Wirth retires 
Author Message
 Wirth retires

As some of you might know, Prof. Niklaus Wirth is retiring from
the ETH at the end of March.  Today the Tages-Anzeiger published
a tribute to him (in German):

http://www.*-*-*.com/

Interesting quote: "Reliable and transparent programs are not in the
interest of the designer.  The marketing departments of the software
giants have noticed that it is not possible to lure purchasers
with simplicity." (my translation)

-- Pieter

--
Pieter Muller, Institute for Computer Systems, ETH Zurich
Native Oberon OS: http://www.*-*-*.com/



Tue, 11 Sep 2001 03:00:00 GMT  
 Wirth retires

Quote:

> As some of you might know, Prof. Niklaus Wirth is retiring from
> the ETH at the end of March.  Today the Tages-Anzeiger published
> a tribute to him (in German):

> http://www.tages-anzeiger.ch/archiv/99maerz/990326/208545.HTM

> Interesting quote: "Reliable and transparent programs are not in the
> interest of the designer.  The marketing departments of the software
> giants have noticed that it is not possible to lure purchasers
> with simplicity." (my translation)

> -- Pieter

> --
> Pieter Muller, Institute for Computer Systems, ETH Zurich
> Native Oberon OS: http://www.oberon.ethz.ch/native/

Oh my. Load the url into Altavista's Babelfish translator
(http://babelfish.altavista.digital.com/cgi-bin/translate?)! Funny
reading!  :-)

Here's a translated quote:
"Such a creator spirit is Niklaus Wirth.
The professor at the institute for computer systems set
scientific yardsticks with his programming languages and
computers. In the sixties-years it brought the then confused
and chaotic computer programming on a clear and
comprehensible basis."

Could someone provide a better translating. I'm very interested to know
what it says.

--
Jeff

Systems Analyst
University of Pittsburgh - CIDDE
http://stoner.cidde.pitt.edu                   | All opinions expressed do not
ICQ - http://www.mirabilis.com/7693118             | reflect those of my employer.



Tue, 11 Sep 2001 03:00:00 GMT  
 Wirth retires

Quote:

> As some of you might know, Prof. Niklaus Wirth is retiring from
> the ETH at the end of March.  Today the Tages-Anzeiger published

What about his work on hardware CAD?  I was under the impression that he
was still working on it.

Graham



Fri, 14 Sep 2001 03:00:00 GMT  
 Wirth retires
according to Oberon Microsystems homepage (www.oberon.ch):
Quote:

> Niklaus Wirth has given his farewell lecture at ETH on Monday,
> January 18th. He will retire this spring. The NZZ newspaper has
> published his lecture (Friday, January 29th, 1999) and an interview
> with him (Friday, February 5th, 1999).

the Neue Zuercher Zeitung (NZZ) has published his retiring
lecture. I missed it, does someone have a copy of it ?

I've got a printout of the interview and a second article which
were printed on 5-Feb-99 in NZZ.

    Bernhard Treutwein             Tel. +49-89-5996-642, Fax -615
    Institut f. Med. Psychologie  Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet

    --------------------------------  ---------------------------
    C is its own virus



Fri, 14 Sep 2001 03:00:00 GMT  
 Wirth retires

Quote:

> according to Oberon Microsystems homepage (www.oberon.ch):

>> Niklaus Wirth has given his farewell lecture at ETH on Monday,
>> January 18th. He will retire this spring. The NZZ newspaper has
>> published his lecture (Friday, January 29th, 1999) and an interview
>> with him (Friday, February 5th, 1999).

> the Neue Zuercher Zeitung (NZZ) has published his retiring
> lecture. I missed it, does someone have a copy of it ?

> I've got a printout of the interview and a second article which
> were printed on 5-Feb-99 in NZZ.

I'd like to second the interest in any translations of this material.
I'd like to post this on my Pascal web site,

www.employees.org/~samiam/pascal.html

Thanks.

The year 2000. The stock market hitting 10,000.
These events prove once and for all that we
have ten fingers......



