flourish among the forests of Northern Europe. Hay moved the greatness of Rome to Paris and London and later to Berlin and Moscow and New York.

~ Freeman Dyson (1923-12-15 age:94)

Many Prototypes

I made 5,127 prototypes of my vacuum before I got it right. There were 5,126 failures. But I learned from each one. That’s how I came up with a solution. So I don’t mind failure. I’ve always thought that schoolchildren should be marked by the number of failures they’ve had.

~ James Dyson (1947-05-02 age:71)

Work Dammit!

I just want things to work properly.

~ James Dyson (1947-05-02 age:71)

The Boulder Pledge

Under no circumstances will I ever purchase anything offered to me as the result of an unsolicited e-mail message. Nor will I forward chain letters, petitions, mass mailings, or virus warnings to large numbers of others. This is my contribution to the survival of the online community.

~ Roger Ebert (1942-06-18 2013-04-04 age:70)

The Internet Voice

It is human nature to look away from illness. We don’t enjoy a reminder of our own fragile mortality. That’s why writing on the Internet has become a life-saver for me. My ability to think and write have not been affected. And on the Web, my real voice finds expression.

~ Roger Ebert (1942-06-18 2013-04-04 age:70)

Packrat Internet

Doing research on the Web is like using a library assembled piecemeal by pack rats and vandalized nightly.

~ Roger Ebert (1942-06-18 2013-04-04 age:70)

Try and Retry

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

~ Thomas Alva Edison (1847-02-11 1931-10-18 age:84)

Cannot Prove Right

No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.

~ Albert Einstein (1879-03-14 1955-04-18 age:76)

Doubting Quantum Mechanics

Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret of the old one. I, at any rate, am convinced that He does not throw dice.

~ Albert Einstein (1879-03-14 1955-04-18 age:76)

Great Ideas Appear Absurd

If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.

~ Albert Einstein (1879-03-14 1955-04-18 age:76)

Never as Good as Imagined

Nothing is so good as it seems beforehand.

~ George Eliot (1819-11-22 1880-12-22 age:61) (Mary Ann Evans)

Nobel Killer

The Nobel is a ticket to one’s own funeral. No one has ever done anything after he got it.

~ Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888-09-26 1965-01-04 age:76)

Nobel Laureates are pestered to give speeches, join committees and become administrators.

Too Complicated

The userbase for strong cryptography declines by half with every additional keystroke or mouse click required to make it work.

~ Carl Ellison Ellison’s Law of Cryptography and Usability

Data Additional Value

Once the business data have been centralized and integrated, the value of the database is greater than the sum of the preexisting parts.

~ Larry Ellison (1944-08-17 age:73) Ellison’s Law of Data

Do What Frightens You

Always do what you are afraid to do.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-05-25 1882-04-27 age:78)

Experience Creates Courage

A great part of courage is the courage of having done the thing before.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-05-25 1882-04-27 age:78)


Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-05-25 1882-04-27 age:78)

Finish With Each Day

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-05-25 1882-04-27 age:78)

Leave a Trail

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-05-25 1882-04-27 age:78)

Last C Program

Goodbye World!: the last program you write in C.

~ Bruce Feist 1993

Physics and Sex

Physics is like sex: sure, it may give some practical results, but that’s not why we do it.

~ Richard P. Feynman (1918-05-11 1988-02-15 age:69) 1998

Playing With Computers

There is a computer disease that anybody who works with computers knows about. It’s a very serious disease and it interferes completely with the work. The trouble with computers is that you play with them!

~ Richard P. Feynman (1918-05-11 1988-02-15 age:69)

Quantum Arrogance

If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.

~ Richard P. Feynman (1918-05-11 1988-02-15 age:69)

Adaptation Inhibits Further Adaptation

The more highly adapted an organism becomes, the less adaptable it is to any new change.

~ Ronald A. Fisher (1890-02-17 1962-07-29 age:72) Fisher’s Fundamental Theorem

Fitts’ Law

The time to acquire a target is a function of the distance to and the size of the target.

~ Paul Fitts (1912 1965 age:53) Fitts’ Law

Writing Crap is Easy in Any Language

There does not now, nor will there ever, exist a programming language in which it is the least bit hard to write bad programs.

~ Lawrence Flon Flon’s Axiom

More With Less

Do more with less.

~ Richard Buckminster (Bucky) Fuller (1895-07-12 1983-07-01 age:87)

History Is About the Wrong People

Biographical history, as taught in our public schools, is still largely a history of boneheads: ridiculous kings and queens, paranoid political leaders, compulsive voyagers, ignorant generals — the flotsam and jetsam of historical currents. The men who radically altered history, the great scientists and mathematicians, are seldom mentioned, if at all.

~ Martin Gardner (1914-10-21 2010-05-22 age:95)

Gates on Java

While Microsoft does not share all of Oracle’s ambitions for Java, we agree that it is a very valuable tool for software developers.

~ Bill Gates (1955-08-28 age:62)

Spoken with British understatement.

Gates’ Hubris

There is this thing called the GPL (Gnu Public Licence), which we disagree with… nobody can ever improve the software.

~ Bill Gates (1955-08-28 age:62)

Labour Value Variation

A great lathe operator commands several times the wage of an average lathe operator, but a great writer of software code is worth 10,000 times the price of an average software writer.

~ Bill Gates (1955-08-28 age:62)

In nature, the analogous physical property that has this order of magnitude variability is electrical resistance.

Lines of Code

Measuring programming progress by lines of code is like measuring aircraft building progress by weight.

~ Bill Gates (1955-08-28 age:62)

Definition of Proof

I mean the word proof not in the sense of the lawyers, who set two half proofs equal to a whole one, but in the sense of a mathematician, where half proof = 0 and it is demanded for proof that every doubt becomes impossible.

~ Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-04-30 1855-02-23 age:77), the greatest mathematician of all time.

Discoveries Have Their Time

Mathematical discoveries, like springtime violets in the woods, have their season which no human can hasten or retard.

~ Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-04-30 1855-02-23 age:77), the greatest mathematician of all time.

How Do I Know?

I have had my results for a long time: but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them.

~ Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-04-30 1855-02-23 age:77), the greatest mathematician of all time.

Philosopher’s Track Record

When a philosopher says something that is true then it is trivial. When he says something that is not trivial then it is false.

~ Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-04-30 1855-02-23 age:77), the greatest mathematician of all time.

Standing on Shoulders

Mathematicians stand on each other’s shoulders.

~ Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-04-30 1855-02-23 age:77), the greatest mathematician of all time.


You know that I write slowly. This is chiefly because I am never satisfied until I have said as much as possible in a few words and writing briefly takes far more time than writing at length.

~ Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-04-30 1855-02-23 age:77), the greatest mathematician of all time.

Aiming For Simplicity

One of the principal objects of theoretical research in my department of knowledge is to find the point of view from which the subject appears in its greatest simplicity.

~ Josiah Willard Gibbs (1839-02-11 1903-04-28 age:64), pioneer in the mathematics of thermodynamics.


No matter how slick the demo is in rehearsal, when you do it in front of a live audience, the probability of a flawless presentation is inversely proportional to the number of people watching, raised to the power of the amount of money involved.

~ Mark Gibbs

This is an example of Murphy’s law.

The Future Arrives Unevenly

The future has already happened, it just isn’t evenly distributed.

~ William Gibson (1948-03-17 age:70)

Lying Novels

The most common human act that writing a novel resembles is lying. The working novelist lies daily, very complexly and at great length. If not for our excessive vanity and our over-active imaginations, novelists might be unusually difficult to deceive.

~ William Gibson (1948-03-17 age:70) 2009-06-01

Bandwidth Growth

Bandwidth grows at least three times faster than computer power.

~ George Gilder (1939-11-29 age:78) Gilder’s Law

Internet Censorship

The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.

~ John Gilmore (1955 age:62)


Sixty percent of software’s dollar is spent on maintenance and sixty percent of that maintenance is enhancement.

