University of Virginia, Department of Computer Science
CS655: Programming Languages, Spring 2000

Manifest: Tuesday 7 March 2000
Assignments Due
Tuesday, 7 Mar (5pm)Defense Attorneys only - Witness List and Exhibits
Thursday, 23 Mar (11:59pm)Project Prelminary Report


No new readings. No readings due before Thursday. (Hint: this is a good week to work on your project.)


There seems to be one thing that, independently of the height of the fence that surrounds the campus, any graduating student can take with him into the world outside, and that is the healthy scepticism that goes with a well-kept immunity for hype, for slogans, for fads and for fashions. And that is important, for the latter seems to pass by in ever increasing frequency.

It is quite amazing --and a bit sadenning-- how the gullible and desperate are willing to expect salvation from the next gadget. I remember how TV was promoted by the theory that a daily dose of Shakespeare in every living room would elevate the culturally deprived to unfathomed heights, thus curing all ills of society, etc. And what did we get? Soap operas and quizzes. I remember how the overhead projector was welcomed as the greatest educational innovation since Socrates, as it allowed a much more detailed preparation, and how the new "audio-visual aids", as they were called in those days, would revolutionize the class room and would bring modern teaching to each little Eskimo in his igloo. Well, of what the overhead projector did to teaching, you are, I'm afraid, a better judge than I. I remember how, with the advent of terminals, interactive debugging was supposed to solve all our programming problems, and how, with the advent of colour screens, "algorithm animation" was supposed to do the same. And what did we get? Commercial software with a disclaimer that explicitly states that you are a fool if you rely on what you just bought.

And now we have the multimedia/communication hype: the best bits are those that just arrived from far away, and if you are not "on line", "on the Net", you just don't count, you are not of this world (which is virtual anyhow...). Apart from a change in vocabulary, it is the same hype, the same snake oil over and over again, and you can do me a favour by not getting excited by all the time you are supposed to save by switching to "home banking".

Recently, James H. Billington, the current Librarian of Congress, remarked that instead of a knowledge-based democracy, we may end up with an information-inundated democracy. I share his concern, so allow me to end with this simple wish:

May, in spite of all distractions generated by technology,
all of you succeed in turning information into knowledge,
knowledge into understanding, and understanding into wisdom.

Edsger W. Dijkstra, address to the graduates of the
College of Natural Sciences of the University of Texas at Austin, 8 December, 1996.

CS 655 University of Virginia
CS 655: Programming Languages
Last modified: Mon Feb 26 12:48:20 2001