Fri, 14 Sep 2001 03:00:00 GMT  
 Wirth retires

Quote:

> I've got a printout of the interview and a second article which
> were printed on 5-Feb-99 in NZZ.

Regrettably, this article is now longer available on www.nzz.ch.
They keep just the last 30 days online.

Andreas.

--
Andreas Borchert, Universitaet Ulm, SAI, Helmholtzstr. 18, 89069 Ulm,  Germany

WWW:    http://www.mathematik.uni-ulm.de/sai/borchert/



Sat, 15 Sep 2001 03:00:00 GMT  
 Wirth retires

Quote:
> Oh my. Load the url into Altavista's Babelfish translator
> ( http://www.*-*-*.com/ )! Funny
> reading!  :-)

that's why fish can't talk...

Quote:
> Could someone provide a better translating. I'm very interested to know
> what it says.

i'll give it a try, but the author, probably in an attempt to show years
of university studies in germanistic, uses pretty complicated german and
sentance structures that are hard to translate. weird or missing
translations are accompanied by the german word(s) in []. please forgive
my english mistakes, it's been a while...

pedro gonnet

title: a digital transverse philosopher [querdenker] retires

abstract: the probably most prominent swiss computer-science pioner
retiers. niklaus wirth takes a proud, yet sad [wehmuetig] look back on
his career.

text: grey is the color of the functionality-oriented computer-science
building. it is also the color of the cells that fill the heads of
computer-scientists. but what a diference! althoug the sober
architecture barely manages to stimulate the imagination, the brains at
work in these bare rooms still produce genial ideas. niklaus with is one
of these creators. the professor at the institute for computer systems
set new scientific standards with his programing languages and
computers. in the sixties, he brought the then chaotic world of computer
programing to a clear, comprehesive foundation.

with the programing language pascal, finished in 1970, wirth
accomplished the feat that made him famous world-wide. pascal, named in
reverence of the frech universal-mathematician of the seven{*filter*}th
century, was the first programing language based on a clear and uniform
structure, making it the language of choice for education. pascal's
great break-through came in the second half of the seventies, when the
first microcomputers from apple and commodore hit the market. countless
schools around the globe installed pascal on their machines...

since then, wirth has perfected his systematic and developed other
languages such as modula and oberon, yet hardware also interested the
scientist. only then, when the hard- and software are in tune, is it
posible to create user-friendly solutions. this motto was realised with
the computers he built himself - the Lilith, the Ceres and the
Chamaeleon.

at the end of march, niklaus wirth will vacate his office in the
computer-science building, retiring at 65 like all other civil servants.
yet wirth was not your tipical confederate civil servant. uncompromising
- for some of his collegues sometimes somewhat puritan or even stubborn
[eigensinnig] - he followed his goal: to turn the computer into a
productive work instrument for all.

systematic, methodic and structured. these three academic-sounding terms
always show up in his discourse when he talks of hard- and software,
meaning only that computer systems should be simple, understandable and
clear. with these demands he sees himself far from the mainstream. he is
convinced that "swimming against the current is one of the oldest tasks
of a university."

today's computer-science landscape looks like a uniform desert: a
handfull of companies, like microsoft, intel, ibm and compaq control the
global mass market. yet in wirth's view, today's software products are
labyrinths, forcing users to wander around with innumerable mouse
clicks, finding the exit only out of dumb luck. the highly popular
text-processor, word, is one of the most complex systems, milions of
lines of code sprinkled with uncountable errors.

subtitle: harsh words for the industry

"reliable and transparent programs are usualy not in the intrest of the
designer" continues wirth. the marketing departments of the software
giants had noticed that potential customers are not lured by simplicity.
the things that fascinate people are cool features that no-one realy
needs but can be shown off proudly to friends. "the wishes of the user
are heeded too strongly, not their needs," he concludes.

nevertheless, the trend towards faster pc's and more complex programs
seems to be unstoppable. yet for wirth, next to the technical
limitations, there are also human limitations: "our heads are no longer
capable to process everything." even the scientific community is showing
signs of turning towards simplicity and clarity - wirth's conservative
credo.