~ Robert Glass Sixty-sixty Rule

Godwin’s Law

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

~ Mike Godwin (1956-10-26 age:61) Godwin’s Law, co-inventor of Java.

The Last Invention

Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however, clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an intelligence explosion and the intelligence of man would be left behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man ever need make.

~ Irving John Good (1916-12-09 2009-04-05 age:92) 1965

No Extensions to Java

All of us who attended the meeting — including Microsoft — unanimously agreed that unilaterally extending the Java programming language would hurt compatibility among Java tools and programs, would injure other tools vendors and would damage customers’ ability to run a Java-based software product on whatever platform they wished.

~ James Gosling (1955-05-18 age:62), co-inventor of Java.

Open Source Integration

You know, most people in the open-source world who use open-source software don’t actually do builds themselves — those people just download the binaries. And so we expect that the big enterprise people will just do that and we will certainly be providing binaries that have been through full industrial-strength QA, that have been through all the conformance testing.

~ James Gosling (1955-05-18 age:62), co-inventor of Java.

Security in Java

In the Java world, security is not viewed as an add-on a feature. It is a pervasive way of thinking. Those who forget to think in a secure mindset end up in trouble. But just because the facilities are there doesn’t mean that security is assured automatically. A set of standard practices has evolved over the years. The Secure Coding Standard for Java is a compendium of these practices. These are not theoretical research papers or product marketing blurbs. This is all serious, mission-critical, battle-tested, enterprise-scale stuff.

~ James Gosling (1955-05-18 age:62), co-inventor of Java.

Security is Not A Product

People think of security as a noun, something you go buy. In reality, it’s an abstract concept like happiness. Openness is unbelievably helpful to security.

~ James Gosling (1955-05-18 age:62), co-inventor of Java.

Telephone Ideas are Not Recorded

The telephone is the greatest single enemy of scholarship; for what our intellectual forebears used to inscribe in ink now goes once over a wire into permanent oblivion.

~ Dr. Stephen Jay Gould (1941-09-10 2002-05-20 age:60),

Elusive Bugs

Most production software bugs are soft: they go away when you look at them.

~ Jim Gray (1944-01-12 2007-01-28 age:63) Heisenbug Uncertainty Principle, co-inventor of Java.

The First Derivative

Don’t worry about where you are. Watch the first derivative.
Don’t worry about how things are. Watch where they are headed.

~ Fred Green (1913-07-12 1992-04-10 age:78) (my Dad, an electrical engineer)

The Final Arbiter

Experimental evidence is the final arbiter of right and wrong.

~ Brian Greene (1963-02-09 age:55)

The Lisp Parasite

Any sufficiently complicated C or FØRTRAN program contains an ad hoc, informally-specified, bug-ridden, slow implementation of half of Common Lisp.

~ Philip Greenspun (1963-09-28 age:54), Greenspun’s Tenth Rule

Grosch’s Law

The cost of computing systems increases as the square root of the computational power of the systems.

~ Herb Grosch (1918-09-13 2010-01-18 age:91) Grosch’s Law.

You Need A Better Word Processor

You know you need a better word processor when the productivity of the one you have drops below the level had you used a quill pen and had to catch your own goose.

~ Geneva Hagen (1948-05-09 age:69)

Bogus Completion Times

Whatever the state of a project, the time a project-leader will estimate for completion is constant.

~ Douglas Hartree (1897-03-27 1958-02-12 age:60) Hartree’s Law, co-inventor of Java.

Hawking’s Warning

It [AI] would take off on its own and redesign itself at an ever increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded.

~ Stephen Hawking (1942-01-08 2018-03-13 age:76)


Stupidity is the only natural capital offense.

~ Robert A. Heinlein (1907-07-07 1988-05-08 age:80)

If It Ain’t Broke

If it ain’t broke, open it up and see what makes it so bloody special.

~ The Bastard Operator From Hell

Too Many Choices

The time to make a decision is a function of the possible choices he or she has.

~ William Edmund Hick (1912-08-01 1974-12-20 age:62) Hick’s Law

Algol 60

[About Algol 60] Here is a language so far ahead of its time, that it was not only an improvement on its predecessors, but also on nearly all its successors.

~ Sir Charles Antony Richard Hoare (1934-01-11 age:84) Hints on Programming Language Design 1973-12, Turing award winner 1980.


There are two ways of constructing a software design: One way is to make it so simple that there are obviously no deficiencies and the other way is to make it so complicated that there are no obvious deficiencies. The first method is far more difficult.

~ Sir Charles Antony Richard Hoare (1934-01-11 age:84), Turing award winner 1980.

Small Problems

Inside every large problem is a small problem struggling to get out.

~ Sir Charles Antony Richard Hoare (1934-01-11 age:84) Hoare’s Law of Large Programs

Hofstadter’s Law

A task always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.

~ Douglas Hofstadter (1945-02-15 age:73) Hofstadter’s Law

Working By Fiat

A large number of installed systems work by fiat. That is, they work by being declared to work.

~ Anatol Holt

A Million Monkeys

Come to think of it, there are already a million monkeys on a million typewriters, and Usenet is nothing like Shakespeare.

~ Blair Houghton

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.

~ Victor Hugo (1802-02-26 1885-05-22 age:83), born 1852, Histoire d’un Crime

Generic Assembly Advice

All parts should go together without forcing. You must remember that the parts you are reassembling were disassembled by you. Therefore, if you can’t get them together again, there must be a reason. By all means, do not use a hammer.

~ IBM (International Business Machines) maintenance manual (1925 age:92)

The Devil is in the Details

The devil is in the details.

~ English idiom

This idiom predates programming, but anticipates it.

Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle

Heisenberg might have slept here.

~ sign on a Bavarian inn

Meteorites as Junk Science

Stones don’t simply fall from the sky.

~ Thomas Jefferson (1743-04-13 1826-07-04 age:83)

Competitive Wealth

Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me… Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.

~ Steve Jobs (1955-02-24 2011-10-05 age:56) 1993

Design Is How It Works

Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

~ Steve Jobs (1955-02-24 2011-10-05 age:56)

Jobs abandoned this wisdom. He designed computers as fashion accessories designed to be rapidly obsolete.

Submitting to Microsoft

Unfortunately, people are not rebelling against Microsoft. They don’t know any better.

~ Steve Jobs (1955-02-24 2011-10-05 age:56) 1994

What They Want vs What They Need

It took us three years to build the NeXT computer. If we’d given customers what they said they wanted, we’d have built a computer they’d have been happy with a year after we spoke to them — not something they’d want now.

~ Steve Jobs (1955-02-24 2011-10-05 age:56)

Unplanned New Functionality

A successful [software] tool is one that was used to do something undreamed of by its author.

~ Stephen Curtis Johnson , winner of the first Turing award.

Caution With Technology

Given the incredible power of these new technologies, shouldn’t we be asking how we can best coexist with them? And if our own extinction is a likely, or even possible, outcome of our technological development, shouldn’t we proceed with great caution?

~ Bill Joy (1954-11-08 age:63), co-inventor of Java in Why the future doesn’t need us

Definition of AI

The standard definition of AI is that which we don’t understand.

~ Bill Joy (1954-11-08 age:63), co-inventor of Java.

Drawbacks of C

There are a couple of people in the world who can really program in C or FØRTRAN. They write more code in less time than it takes for other programmers. Most programmers aren’t that good. The problem is that those few programmers who crank out code aren’t interested in maintaining it.

~ Bill Joy (1954-11-08 age:63), co-inventor of Java.

Forward Thinking

You can drive a car by looking in the rear view mirror as long as nothing is ahead of you. Not enough software professionals are engaged in forward thinking.

~ Bill Joy (1954-11-08 age:63), co-inventor of Java.

Joy’s Law

No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else.

