Quotes

Technical

"I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."

- Charles Babbage

"It is easier to optimize correct code than to correct optimized code. Premature optimization actually hinders optimization in the long run. Unnecessary optimization distorts designs, destroys modularity and information-hiding, and makes code much harder to modify. Latent bugs take longer to find. We often discover by profiling, or by changing machines or compilers, that we misjudged the computational effort of our code. Guess what? Now, optimization is much harder than it had to be."

-Bill Harlan, 1997

"Mostly, when you see programmers, they aren't doing anything. One of the attractive things about programmers is that you cannot tell whether or not they are working simply by looking at them. Very often they're sitting there seemingly drinking coffee and gossiping, or just staring into space. What the programmer is trying to do is get a handle on all the individual and unrelated ideas that are scampering around in his head."

- Charles M. Strauss

"Mutable state is actually another form of manual memory management: every time you over-write a value you are making a decision that the old value is now garbage, regardless of what other part of the program might have been using it."

- Paul Johnson

"As people get more experienced, they start to use the type system as a tool in its own right, and one of the things that is constantly on one's mind is how to pass off as much of the proof burden as possible to the compiler."

- Yaron Minsky [Why static typing is interesting.]

"Computer science is as much about computers as astronomy is about telescopes."

- Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (1930-2002)

"The question of whether a computer can think is no more interesting than the question of whether a submarine can swim."

- Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (1930-2002)

"Dynamic" is technical jargon used by programmers, meaning "good". It derives from the Latin dyno mite, meaning "I am extremely pleased", and is first recorded in the historical work Bene Tempus of noted Roman sage and pundit J.J. Walker."

- Frank Atanassow

"After 25 years doing this, I've become something of a Luddite as far as fancy IDEs and non-standard features go... and a huge believer in strict decoupling between my tools, to the point of ignoring things that bundle them together in ways that are, in my opinion, too tight."

- Peter Hansen

"Trying to make bits uncopyable is like trying to make water not wet. The sooner people accept this, and build business models that take this into account, the sooner people will start making money again."

- Bruce Schneier

"... I can categorically state that relational databases set the commercial data processing industry back at least ten years and wasted many of the billions of dollars that were spent on data processing."

- Henry G. Baker, Ph.D.

"Perfection is attained, not when no more can be added, but when no more can be removed."

- Antoine de Saint-Exupery [Something more developers should pause to reflect upon.]

"Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction."

- Albert Einstein [Great minds think alike.]

"You know, when you have a program that does something really cool, and you wrote it from scratch, and it took a significant part of your life, you grow fond of it. When it's finished, it feels like some kind of amorphous sculpture that you've created. It has an abstract shape in your head that's completely independent of its actual purpose. Elegant, simple, beautiful.

Then, only a year later, after making dozens of pragmatic alterations to suit the people who use it, not only has your Venus-de-Milo lost both arms, she also has a giraffe's head sticking out of her chest and a cherubic penis that squirts colored water into a plastic bucket. The romance has become so painful that each day you struggle with an overwhelming urge to smash the fucking thing to pieces with a hammer."

- Nick Foster ("Life as a programmer")

"Where a new system concept or new technology is used, one has to build a system to throw away, for even the best planning is not so omniscient as to get it right the first time."

- Frederick P. Brooks. The Mythical Man-Month

"The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the quantity group: fifty pound of pots rated an A, forty pounds a B, and so on. Those being graded on quality, however, needed to produce only one pot -- albeit a perfect one -- to get an A. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the quantity group was busily churning out piles of work -- and learning from their mistakes -- the quality group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay."

- From "Art & Fear" by David Bayles and Ted Orland

"The elegant simplicity of C++ and the blazing speed of Smalltalk!"

- Phlip [speaking of Java]

"I'm betting that languages such as Java and C++ will in the long term be seen as a curious branch in the evolution of computing. "

- Dave Thomas

"There's no getting around the fact that knowing what tactics to use when in all but the most trivial cases is a matter of intuition, that intuition comes from experience, that experience comes from failure, and that failure comes from trying."

- Paul Snively

"First, we want to establish the idea that a computer language is not just a way of getting a computer to perform operations but rather that it is a novel formal medium for expressing ideas about methodology. Thus, programs must be written for people to read, and only incidentally for machines to execute."

- Abelson and Sussman

"[I]f a machine is expected to be infallible, it cannot also be intelligent."

- Alan Turing, 20 February 1947, lecture to London Mathematical Socity on ACE

"If you compare eclipse to VS, it is not that memory hungry.
And if you compare Saturn to Jupiter, it's not that big."

- sjdevnull respoding to hg

"In Greek mythology, Antacus was a giant who was strong as long as he had contact with the earth. When he was lifted from the earth he lost his strength. So it is with engineers. They must not be isolated from the real world... The Devil is in the details, but so is salvation."