wirth, being a sharp and critical anlayst, is also critical of
artificial intelligence. though it is a faschinating field, it has been
promising results for the past 40 years - without success. "computers
with human characteristics is nonsense," says wirth. the technology is
generaly overestimated, one of the reasons being the decline of phisics
and chemistry in public schools.

sometimes the soon to be retiree feels like a caller in the desert
[rufer in der wueste]; even his two daughters weren't fascinated by a
technical education and his son became a musician. "maybe i was a
frightening model [vorbild]," chuckles wirth, who consequently went his
own way. with a electro-engineering diploma from the eth in his pocket
he left switzerland in 1959. at the renound universiy of california in
berkley he graduated in software engineering and finaly landed at
stanford university as an assistant professor.

after 8 years in the us, wirth returned to switzerland with his family,
tempted by an offer from the eth to create a computer science group.
despite the triumph with pascal, switzerland didn't seem to be a too
fertile ground for computer science. "sometimes frustrating," says
wirth, who build the lilith computer between 1977 and 1980. the powerful
workstation was one of the first to have a mouse, a high resolution
monitor and a graphical user interface. in comparison the apple ii of
the time seemed almost traditional, hosting only a keyboard.

but the lilith brought wirth no comercial success. the industry was
cautious and unwilling to take any risks: the project for a commercial
production was quickly abandoned. "the opportunity to build a computer
industry in our country was then lost," says wirth.

reagrding teaching switzerland was also still a developing country.
while the us introduced computer-science courses [studiengaenge] in
1965, the eth only decided to follow suit in 1980, 12 years after
wirth's return. many initiatives [vorstoesse], submitted by him and his
coleague carl august zehnder, fell on deaf ears.

yet such deceptions didn't stop wirth from doing reasearch and teaching.
landmarks of his work in the eighties were the ceres computer and the
oberon operating system, which allowed an uncomplicated dialog between
the user and the computer. lately the computer-science pioneer has been
working on the edge of hard- and software and has developed tools for
programmable semiconductors (FPGAs).

a career with seven honorary doctorates and may decorations comes to an
end, driven by curiosity and thirst for knowledge allready present in
his early years. niklaus wirth grew up in winthertur, beside the
high-school where his father taught geography. the only child found his
inspiration [geistige nahrung] in his fathers library, filled with
technical works. there he found descriptions of turbines, steam-machines
[dampfmaschinen], locomotives and telegrafs - the technology fascinated
him. yet the theory alone was not enough for the student, he wondered
how it would all work in real life.

in a group of model airplane fanatics he built airplanes of his own
design with friends - more than two dozen, the largest with a wing span
of 3.5 meters. in highschool wirth was fascinated by chemistry. at home
he built a laboratory in his ba{*filter*}t to try out on his own what he had
learnt at school.

his blue eyes twinkle as he laughs the professor like a little boy while
telling an anectote about a ill-fortuned model rocket experiment. he and
a friend had not sufficiently isolated the fuel mix of
[kaliumperchlorat], sulfur and carbon. the projectile missed it's planed
trajectory and landed at the principal's feet, who had just come around
a corner. no disciplinary measures were taken.

"an unencumbered time," recalls the universiy professor who, even during
his academic career, was able to realise most of his ideas. for him
fundamental science [grundlagenforschung] was a needed space to create
new knowledge - without having to think about marketing it. tempi
passati.

today the wind has changed in science. professors are now managers and
orient themselves towards market tendencies, such as anton gunzinger
with his supercomputers. wirth still has problems with that, having
alwas pointedly preached for a clear separation of industry and
universities. yet now the universities must work under the efficiency
criteria of the economy, that's the way the new government policy sees
it. "if university reasearch has to show short-term benefits, it's a
devastating perspective," says wirth sadly, being used to full academic
freedom.

yet the digital transverse philosopher will remain independant - in
retirement. he wishes to find more muse, return to building model
aircraft and reading books - [belletristik]. above all he loves
detective stories. wirth can't get away from logical combination.



Fri, 16 Nov 2001 03:00:00 GMT  
 
 [ 9 post ] 

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