~ Bill Joy (1954-11-08 age:63) Joy’s Law

Open Source

The Open Source theorem says that if you give away source code, innovation will occur. Certainly, Unix was done this way… However, the corollary states that the innovation will occur elsewhere. No matter how many people you hire. So the only way to get close to the state of the art is to give the people who are going to be doing the innovative things the means to do it. That’s why we had built-in source code with Unix. Open source is tapping the energy that’s out there.

~ Bill Joy (1954-11-08 age:63), co-inventor of Java.

Radical Assumption

The best way to do research is to make a radical assumption and then assume it’s true. For me, I use the assumption that object oriented programming is the way to go.

~ Bill Joy (1954-11-08 age:63), co-inventor of Java.

Something Troubling

It is much easier to do something bad than to defend against all bad things.

~ Bill Joy (1954-11-08 age:63), co-inventor of Java

Technological Evil

I think it is no exaggeration to say we are on the cusp of the further perfection of extreme evil, an evil whose possibility spreads well beyond that which weapons of mass destruction bequeathed to the nation-states, on to a surprising and terrible empowerment of extreme individuals.

~ Bill Joy (1954-11-08 age:63), co-inventor of Java in Why the future doesn’t need us

Unpredictable C

You can’t prove anything about a program written in C or FØRTRAN. It’s really just Peek and Poke with some syntactic sugar.

~ Bill Joy (1954-11-08 age:63), co-inventor of Java.

Core Causes

For many phenomena, 80% of consequences stem from 20% of the causes.

~ Joseph Juran (1904-12-26 2008-02-28 age:103) Pareto Principle (a.k.a. The 80-20 Rule), named after Vilifredo Pareto

Information Overload

Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant.

~ Mitch Kapor (1950-11-01 age:67) CEO (Chief Executive Officer) Lotus.

The Best is Yet To Come

The real romance is out ahead and yet to come. The computer revolution hasn’t started yet.

~ Alan Kay (1940-05-17 age:77), inventor of the Logo programming language.

Brute Force Software

Most software today is very much like an Egyptian pyramid with millions of bricks piled on top of each other, with no structural integrity, but just done by brute force and thousands of slaves.

~ Alan Kay (1940-05-17 age:77), inventor of the Logo programming language.

Definition of Technology

Technology is anything that wasn’t around when you were born.

~ Alan Kay (1940-05-17 age:77), inventor of the Logo programming language.

How to Predict The Future

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

~ Alan Kay (1940-05-17 age:77), inventor of the Logo programming language.

Failure is Not that Bad

Don’t be discouraged by a failure. It can be a positive experience. Failure is, in a sense, the highway to success, inasmuch as every discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true and every fresh experience points out some form of error which we shall afterwards carefully avoid.

~ John Keats (1795-10-31 1821-02-23 age:25)

Immune to Praise

Praise or blame has but a momentary effect on the man whose love of beauty in the abstract makes him a severe critic on his own works.

~ John Keats (1795-10-31 1821-02-23 age:25)

Alternatives to Java

Creating a pseudo-C++ or alternatively easy object-oriented language would be a disaster. There is just too much support for Java for Microsoft to entice people away from it.

~ Dave Kelly

Certainty of Ether

[Ether is] the only substance we are confident of in dynamics. One thing we are sure of and that is the reality and substantiality of the luminferous ether.

~ Sir William Thompson, Lord Kelvin (1824-06-26 1907-12-17 age:83) 1884

Just because someone is famous does not mean everything they claim is right.

Impossibility of Flight

Heavier-than-air flying machines are not possible.

~ Sir William Thompson, Lord Kelvin (1824-06-26 1907-12-17 age:83) 1895

He apparently failed to notice that birds and insects are heavier-than-air flying machines.

No Secret But the Key

In cryptography, a system should be secure even if everything about the system, except for a small piece of informationthe key is public knowledge.

~ Auguste Kerckhoffs (1835-01-19 1903-08-09 age:68) Kerckhoffs’ Principle

Controlling Complexity

Controlling complexity is the essence of computer programming.

~ Brian W. Kernighan (1942-01-01 age:76)

No Harm In Being Wrong

There is no harm in being sometimes wrong especially if one is promptly found out.

~ John Maynard Keynes (1883-06-05 1946-04-21 age:62)

Beware of Bugs

Beware of bugs in the above code; I have only proved it correct, not tried it.

~ Donald Ervin Knuth (1938-01-10 age:80)

First Idea is Rarely the Best

Always remember, however, that there’s usually a simpler and better way to do something than the first way that pops into your head.

~ Donald Ervin Knuth (1938-01-10 age:80)

Premature Optimisation

Premature optimization is the root of all evil.

~ Donald Ervin Knuth (1938-01-10 age:80),

Unfortunately, some have misread this quotation as optimisation is in itself evil, or even that is it wicked to consider speed when choosing an algorithm.

Premature Optimisation

We should forget about small efficiencies, say about 97% of the time; premature optimization is the root of all evil.

~ Donald Ervin Knuth (1938-01-10 age:80)

Programming is like Composing

The process of preparing programs for a digital computer is especially attractive, not only because it can economically and scientifically rewarding, but also because it can be an aesthetic experience much like composing poetry or music.

~ Donald Ervin Knuth (1938-01-10 age:80)

Programs Should Speak to Humans

Let us change our traditional attitude to the construction of programs. Instead of imagining that our main task is to instruct a computer what to do, let us concentrate rather on explaining to human beings what we want a computer to do.

~ Donald Ervin Knuth (1938-01-10 age:80)

Random Numbers

Random numbers should not be generated with a method chosen at random.

~ Donald Ervin Knuth (1938-01-10 age:80)

Science = Programmable

Science is what we understand well enough to explain to a computer. Art is everything else we do.

~ Donald Ervin Knuth (1938-01-10 age:80)

Software Patents

I decry the current tendency to seek patents on algorithms. There are better ways to earn a living than to prevent other people from making use of one’s contributions to computer science.

~ Donald Ervin Knuth (1938-01-10 age:80)

Source of Inaccuracy

Any inaccuracies in this index may be explained by the fact that it has been prepared with the help of a computer.

~ Donald Ervin Knuth (1938-01-10 age:80), Back of the index, The Art Of Computer Programming, Volume 1, Edition 1, 2nd printing.

Weakest Link

A list is only as strong as its weakest link.

~ Donald Ervin Knuth (1938-01-10 age:80)

Consciousness Fallacy

Quantum mechanics is mysterious and consciousness is mysterious. Q.E.D. Quantum mechanics and consciousness must be related.

~ Christof Koch (1956-11-13 age:61)

Evolution of Bugs

Any sufficiently advanced bug is indistinguishable from a feature.

~ Rich Kulawiec

parodying A. C. Clarke’s third law of prediction.

Brain Hardware

There is one brain organ that is optimised for understanding and articulating logical processes and that is the outer layer of the brain, called the cerebral cortex. Unlike the rest of the brain, this relatively recent evolutionary development is rather flat, only about 0.32 cm (0.12 in) thick and includes a mere 6 million neurons. This elaborately folded organ provides us with what little competence we do possess for understanding what we do and who we do it.

~ Ray Kurzweil (1948-02-12 age:70)

Consciousness Assumptions

We appear to be programmed with the idea that there are things outside of our self and some are conscious and some are not.

~ Ray Kurzweil (1948-02-12 age:70)

Failed Prediction

By 2009, computers will disappear. Displays will be written directly onto our retinas by devices in our eyeglasses and contact lenses.

~ Ray Kurzweil (1948-02-12 age:70)

Good Problems

A successful person isn’t necessarily better than her less successful peers at solving problems; her pattern-recognition facilities have just learned what problems are worth solving.

~ Ray Kurzweil (1948-02-12 age:70)


By the 2030s, the nonbiological portion of our intelligence will predominate.

~ Ray Kurzweil (1948-02-12 age:70)

Opaque Code

Any code of your own that you haven’t looked at for six or more months might as well have been written by someone else.

~ Eagleson’s Law

However, it the author was me, that polite stranger left me notes on what I would need to know to quickly become familiar with the program, without overwhelming me with detail. It is an odd feeling, like meeting a twin. I don’t recall writing the words, but it sounds like something I would have said.

