As the years went by, I became convinced that the influence of automatic computers in their capacity of tools would only be a ripple on the surface of our society, compared with the deep influence they were bound to have on our culture in their capacity of intellectual challenge to Mankind that was totally without precedent.
• Where do the ideals of computing science come from?
• How does the development of computing science influence our ideals?
1. Analyze software development techniques in use before the concept of structured programming emerged.
2. Summarize the essence of proposals made by Dijkstra, Hoare, Dahl, and many others in order to agree on a more disciplined way of programming than before.
3. Look for alternative, already forgotten proposals of the same period.
4. Try to reconstruct the discussion on this topic—including the implicit, less obvious threads of discourse.
5. Figure out the reasons for the acceptance and rejection of ideas—not only the obvious, verbal ones, but also hidden, political, economic, and psychological motivations, interests, suppressions, and so on.
6. Analyze the current situation in light of insights gained in earlier steps.
7. Deduce predictions and proposals for future development.
8. Give examples—understandable by nontechnical people, especially politicians and managers (including science managers)—that explain the consequences of ignoring recommendations for implementing structured programming versus following those recommendations.
9. Find analogies with other sciences and the humanities.
• A historical view can give informatics a human face. Instead of speaking about technologies, products, and so on we can speak about people and their ideas.
• By showing different—often complicated—ways of historical development, we can encourage excellence in critical thinking. We can show students that, first, ideas do not spring fully formed from nowhere, they need people; second, even good ideas may disappear—often worse ideas conquer better ones; and finally, everybody can have excellent ideas and, therefore, change the history a bit.
• We can relate informatics to other sciences.
• We can address a number of external issues, especially ethical ones, such as the responsibility of people in addressing informatics.
References and notes
Laszlo Böszörmenyi is a full professor and the head of the Department of Information Technology at the University Klagenfurt, Austria. His research interests focus on distributed multimedia systems, with special emphasis on adaptation and video delivery infrastructures. In 2003, he created a real and a virtual exhibition and published a book, People behind Informatics, devoted to the memory of Edsger W. Dijkstra, Kristen Nygaard, and Ole-Johan Dahl ( http://cs-exhibitions.uni-klu.ac.at/). Böszörmenyi served several years as the deputy president of the Austrian Society for History of Computer Science.