This page began as a place to gather a bunch of quotes that I really liked -
things I read somewhere, perhaps a quotation from a cookie program when I
logged on to some system that I was working with. Sometimes I'd remember a
quote that I heard in the past, and would search the web to find it to make
sure that I had it right. In the process of doing this, I'd come across
links to web sites that were related to the speaker and/or topic of the
quote; I began to add some of these links to the page.
This is how this page evolved into what it is today - a kind of an odd nexus
in the world wide web of interconnected ideas, bringing together links to a
lot of different things that might not ordinarily be associated with each
other. There is some flow, some relationship, between some of the quotes,
so the links kind of belong together. But in the end, this really is the
"web page about nothing" (to paraphrase a description of the
Seinfeld TV show - doh ! There's another one of those links 8^).
Things should be made as simple as possible -- but no simpler.
- Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
A list of great links to information about Albert Einstein
can be found at the
Albert Einstein Online web site.
Also see the
Albert Einstein's Long Island Summer site for some great
anecdotes about him.
To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.
Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.
- Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931)
According to one source, Edison patented 1,093 inventions during his
Read more quotes by Edison at
Interesting Edison-related web site: the
Aoyama, Japan. According to the web site, this group that promotes
"awareness about the significance of invention and its effects on society
and industry". The web site features a virtual tour (in English as well as
in Japanese) of an exhibition that was held in 1997 that celebrated Thomas
Edison and inventiveness in general, with parallels and contrasts drawn to
today's Silicon Valley.
Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.
- George Hegel (1770-1831)
Premature optimization is the root of all evil.
- Don Knuth
Knuth. "Structured Programming with go to Statements",
ACM Computing Surveys, 6(4):261-301, December 1974
Doug Bell, "Make Java fast: Optimize !",
Java World, April, 1997
Murphy's Law: If there are two or more ways of doing something, and one
of them can lead to catastrophe, then someone will do it.
- Edward A. Murphy, 1949
What? This doesn't look like the Murphy's Law that you're familiar with? That's
because the familiar phrase "If anything can go wrong, it will" is actually
"Finagle's Law (of Dynamic Negatives)". The above is what the real Murphy (a
captain and engineer in the Air Force working at Edwards Air Force Base) said in
1949 when a technician he was working with installed some test equipment
(accelerometers) upside down.
I first saw this mentioned in the book In Search of Clusters
by Gregory F. Pfister (1998) (Chapter 12, page 379).
For more history on Capt. Murphy and his famous law, see
Murphy's Law Was Invented Here.
Computers make excellent and efficient servants, but I have no wish
to serve under them.
- the character of Dr. Spock on the Star Trek episode "The Ultimate
Computer", in which the crew of the enterprise is replaced by the
Multitronic-5 (M-5) computer (brainchild of computer scientist Dr. Richard
Daystrom), which is supposed to be able to run the whole ship.
"The Ultimate Computer" was episode 53 of the original Star Trek series,
first aired March 8, 1968 during the second season.
See Scott Baker's
Star Trek Quotes site for this and many, many other quotes from
Star Trek episodes.
page on the
Star Trek Frontiers
web site describes this Star Trek episode in detail.
The Original Star Trek site for a chronological list of the original
Star Trek episodes.
An object oriented joke...
Q: What's the difference between a methodologist and a terrorist?
A: You can negotiate with a terrorist.
Various attributions. I heard Ed Berrard tell this one at a one day seminar
on object oriented analysis.
I read recently that
had it in his book,
It's also been told by Ivar Jacobson in a
to OOPSLA '96 (part of his response to questions about how he gets
along with Grady Booch and Jim Rumbaugh).
On two occasions, I have been asked [by members of Parliament], "Pray,
Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right
answers come out?" I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of
confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.
- Charles Babbage (1791-1871), inventor of the Difference Engine,
an early mechanical computing device
I enjoy this quote a lot, partially because of the eloquent and
yet subdued way in which it expresses horror at even considering the
possibility of the idea (as well as being the earliest expression of
which I'm aware of the concept of "garbage in, garbage out").