Program Evolution

A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked.

~ Gall’s Law .

Confusing Nouns and Verbs

If we were magically shrunk and put into someone’s brain while she was thinking, we would see all the pumps, pistons, gears and levers working away and we would be able to describe the workings completely, in mechanical terms, thereby completely describing the thought processes of the brain. But that description would not contain any mention of thought! It would contain nothing but descriptions of pumps, pistons, levers!

~ Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-07-01 1716-11-14 age:70)

The truth of this came home to me circa 1970 when I wrote OPTOW, a program to design high voltage transmission lines. It developed what could best be called a personality, higher order behaviours that I did not intend and did not consciously program in. The personality emerged as a side effect of the thousands of detailed equations and constraints I had programmed in. I suspect the human brain is similar, except the evolution tests the mettle of the personality and punishes the underlying mechanisms.

Belief Distorts

In the province of the mind what one believes to be true, either is true or becomes true within certain limits. These limits are to be found experimentally and experientially. When so found these limits turn out to be further beliefs to be transcended. In the province of the mind there are no limits.

~ Dr. John Cunningham Lilly (1915-01-06 2001-09-30 age:86)

Time Pressure

People under time pressure don’t think faster.

~ Timothy Lister Lister’s Law

Judging Without Examination

To prejudge other men’s notions before we have looked into them is not to show their darkness but to put out our own eye.

~ John Locke (1632-08-29 1704-10-28 age:72) 1795-04-20

Rejecting New Ideas

New opinions are always suspected and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common.

~ John Locke (1632-08-29 1704-10-28 age:72) 1795-04-20

Joy of Pursuit

To the scientist there is the joy in pursuing truth which nearly counteracts the depressing revelations of truth.

~ H. P. Lovecraft (1890-08-20 1937-03-15 age:46)

Weaving Patterns

The Analytical Engine weaves algebraic patterns, just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves.

~ Ada Lovelace (1815-12-10 1852-11-27 age:36) 1896


Almost all programming can be viewed as an exercise in caching.

~ Terje Mathisen

Software Teams

You can’t have great software without a great team and most software teams behave like dysfunctional families.

~ Jim McCarthy

Working on a team, leading a team and working alone are completely different experiences. Software teams are usually composed of asocial people and egotists attracted by the absolute control that computer programming offers. Leading a team pays the best and I find it the most fun. Other people handle all the tedious details without any effort on my part. It is like wearing a power suit.

Machine Thinking

It’s difficult to be rigorous about whether a machine really knows, thinks, etc., because we’re hard put to define these things. We understand human mental processes only slightly better than a fish understands swimming.

~ John McCarthy (1927-09-04 2011-10-23 age:84). Inventor of the term AI, the short-circuit OR operator (|| in Java) and LISP (List Processing language) that makes EMACS (Extensible Macro System) so addictive.

Culture as OS (Operating System)

Culture is your operating system.

~ Terence McKenna (1946-11-16 2000-04-03 age:53)

He also wanted you to erase your hard disk and install the next version. click to watch

Culture as Software

The current operating system [culture] is flawed. It actually has bugs in it that generate contradictions. We’re cutting the earth from beneath our own feet. We’re poisoning the atmosphere that we breathe. This is not intelligent behaviour. This is a culture with a bug in its operating system that’s making it produce erratic, dysfunctional, malfunctional behaviour. Time to call a tech! And who are the techs? The shamans are the techs.

~ Terence McKenna (1946-11-16 2000-04-03 age:53) click to watch

Successful Prediction

Computers of the future may way no more than 1.36 tonnes (1½ tons).

~ Popular Mechanics (1874-02-17 1956-06-19 age:82) 1949

Failed Prophesy

The Internet will catastrophically collapse in 1996.

~ Robert Metcalfe (1946-04-07 age:72), inventor of Ethernet

Metcalfe’s Law

In network theory, the value of a system grows as approximately the square of the number of users of the system.

~ Robert Metcalfe (1946-04-07 age:72) Metcalfe’s Law

Articles of Faith

I have always felt sympathy towards the biologists who accept to debate creationists. Now I also understand them better; one can fight opinions, not articles of faith.

~ Bertrand Meyer (1950 age:67) 1991, creator of design by contract and the Eiffel language.

Design By Contract

One should not write a class without a specification — a contract. The contract lists the internal consistency conditions that the class will maintain (the invariant) and, for each operation, the correctness conditions that are the responsibility of the client (the precondition) and those which the operation promises to establish in return (the postcondition).

Writing a class without its contract would be similar to producing an engineering component (electrical circuit, VLSI (Very Large Scale Integration) chip, bridge, engine…) without a spec. No professional engineer would even consider the idea.

~ Bertrand Meyer (1950 age:67), creator of design by contract and the Eiffel language. Description of Design By Contract

Eiffel Borrowing

Eiffel borrows quite openly from several earlier programming languages and I am sure that if we had found a good language construct in C we would have used it as well.

~ Bertrand Meyer (1950 age:67) 1992, creator of design by contract and the Eiffel language.

Most of the things I don’t like about Java are when it apes C.

esprit de l’escalier

Careful as they may be, developers of Eiffel libraries will always run into cases in which, after releasing a library class, they suddenly experience what in French is called esprit de l’escalier or wit of the staircase: a great thought which unfortunately is an afterthought, like a clever reply that would have stunned all the other dinner guests — if only you had thought of it before walking down the stairs after the party is over.

~ Bertrand Meyer (1950 age:67) 1989, creator of design by contract and the Eiffel language.

Incorrect Documentation

Incorrect documentation is often worse than no documentation.

~ Bertrand Meyer (1950 age:67), creator of design by contract and the Eiffel language.


Perfect reusable components are not obtained at the first shot.

~ Bertrand Meyer (1950 age:67) 1989, creator of design by contract and the Eiffel language.

No One Uses Eiffel

As Mr. Nagle so competently points out, almost no one uses Eiffel; in fact until recently there were only 9 users. But now a 10th person just started, so we are holding a conference, appropriately titled the TENTH Eiffel USER conference, to celebrate.

~ Bertrand Meyer (1950 age:67) 1992, creator of design by contract and the Eiffel language.

Proving a language does not have to be popular to be influential.

Object Oriented Programming

Ask not first what the system does; ask what it does it to!

~ Bertrand Meyer (1950 age:67) 1991, creator of design by contract and the Eiffel language.

Pointer Arithmetic

You can have quality software, or you can have pointer arithmetic; but you cannot have both at the same time.

~ Bertrand Meyer (1950 age:67) 1989, creator of design by contract and the Eiffel language.

Nothing New Under the Sun

The most important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of ever being supplemented by new discoveries is exceedingly remote.

~ Albert Abraham Michelson (1852-12-19 1931-05-09 age:78) 1903

Java vs PHP (Pre-Hypertext Processor)

Java and PHP compete at some level. Get over it.

~ Mike Milinkovich

It is also true that wives and prostitutes compete on some level.

Common Sense Is not Obvious

Common sense is not a simple thing. Instead, it is an immense society of hard-earned practical ideas — of multitudes of life-learned rules and exceptions, dispositions and tendencies, balances and checks.

~ Marvin Minsky (1927-08-07 2016-01-24 age:88)

Mind Storage

It’s ridiculous to live 100 years and only be able to remember 30 million bytes. You know, less than a compact disc. The human condition is really becoming more obsolete every minute.

~ Marvin Minsky (1927-08-07 2016-01-24 age:88)

Robots Will Be Our Children

Will robots inherit the earth? Yes, but they will be our children.

~ Marvin Minsky (1927-08-07 2016-01-24 age:88) 1995

Stuck Thinking

But the big feature of human-level intelligence is not what it does what it works but what it does when it’s stuck.

