State of New Jersey needs COBOL programmers

Boris Gimbarzevsky boris at
Tue Apr 7 02:20:57 CDT 2020

At 18:25 05-04-20, you wrote:
>It was thus said that the Great Fred Cisin via cctalk once stated:
> > >>Edsger Dijksta said, "The use of COBOL cripples the mind; its teaching
> > >>should, therefore, be regarded as a criminal offense."
> >
> > On Sun, 5 Apr 2020, geneb wrote:
> > >I'm pretty sure he said that about BASIC, and I'm totally bummed he died
> > >before I could bitch slap him over it. ;)
> >
> > well, close.
> > His BASIC quote is:
> > "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."
> >
> > Here is one copy of his 1975 paper, "How Do We Tell Truths That Might
> > Hurt":
> >
> >
> > I don't know what language(s), if any, that he liked.
>   Math.
>   -spc (Had some comp-sci profs who didn't like programming or computers)
Thanks for that link.  Didn't run into Dijkstra's work until I'd been 
programming for years but can't say he had much impact on me.  Tried 
to find out tonight whether I had been "mentally mutilated beyond 
hope of regeneration".  Found first computer book I bought on 
21/1/1968 which was Digital Computer Principle by Burrough's 
Corporation when I would have been 14.  In bad shape now as I'd lug 
it with me to reread sections wherever I went.  Remembered entering a 
science fair that year with a full-adder circuit composed of DTL 
logic using discrete diodes and transistors. One of the people I met 
at that science fair and I got to play with a Nova computer shortly 
afterwards.  It ran BASIC and we wondered why they let 2 14 year olds 
spend so much time writing little programs on it, but maybe they were 
using us an example of how easy it was for even kids to use.  It was 
at some oil company related equipment exhibition in Calgary.

After deciding it would be a lot faster to actually figure out how to 
get access to a computer than build my own, teamed up with a few 
nerds in Calgary.  One of them had somehow pursuaded the Calgary 
school board to buy $20,000 worth of computer time on the UofC 
mainframe (200 CPU hours on a 360) and most of this CPU time was used 
by about 5 of us.  I was thinking of mathematics at that point in my 
life, but was told that I would never be a mathematician when I 
talked to one of the UofC mathematicians about my program to 
numerically simulate the gravitational 3 body problem by solving the 
system of differential equations in FORTRAN.  He was very dismissive 
saying that I was doing applied mathematics and my interests would be 
better suited to engineering.  The guy I met at the science fair did 
go into engineering and did a lot of work on remote sensing and 
satellite imagery analysis.  Program was easy, plotting results on 
graph paper wasn't.

While hanging out at the UofC data center was told to read Knuth's 
The Art of Computer Programming which had just come out.  Had no 
access to a MIX interpreter then and had to translate his algorithms 
into FORTRAN.  Don't feel like going into my freezing shop attic now 
to find out whether I started with BASIC or FORTRAN, but it was 
probably Knuth that made me always like to code in assembly 
language.  For the type of research I ended up doing, FORTRAN was far 
too slow and most of my PDP-11 programs were FORTRAN calls to 
assembly routines that were optimized for speed and bits of FORTRAN 
code I needed to display results or change experimental 
parameters.  Got to work with a great mathematician during this 
research who was the black sheep in the UBC math faculty because his 
interest was applied mathematics.  So if BASIC was first language I 
ever programmed in, didn't seem to affect my ability to create 
massive PDP-11 projects running on multiple processors simultaneously.

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