We know there are known knowns: there are things we know we know. We also know
there are known unknowns: that is to say we know there are things we know we
don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know we don't
- Donald Rumsfeld, Defense Secretary under George W. Bush, February 2002
We only learn what we almost already know.
- Attribution unknown
I heard this said one time in the context of artifical intelligence research
(specifically, a discussion of semantic networks). Knowledge is interconnected;
to learn something new, you have to have something to hang it on.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
- Arthur C. Clark
On good days, software development feels like magic; then,
there's the bad days (see the next quote)...
As soon as we started programming, we found to our surprise that it wasn't
as easy to get programs right as we had thought. Debugging had to be
discovered. I can remember the exact instant when I realized that a
large part of my life from then on was going to be spent in finding
mistakes in my own programs.
- Maurice Wilkes, 1949
Maurice Wilkes directed the team that developed the first electronic
stored-program computers, EDSAC (Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator)
at the University of Cambridge in Great Britain. EDSAC ran at 500 kHz,
executed 650 instructions per second, and had 1024 17-bit words of memory.
Maurice Wilkes also wrote the first textbook on computer programming,
Preparation of Programs for an Electronic Digital Computer,
with David J. Wheeler and Stanley Gill.
Maurice Wilkes, Memoirs of a Computer Pioneer, MIT Press, 1985
Brian Hayes, "The Information Age: The Discovery of Debugging." The Sciences,
Vol. 33, No. 4, July-August 1993, pages 10-13.
The process of stepping through a piece of code in a debugger
and watching it work is enormously valuable...imaginative use of
a debugger produces benefits far beyond its initial charter.
- Steve McConnell, Code Complete, page 616 (1993)
I think there is a world market for about five computers.
- Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM, 1943
There will always be plenty of things to compute in the detailed affairs
of millions of people doing complicated things.
- Vannevar Bush (1890-1974)
"As We May Think", Atlantic Monthly Magazine, July, 1945
MIT held a
symposium (October 12-13, 1995) honoring Vannevar Bush and his famous
article in Atlantic Monthly magazine, which served as one of the inspirations
for hypertext and the World Wide Web.
Check out the
photo gallery of pictures of Vannevar Bush (mostly with the many
inventions of his creation).
What is a Web year now, about three months?
- Tim Berners-Lee, the "inventor" of the World Wide Web, commenting
on the speed with which the Web changes in an
O'Reilly Interview (1997).
Tim Berners-Lee delivered a
paper at the
"As We May Think" symposium honoring Vannevar Bush, in which he
discussed the influence that Vannevar Bush and others had on his
thinking when he was developing HTTP and HTML, the technologies which
enabled the development of the World Wide Web.
Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.
- Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
With this statement, Picasso anticipiated the major plot of
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
involving the computer Deep Thought whose famous answer
was 42. Or perhaps Douglas Adams was inspired by Picasso?
There is no abstract art. You must always start with something.
Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.
- Pablo Picasso
Is the glass half full or half empty? It depends on whether you're
drinking or pouring.
- Bill Cosby
I heard Bill Cosby say this on a recent NPR radio interview, but he's been
sharing this at various college commencement speeches he's made over the
past few years, including the
2001 commencement at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
If I have seen farther than others, it is because I have stood on the
shoulders of giants.
- Isaac Newton
In computer science, we stand on each other's feet.
- Brian K. Reid
No plan survives first contact with the enemy.
- Helmuth Von Moltke the Elder
Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.
- Mike Tyson
The future ain't what it used to be.
It's deja vu all over again.
It ain't over till it's over.
If the world were perfect, it wouldn't be.
When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
- Yogi Berra
Ahh, Yogi Berra...the great American Zen master!
More great quotes from Yogi Berra can be found at
The Yogi Berra web site.
No matter where you go, there you are.
- Buckaroo Banzai