~ Marvin Minsky (1927-08-07 2016-01-24 age:88)

Stages of a New Idea

Whenever a new discovery is reported to the world, they say first, It is probably not true, Then after, when the truth of the new proposition has been demonstrated beyond question, they say, Yes, it may be true, but it is not important. Finally, when sufficient time has elapsed to fully evidence its importance, they say, Yes, surely it is important, but it is no longer new.

~ Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533 1592 age:59)

Transmitting Data

When a pianist sits down and does a virtuoso performance he is in a technical sense transmitting more information to a machine than any other human activity involving machinery allows.

~ Robert Moog (1934-05-23 2005-08-21 age:71), inventor of the music synthesiser.

Moore’s Law

The number of transistors on an integrated circuit will double in about 18 months.

~ Gordon Moore (1929-01-03 age:89) Moore’s Law

Computer Evolution

I see a strong parallel between the evolution of robot intelligence and the biological intelligence that preceded it. The largest nervous systems doubled in size about every fifteen million years since the Cambrian explosion 550 million years ago. Robot controllers double in complexity (processing power) every year or two. They are now barely at the lower range of vertebrate complexity, but should catch up with us within a half century.

~ Hans P. Moravec (1948-11-30 age:69)

Touch Robot

Imagine a robot that looks like a tree, with a big stem repeatedly branching into thinner, shorter and more numerous twigs, ultimately ending in an astronomical number of microscopic cilia.

If each joint can measure the forces and motions applied to it, we have a remarkable sensor. There are a trillion leaf fingers, each able to sense a movement of perhaps a tenth of a micron and a force of a few micrograms, at speeds up to a million changes per second. This is vastly greater than the sensing ability of the human eye, which has a million distinguishable points that can register changes at most a hundred times per second. If our bush puts its fingers on a photograph, it will see the image in immense detail simply by feeling the height variations of the developed silver on the paper.

In addition to having a sensing capability to match that of the world’s current human population, our bush would have the ability to affect its environment at the same prodigious rate. The bush robot could reach into a complicated piece of delicate mechanical equipment — or even a living organism — simultaneously sense the relative position of millions of parts, some possibly as small as molecules, and rearrange them for a near-instantaneous repair. In most cases the superior touch sense would totally substitute for vision and the extreme dexterity would eliminate the need for special tools.

A bush robot would be a marvel of surrealism to behold. Despite its structural resemblance to many living things, it would be unlike anything yet seen on earth. Its great intelligence, superb coordination, astronomical speed and enormous sensitivity to its environment would enable it to constantly do something surprising, at the same time maintaining a perpetual gracefulness. Two-legged animals have three or four effective gaits; four-legged animals have a few more. Two-handed humans have two or three ways to hold an object. A trillion-limbed device, with a brain to match, is an entirely different order of being. Add to this the ability to fragment into a cloud of coordinated tiny fliers and the laws of physics will seem to melt in the face of intention and will. As with no magician that ever was, impossible things will simply happen around a robot bush.

~ Hans P. Moravec (1948-11-30 age:69) in Mind Children

Mind Boggling

Perhaps we are alone in the universe. Perhaps there’s no other planet in the whole universe that has intelligent life on it. Or perhaps that’s not true. Both alternatives are mind-boggling. The hypothesis that we’re alone is mind-boggling; the hypothesis that we’re not alone is mind-boggling, so you can’t use mind-bogglingness as your litmus test.

~ Philip Morrison (1915-11-07 2005-04-22 age:89)

True Dummies

Just remember: you’re not a dummy, no matter what those computer books claim. The real dummies are the people who — though technically expert — couldn’t design hardware and software that’s usable by normal consumers if their lives depended upon it.

~ Walter Mossberg (1947-03-27 age:71)

Never Get to the Moon

There is no hope for the fanciful idea of reaching the moon because of insurmountable barriers to escaping the earth’s gravity.

~ Forest Ray Moulton (1872-04-29 1952-12-07 age:80) University of Chicago astronomer, 1932

Murphy’s Law

If there are two or more ways to do something and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, then someone will do it.

~ Captain Edward A. Murphy (1918-01-11 1990-07-17 age:72) Murphy’s Law

Nathan’s First Law

Software is a gas; it expands to fill its container.

~ Nathan Myhrvold (1959-08-03 age:58) Nathan’s First Law


When you encounter obstacles, you know what you are doing is important.

~ Gottfried Johannes Müller (1914-04-10 2009-09-26 age:95)

Bogus Precision

There’s no sense in being precise when you don’t even know what you’re talking about.

~ John von Neumann (1903-12-28 1957-02-08 age:53)

Failed Prophesy

It would appear that we have reached the limits of what it is possible to achieve with computer technology, although one should be careful with such statements, as they tend to sound pretty silly in 5 years.

~ John von Neumann (1903-12-28 1957-02-08 age:53)

Inscrutable Math

Young man, in mathematics you don’t understand things. You just get used to them.

~ John von Neumann (1903-12-28 1957-02-08 age:53)

Irresistible Technology

Technological possibilities are irresistible to man. If man can go to the moon, he will. If he can control the climate, he will.

~ John von Neumann (1903-12-28 1957-02-08 age:53)

Only Approximations

Truth is much too complicated to allow anything but approximations.

~ John von Neumann (1903-12-28 1957-02-08 age:53)

Science is about finding ever better approximations rather than pretending you have already found ultimate truth.

Pseudo Random Numbers

Anyone who considers arithmetical methods of producing random digits is, of course, in a state of sin. For, as has been pointed out several times, there is no such thing as a random number — there are only methods to produce random numbers and a strict arithmetic procedure, of course, is not such a method.

~ John von Neumann (1903-12-28 1957-02-08 age:53)

Without Use

A large part of mathematics which becomes useful developed with absolutely no desire to be useful and in a situation where nobody could possibly know in what area it would become useful; and there were no general indications that it ever would be so. By and large it is uniformly true in mathematics that there is a time lapse between a mathematical discovery and the moment when it is useful; and that this lapse of time can be anything from 30 to 100 years, in some cases even more; and that the whole system seems to function without any direction, without any reference to usefulness and without any desire to do things which are useful.

~ John von Neumann (1903-12-28 1957-02-08 age:53)

Newton’s View Of Himself

I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

~ Sir Isaac Newton (1643-01-04 1727-03-31 age:84)

Shoulders of Giants

If I have seen further than others, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants.

~ Sir Isaac Newton (1643-01-04 1727-03-31 age:84)

Black Holes

Black Holes are where God is dividing by zero

~ Don Nichols

Jakob’s Law of the Internet User Experience

Users spend most of their time on other sites. This means that users prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know.

~ Jakob Nielsen (1957 age:60) Jakob’s Law of the Internet User Experience

Things Can Be Irrational

The irrationality of a thing is no argument against its existence, rather a condition of it.

~ Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-10-15 1900-08-25 age:55)

People Actually Hate Poor Programmers

That’s the thing about people who think they hate computers. What they really hate is lousy programmers.

~ Larry Niven (1938-03-30 age:80)

Definition of a Debugged Program

A debugged program is one for which you have not yet found the conditions that make it fail.

~ Jerry Ogdin

Failed Prediction

There’s no reason for individuals to have a computer in their home.

~ Ken Olson (1926-02-20 2011-02-07 age:84)

CEO of DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation), a minicomputer company

, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation 1977

Growing Complication

Everything is more complicated than it first seems.

~ Tris Orendorff (1961-02-13 age:57)

Restating The Obvious

Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.

~ George Orwell (1903-06-25 1950-01-21 age:46)

This whole website was inspired by that quotation.

Wisest Generation

Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it and wiser than the one that comes after it.

~ George Orwell (1903-06-25 1950-01-21 age:46)

Variables and Constants

Variables won’t; constants aren’t.

~ Don Osborn Osborn’s Law

Parkinson’s Law

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

~ C. Northcote Parkinson (1909-07-30 1993-03-09 age:83) Parkinson’s Law


Why program by hand in 5 days what you can spend 2 to 5 years of your life automating.