- Attributed to Hyman G. Rickover

Humor/Philosophy

"Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it."

- Paraphrased Buddha (unparaphrased source)

"It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper."

- Rod Serling

"People have such a small number of memory registers, that we can't think of much. Everything has to be on automatic. Consciousness is not a window. It's more like a debugging trace you use for reprogramming around problems."

- Marvin Minsky

"Bureaucrat (byoor'u-krat):
-n.
  An official who works by fixed routine without exercising intelligent judgement."

- InfoPlease

"I'd kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet, tasty beer..."

- H. Simpson

"They have computers, and they may have other weapons of mass destruction."

- Janet Reno, former US Attorney General, 2.27.98 [Good ol' janet.]

"We've all heard the "herding cats" analogy with regard to managing programmers. Managing sysadmins is like leading a neighborhood gang of neurotic pumas on jet-powered hoverbikes with nasty smack habits and opposable thumbs. Oh, and as a manager you're a neurotic junkie puma too, only they cut your thumbs off and whereas all the other pumas get to drive around on their badass hoverbikes and fire chainguns at the marketing department, YOU have to drive a maroon AMC Gremlin behind them and hand out Band-Aids and smile a lot, when all you're REALLY thinking about is how to get one of them to let you borrow his hoverbike for a few minutes so you can show those fools how it's DONE. "

- Benjy Feen

"Not merely bad, but unpleasant in a hostile way."

- Roger Ebert (reviewing Battlefield Earth)

"Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so? There's a support group for that. It's called EVERYBODY, and they meet at the bar."

- Drew Carey

"The real operating system hiding under the newest version of the Macintosh operating system (MacOS X) is called... Darwin! That's right, new Macs are based on Darwinism! While they currently don't advertise this fact to consumers, it is well known among the computer elite, who are mostly Atheists and Pagans. Furthermore, the Darwin OS is released under an "Open Source" license, which is just another name for Communism. They try to hide all of this under a facade of shiny, "lickable" buttons, but the truth has finally come out: Apple Computers promote Godless Darwinism and Communism."

- Richard Paley

Freedom

"Qu’on me donne six lignes écrites de la main du plus honnte homme, j’y trouverai de quoi le faire pendre."
"If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him."

- Cardinal de Richelieu (1585-1642)

"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."

- Winston Churchill

"Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide."

- John Adams

"There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or a corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute nor common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back, for their private benefit. That is all."

- Robert A. Heinlein ("Life-Line")

"That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property."

- Thomas Jefferson (Letters: 1743-1826)

"A society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will deserve neither and lose both. "

- Paraphrased Benjamin Franklin

"To make laws that man cannot, and will not obey, serves to bring all law into contempt. "

- Elizabeth Cady Stanton

"They who can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. "

- Benjamin Franklin

"When Government fears the people, it's liberty. When people fear the Government, it's tyranny."

- Benjamin Franklin

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

- H.L. Mencken

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed -- and hence clamorous to be led to safety -- by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

- H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)

"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear. And the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."

- H.P. Lovecraft

"Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you."

- Pericles

"It is better to die on one's feet than to live on one's knees."

- Albert Camus

"Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, then that of blindfolded fear."

- Thomas Jefferson

"The judge decided to invent a new category of speech that does not enjoy First Amendment protection. Besides the old standards (libel, fraud, obscenity, incitement to riot and copyright infringement), the court's new category is, essentially, 'anything that potentially threatens the profits of Time Warner and Disney.'"

- David Touretzky [From a salon interview about the 2600 vs. MPAA decision.]

"PATRIOTISM, n. Combustible rubbish read to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name. In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first."

- Ambrose Bierce

"A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares about more than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. "

- John Stuart Mill [Writing on the U.S. Civil War in 1862.]

"Contemplate the mangled bodies of your countrymen, and then say, What should be the reward of such sacrifices? If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude than the animating contest of freedom - go from us in peace. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you."

- Samuel Adams [From a great feedomforum article by Paul McMasters.]

"The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first."

- Thomas Jefferson

"Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. It is a force, like fire, a dangerous servant and a terrible master. "

- George Washington

"Government does not solve problems. It subsidizes them."

- Ronald Reagan

"The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is rendered to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd."

- Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Chapter VI, "What Sort of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear," 1840

"The only freedom which counts is the freedom to do what some other people think to be wrong. There is no point in demanding freedom to do that which all will applaud. All the so-called liberties or rights are things which have to be asserted against others who claim that if such things are to be allowed their own rights are infringed or their own liberties threatened. This is always true, even when we speak of the freedom to worship, of the right of free speech or association, or of public assembly. If we are to allow freedoms at all there will constantly be complaints that either the liberty itself or the way in which it is exercised is being abused, and, if it is a genuine freedom, these complaints will often be justified. There is no way of having a free society in which there is not abuse. Abuse is the very hallmark of liberty."

- Lord Chief Justice Halisham