December 13th

[edit] George Pólya

Hungarian mathematician George Pólya was born today in 1887. Besides his contributions to Number theory, he is well known for How to Solve It. This book describes methods you can use for solving problems, a useful skill for programmers.

Quote: "If you can't solve a problem, then there is an easier problem you can solve: find it."

[edit] David Wheeler

British computer scientist,'David Wheeler, was born in 1927 and died on this day in 2004. Wheeler is credited with inventing the subroutine, back in 1949. At one time, a call to a subroutine was known as a "Wheeler Jump."

A quote from Wheeler: "Compatibility means deliberately repeating other people's mistakes."

Just to put the subroutine in perspective, Fortran was originally developed without requiring a processor that supported a stack. Many early computers had no stack and no call/return mechanism.

If you're still not glad to be programming in the 21st century, check out this photo of some early (?) Fortran source. A few tidbits to notice: Line numbers, the line continuation character ("x"), the one letter variable names, and the handy GOTO.

© 2006, Jorge Monasterio

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