~ Terence Parr (1964-08-17 age:53)

Defining Infinity

To say the universe is infinitely old, is to say it had no beginning — not a beginning that was infinitely long ago.

~ Keith Parsons


A LISP programmer knows the value of everything, but the cost of nothing.

~ Alan J. Perlis (1922-04-01 1990-02-07 age:67), winner of the first Turing award.

Unnatural Programming

It goes against the grain of modern education to teach children to program. What fun is there in making plans, acquiring discipline in organizing thoughts, devoting attention to detail and learning to be self-critical?

~ Alan J. Perlis (1922-04-01 1990-02-07 age:67), winner of the first Turing award.

Definition of Hardware

Hardware: The parts of a computer system that can be kicked.

~ Jeff Pesis

The Peter Principle

In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.

~ Laurence J. Peter (1919-09-16 1990-01-12 age:70) The Peter Principle

Software Cancels Hardware Advances

The most amazing achievement of the computer software industry is its continuing cancellation of the steady and staggering gains made by the computer hardware industry.

~ Henry Petroski (1942-02-06 age:76)

Computer Can Only Give You Answers

Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.

~ Pablo Picasso (1881-10-25 1973-04-08 age:91)

Computing Infancy

After growing wildly for years, the field of computing appears to be reaching its infancy.

~ John Pierce


My laptop has freed me to travel.

~ Steven Pinker (1954-09-18 age:63)

Adoption of New Ideas

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

~ Max Planck (1858-04-23 1947-10-04 age:89)

Any Progress is Good

Never discourage anyone… who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.

~ Plato (428 BC 348 BC age:80)

The Value Of Your Data

The coolest thing to do with your data will be thought of by someone else.

~ Rufus Pollock (1978 age:39) in xtech 2007 talk.

Fear of Ambiguity

Our chronic discomfort with ambiguity — which, ironically, is critical to both our creativity and the richness of our lives — leads us to lock down safe, comfortable, familiar interpretations, even if they are only partial representations of or fully disconnected from reality.

~ Maria Popova (1984 age:33)

Writing as if FØRTRAN

Besides, the determined Real Programmer can write FØRTRAN programs in any language.

~ Ed Post Real Programmers don’t Use Pascal

Postel’s Law

Be conservative in what you send, liberal in what you accept.

~ Jon Postel (1943-08-06 1998-10-16 age:55) Postel’s Law (the second clause of the Robustness Principle)

Citizen Scientists

I wonder if people willing to learn their science from citizen scientists (Internet amateur scientists pushing some religious or crackpot science), would be equally willing to get their teeth done by a citizen dentist.

~ Potholer54

Maintainable Code

Code as if whoever maintains your code is a violent psychopath who knows where you live.

~ François Poulin

Cyber Poem

Imagine now and sing.
creating myths
forming jewels from the falling snow.

~ Ray Kurzweil’s Cybermatic Poet program (1948-02-12 age:70)

Time Scale

Around computers it is difficult to find the correct unit of time to measure progress. Some cathedrals took a century to complete. Can you imagine the grandeur and scope of a program that would take as long?

~ Epigrams in Programming ACM SIGPLAN, 1982-09


Enter any 11-digit prime number to continue.

~ Linux prompt

Bugs Surrender to Enough Eyeballs

Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.

~ Eric S. Raymond (1957-12-04 age:60)   The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary aka Linus’ Law.

Enough Eyeballs Control Bugs

Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.

~ Eric S. Raymond (1957-12-04 age:60) Linus’ Law, named after Linus Torvalds.

Good Ideas From Peers

The next best thing to having good ideas is recognizing good ideas from your users. Sometimes the latter is better.

~ Eric S. Raymond (1957-12-04 age:60)   The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary

Hand Off

When you lose interest in a program, your last duty to it is to hand it off to a competent successor.

~ Eric S. Raymond (1957-12-04 age:60)   The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary

Interesting Problems

If you have the right attitude, interesting problems will find you.

~ Eric S. Raymond (1957-12-04 age:60)   The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary

Interesting to You

To solve an interesting problem, start by finding a problem that is interesting to you.

~ Eric S. Raymond (1957-12-04 age:60)   The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary

Many Heads

Provided the development coordinator has a communications medium at least as good as the Internet and knows how to lead without coercion, many heads are inevitably better than one.

~ Eric S. Raymond (1957-12-04 age:60)   The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary

Personal Itch

Every good work of software starts by scratching a developer’s personal itch.

~ Eric S. Raymond (1957-12-04 age:60)   The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary

Preserve Data

When writing gateway software of any kind, take pains to disturb the data stream as little as possible — and never throw away information unless the recipient forces you to!

~ Eric S. Raymond (1957-12-04 age:60)   The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary

Pruning Back

Perfection (in design) is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but rather when there is nothing more to take away.

~ Eric S. Raymond (1957-12-04 age:60)   The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary


Often, the most striking and innovative solutions come from realizing that your concept of the problem was wrong.

~ Eric S. Raymond (1957-12-04 age:60)   The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary

Release Often

Release early. Release often. And listen to your customers.

~ Eric S. Raymond (1957-12-04 age:60)   The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary


Good programmers know what to write. Great ones know what to rewrite (and reuse).

~ Eric S. Raymond (1957-12-04 age:60)   The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary

Security Secret

A security system is only as secure as its secret. Beware of pseudo-secrets.

~ Eric S. Raymond (1957-12-04 age:60)   The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary

Smart Data Structures

Smart data structures and dumb code works a lot better than the other way around.

~ Eric S. Raymond (1957-12-04 age:60)   The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary

Syntactic Sugar

When your language is nowhere near Turing-complete, syntactic sugar can be your friend.

~ Eric S. Raymond (1957-12-04 age:60)   The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary

Tester Base

Given a large enough beta-tester and co-developer base, almost every problem will be characterized quickly and the fix obvious to someone.

~ Eric S. Raymond (1957-12-04 age:60)   The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary

Throw One Away

Plan to throw one away; you will, anyhow.

~ Eric S. Raymond (1957-12-04 age:60)   The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary

Treatment of Beta Testers

If you treat your beta-testers as if they’re your most valuable resource, they will respond by becoming your most valuable resource.

~ Eric S. Raymond (1957-12-04 age:60)   The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary

Unexpected Uses

Any tool should be useful in the expected way, but a truly great tool lends itself to uses you never expected.

~ Eric S. Raymond (1957-12-04 age:60)   The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary

Users = Co-developers

Treating your users as co-developers is your least-hassle route to rapid code improvement and effective debugging.

~ Eric S. Raymond (1957-12-04 age:60)   The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary

Reed’s Law

The utility of large networks, particularly social networks, scales exponentially with the size of the network.

~ David P. Reed (1952-01-31 age:66) Reed’s Law

Giving Up the Credit

There is no end to what can be accomplished if you don’t care who gets the credit.

~ Art Rennison

Must Be Different

We’ll never win by being like them. Our best tactic is to be better. Better necessarily means different.

~ Jon Rentzsch (1976 age:41)

Benefit of C

C is peculiar in a lot of ways, but it, like many other successful things, has a certain unity of approach that stems from development in a small group.

~ Dennis M. Ritchie (1941-09-09 2011-10-08 age:70)

Stripped Down Language

A language that doesn’t have everything is actually easier to program in than some that do.

~ Dennis M. Ritchie (1941-09-09 2011-10-08 age:70)

UNIX Simplicity

UNIX is basically a simple operating system, but you have to be a genius to understand the simplicity.

~ Dennis M. Ritchie (1941-09-09 2011-10-08 age:70)

Rock’s Law

The cost of a semiconductor chip fabrication plant doubles every four years.

~ Arthur Rock (1926-08-19 age:91) Rock’s Law

Avoid Meddling

The best executive is one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.

~ Theodore Roosevelt (1858-10-27 1919-01-06 age:60)

Think Big

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.

~ Theodore Roosevelt (1858-10-27 1919-01-06 age:60)

Windows Haiku

Windows NT crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.

~ Peter Rothman 1998

Science vs Philosophy

Science is what you know, philosophy is what you don’t know.

~ Bertrand Russell (1872-05-18 1970-02-02 age:97)

Being Laughed At

But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.

~ Carl Sagan (1934-11-09 1996-12-20 age:62)

The Brain Likes to be Used

The brain is like a muscle. When it is in use we feel very good. Understanding is joyous.

~ Carl Sagan (1934-11-09 1996-12-20 age:62)

Deadly Ignorance

We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.

~ Carl Sagan (1934-11-09 1996-12-20 age:62) Carl Sagan click to watch

Definition of Hell

Hell is other people.

~ Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-06-21 1980-04-15 age:74)  Huis Clos, suivi de Les Mouches, (No Exit) 1934

Cost of a Computer

To manufacture a desktop computer requires ten times its weight in fossil fuel. To manufacture a microchip requires 630 times its weight in fossil fuel.

~ Matthew David Savinar

True Randomness

Is there any hope for strong portable randomness in the future? There might be. All that’s needed is a physical source of unpredictable numbers. A thermal noise or radioactive decay source and a fast, free-running oscillator would do the trick directly. This is a trivial amount of hardware and could easily be included as a standard part of a computer system’s architecture… All that’s needed is the common perception among computer vendors that this small additional hardware and the software to access it is necessary and useful.

~ Eastlake, Crocker and Schiller RFC 4086 Randomness Recommendations for Security, IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) Network Working Group, 1994-12

Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors now contain random number generating hardware.

Inscrutable Internet

The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had.

~ Eric Schmidt (1955-04-27 age:63) CEO of Google.

Stages of Acceptance of a New Truth

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

~ Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-02-22 1860-09-21 age:72)

Your Limits are Narrower than Everyone Else’s

Everyone takes the limits of his own vision for the limits of the world.

~ Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-02-22 1860-09-21 age:72)

Models for the Brain

Because we do not understand the brain very well we are constantly tempted to use the latest technology as a model for trying to understand it. In my childhood we were always assured the brain was a telegraph switchboard. (What else could be?) I was amused to see that Sherrington, the great British neuroscientist, thought that the brain worked like a telegraph system. Freud often compared the brain to hydraulic and electromagnetic systems. Leibnitz compared it to a mill and I am told that some of the ancient Greeks though the brain functions like a catapult. At present, obviously, the metaphor is the digital computer.

~ John R. Searle (1932-07-31 age:85)


Imprinting on your first system makes change a very hard thing.

~ Peter Seebach (1972 age:45) The cranky user: Baby duck syndrome

Productive Hackers

A hacker on a roll may be able to produce — in a period of a few months — something that a small development group (say, 7-8 people) would have a hard time getting together over a year. IBM used to report that certain programmers might be as much as 100 times as productive as other workers, or more.

~ Peter Seebach (1972 age:45)


Technology will save us if it doesn’t wipe us out first.

~ Pete Seeger (1919-05-03 2014-01-27 age:94)

Windows Haiku

Yesterday it worked
Today it is not working
Windows is like that

~ Margaret Segall 1998

Murphy’s Law is Serious

There is always a temptation, when considering some weird combination of circumstances, to say That will never happen and ignore it. The point of Murphy’s law is that we must either show that it really cannot happen, or plan for it happening.

~ Patricia Shanahan

Evolution = Heresy

All evolution in thought and conduct must at first appear as heresy and misconduct.

~ George Bernard Shaw (1856-07-26 1950-11-02 age:94)

Truth = Blasphemy

All great truths begin as blasphemies.

~ George Bernard Shaw (1856-07-26 1950-11-02 age:94)

The Unreasonable Man

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

~ George Bernard Shaw (1856-07-26 1950-11-02 age:94)

Story-Telling Animals

Humans are pattern-seeking, story-telling animals and we are quite adept at telling stories about patterns whether they exist or not.

~ Michael Shermer (1954-09-08 age:63)

Open Source

I personally believe open source is most important is in the operating system and in file formats. As long as those two things remain open source you can never have a monopoly. No company can dominate by any means except a superior product and that puts the choice back into the hands of the public.

~ Michael Simms (1970-08-20 age:47) Linux Game Publishing — it’s possible 2003

Salary and Understanding

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

~ Upton Sinclair (1878-09-20 1968-11-25 age:90)

Incomplete Inventions

Motors make noise and that tells you about the feelings and attitudes that went into it. Something was more important than sensory pleasure — nobody would invent a chair or dish that smelled bad or that made horrible noises — why were motors invented noisy? How could they possibly be considered complete or successful inventions with this glaring defect? Unless, of course, the aggressive, hostile, assaultive sound actually served to express some impulse of the owner.

~ Philip Slater (1927-05-15 2013-06-20 age:86),   The Wayward Gate: Science and the Supernatural

Invention Cycle

Every invention creates new needs, but the biggest needs are not for new and more advanced versions of the last invention but for solutions to the social problems the last invention created.

~ Philip Slater (1927-05-15 2013-06-20 age:86)

Joy of Being Proved Wrong

I prefer to be refuted than to refute, for it is a greater good for oneself to be freed from the greatest evil than to free another.

~ Socrates (469 BC 399 BC age:70)

The Law of False Alerts

As the rate of erroneous alerts increases, operator reliance, or belief, in subsequent warnings decreases.

~ George Spafford The Law of False Alerts

Spafford’s Adoption Rule

For just about any technology, be it an operating system, application or network, when a sufficient level of adoption is reached, that technology then becomes a threat vector.

~ George Spafford Spafford’s Adoption Rule

Software Degradation

The time it takes your favorite application to complete a given task doubles with each new revision.

~ Lincoln Spector Spector’s Law


Pigmaei gigantum humeris impositi plusquam ipsi gigantes vident. (Pygmies placed on the shoulders of giants see more than the giants themselves.)

~ Didacus Stella (1524 1578 age:54), inspiring Newton’s famous quote.

Interweb Tubes

[The Internet] is a series of tubes. And if you don’t understand, those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it’s going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.

~ Ted Stevens (1923-11-18 2010-08-09 age:86) US Senator for Alaska, global warming fudster, glorious idiot.

Password = Toothbrush

Treat your password like your toothbrush. Don’t let anybody else use it and get a new one every six months.

~ Clifford Stoll (1950 age:67) author of  The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage

For unguessable passwords see the Password Generator Applet.

Better Programmers are Much Better

The best programmers are not marginally better than merely good ones. They are an order-of-magnitude better, measured by whatever standard: conceptual creativity, speed, ingenuity of design, or problem-solving ability.

~ Randall E. Stross

In nature, the analogous physical property that has this order of magnitude variability is electrical resistance.

Downsides of C and C++

C makes it easy to shoot yourself in the foot; C++ makes it harder, but when you do, it blows away your whole leg.

~ Bjarne Stroustrup (1950-12-30 age:67)

Two Kinds of Language

There are only two kinds of programming languages: those people always bitch about and those nobody uses.

~ Bjarne Stroustrup (1950-12-30 age:67)

Sturgeon’s Revelation

Ninety percent of everything is crud.

~ Theodore Sturgeon (1918-02-26 1985-05-08 age:67) Sturgeon’s Revelation

Definition of Upward Compatible

I’ve finally learned what upward compatible means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes.

~ Dennie van Tassel

A Novel Idea

End User Rights

~ Thunderbird Email Team (2004-12-07 age:13)

Invention Success

I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success.

~ Nikola Tesla (1856-07-10 1943-01-07 age:86) 1896

Tesler’s Law of Conservation of Complexity

You cannot reduce the complexity of a given task beyond a certain point. Once you’ve reached that point, you can only shift the burden around.

~ Larry Tesler (1945-04-24 age:73) Tesler’s Law of Conservation of Complexity

Failed Prophesy

We hope that Professor Langley will not put his substantial greatness as a scientist in further peril by continuing to waste his time and the money involved, in further airship experiments. Life is short and he is capable of services to humanity incomparably greater than can be expected to result from trying to fly…

~ New York Times (1851 age:166) 1903-12-10


As part of the conversion, computer specialists rewrote 1,500 programs; a process that traditionally requires some debugging.

~ USA Today referring to the Internal Revenue Service conversion to a new computer system.

Free Software

Software is like sex: It’s better when it’s free.

~ Linus Benedict Torvalds (1969-12-28 age:48), creator of Linux

Intelligence = Laziness

Intelligence is the ability to avoid doing work, yet getting the work done.

~ Linus Benedict Torvalds (1969-12-28 age:48), creator of Linux


There are only two industries that refer to their customers as users.

~ Edward Tufte (1942 age:75)


Programming is a skill best acquired by practice and example rather than from books.

~ Alan Turing (1912-06-23 1954-06-07 age:41)

Refuting Copernicus

In the time of Galileo Galilei it was argued that the texts,And the sun stood still… and hasted not to go down about a whole day Joshua 10:13 and He laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not move at any timePsalms 104:5 were an adequate refutation of the Copernican theory.

~ Alan Turing (1912-06-23 1954-06-07 age:41)

Surprising Machines

Machines take me by surprise with great frequency.

~ Alan Turing (1912-06-23 1954-06-07 age:41)

The Turing Test

A computer would deserve to be called intelligent if it could deceive a human into believing that it was human.

~ Alan Turing (1912-06-23 1954-06-07 age:41)

What Remains To Be Done

We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.

~ Alan Turing (1912-06-23 1954-06-07 age:41)

Smart Phones

Children given a smart phone grow up 40% less empathic.

~ Sherry Turkle (1948-06-18 age:69)

Keep It Simple

I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English — it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them — then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.

~ Mark Twain (1835-11-30 1910-04-21 age:74)

Putting Us On?

Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.

~ Mark Twain (1835-11-30 1910-04-21 age:74) Whether Mark Twain actually said this is debatable.

Java Condom

The Java sandbox is the cyberspace equivalent of the condom.

~ Tim Tyler

Avoid Superprogrammers

I advocate that super programmers who can juggle vastly more complex balls than average guys can, should be banned, by management, from dragging the average crowd into system complexity zones where the whole team will start to drown.

~ Jan V.

Code Maintenance

More often, maintaining someone else’s code is like being thrown headlong into a big pile of slimy, smelly garbage.

~ Bill Venners

On Smoke

Experience shows us that the air must have darkness beyond it and yet it appears blue. If you produce a small quantity of smoke from dry wood and the rays of the sun fall on this smoke and if you then place behind the smoke a piece of black velvet on which the sun does not shine, you will see that all the smoke which is between the eye and the black stuff will appear of a beautiful blue colour. And if instead of the velvet you place a white cloth smoke, that is too thick smoke, hinders and too thin smoke does not produce, the perfection of this blue colour. Hence a moderate amount of smoke produces the finest blue.

~ Leonardo da Vinci (1452-04-15 1519-05-02 age:67)

Sight Pyramids

All objects transmit their image to the eye in pyramids and the nearer to the eye these pyramids are intersected the smaller will the image appear of the objects which cause them.

~ Leonardo da Vinci (1452-04-15 1519-05-02 age:67)

World Market For Computers

I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.

~ Thomas John Watson (1874-02-17 1956-06-19 age:82), chairman of IBM 1943

Technology Extends Vision

Scientific advances are enabled by a technology advance that allows us to see what we have not been able to see before.

~ Lloyd Watts (1961-10-02 age:56)

Software Ages Too

The logarithm of failure rates increases linearly with the logarithm of age.

~ Waloddi Weibull (1886-06-18 1979-10-12 age:93) Weibull’s Power Law

Weinberg’s Law

woodpecker If builders built buildings the way programmers write programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization.

~ Gerald Weinberg (1933-10-27 age:84) Weinberg’s Second Law

Condition for Respectability

A theorist today is hardly considered respectable if he or she has not introduced at least one new particle for which there is no experimental evidence.

~ Steven Weinberg (1933-05-03 age:85) Physicist and Nobel Laureate

Absolute Control

The computer programmer is a creator of universes for which he alone is the lawgiver. No playwright, no stage director, no emperor, however, powerful, has ever exercised such absolute authority to arrange a stage or a field of battle and to command such unswervingly dutiful actors or troops.

~ Joseph Weizenbaum (1923-01-08 2008-03-05 age:85)


Any problem in computer science can be solved with another layer of indirection, but that usually will create another problem.

~ David John Wheeler (1927-02-09 2004-12-13 age:77)

Doing Without Thinking

Civilisation advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.

~ Alfred North Whitehead (1861-02-15 1947-12-30 age:86)


As soon as we started programming, we found to our surprise that it wasn’t as easy to get programs right as we had thought. Debugging had to be discovered. I can remember the exact instant when I realized that a large part of my life from then on was going to be spent in finding mistakes in my own programs.

~ Maurice Wilkes (1913-06-13 2010-11-29 age:97) Maurice Wilkes discovers debugging 1949

Occam’s Razor

The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct.

~ William of Occam (1288 1348 age:60) Occam’s Razor

Delivering the Wrong Results

Usually its users discover sooner or later that their program does not deliver all the desired results, or worse, that the results requested were not the ones really needed.

~ Niklaus Wirth (1934-02-15 age:84)

Mutually Incompatible Schools

Many people tend to look at programming styles and languages like religions: if you belong to one, you cannot belong to others. But this analogy is another fallacy.

~ Niklaus Wirth (1934-02-15 age:84)

Niklaus Wirth

Whereas Europeans generally pronounce my name the right way (Nick-louse Veert), Americans invariably mangle it into Nickel’s Worth. This is to say that Europeans call me by name, but Americans call me by value.

~ Niklaus Wirth (1934-02-15 age:84)

This is play on words about the various ways languages can pass parameters, by name, by reference and by value. Java supports only pass by value.

OOP (Object Oriented Programming)

Nevertheless, I consider OOP as an aspect of programming in the large; that is, as an aspect that logically follows programming in the small and requires sound knowledge of procedural programming.

~ Niklaus Wirth (1934-02-15 age:84)

Perfection Necessary

But quality of work can be expected only through personal satisfaction, dedication and enjoyment. In our profession, precision and perfection are not a dispensable luxury, but a simple necessity.

~ Niklaus Wirth (1934-02-15 age:84)

Running Faster to Go Backward

Software gets slower faster than hardware gets faster.

~ Niklaus Wirth (1934-02-15 age:84) Wirth’s Law

Language Bewitchment

Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.

~ Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-04-26 1951-04-29 age:62)

Importance of Recording

Nothing has really happened until it has been recorded.

~ Virginia Woolf (1882-01-25 1941-03-28 age:59)

Trusting Computers

Never trust a computer you can’t throw out a window.

~ Steve Wozniak (1950-08-11 age:67)

Flight is Impossible

No flying machine will ever fly from New York to Paris.

~ Orville Wright (1871-08-19 1948-10-30 age:77) 1908

We see that same conservative pessimism in those crafting today’s computers and computer tools. They are overwhelmed by the details of producing even today’s solutions. You need young, over-confident people who don’t know too much to chart the course ahead. This is especially true of global warming where the current generation has largely given up hope of a green planet and sustainable human survival.

Efficiency Effects

More computing sins are committed in the name of efficiency (without necessarily achieving it) than for any other single reason — including blind stupidity.

~ W. A. Wulf (1939-12-08 age:78)

Wrong on the Internet

Somebody is Wrong on the Internet

~ xkcd


Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.

~ Frank Zappa (1940-12-21 1993-12-04 age:52)

Program Expansion

Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can.

~ Jamie Zawinski (1968-11-03 age:49) Zawinski’s Law

Construction of the Internet

The Internet is corporations all the way down.

~ Ethan Zuckerman

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