Are “systems people” really necessary?

A good friend forwarded me a (handwritten) manuscript by E.W. Dijkstra entitled Are “systems people” really necessary? Giorgos pointed out that it might already be archived in the E.W Dijkstra Archive. As a matter of fact it is EWD1095 [handwritten version here in pdf].

It is a classic EWD document, straight to the point, properly impolite and asking the right questions. Great advice for career and personal growth.

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6 thoughts on “Are “systems people” really necessary?

  1. Good finding! Thanks for sharing. “Systems people” live a dilemma: when everything works, they’re invisible. When something goes wrong, they are in the spotlight with fingers pointed at them.

    1. That’s not “systems people”. That is “systems engineers” (and narrowing it down to IT: DBAs and system administrators).

    2. As adamo said, Dijkstra is referring to the academic world of “systems people”. A prominent & successful example of such a person would be Andrew Tanenbaum (and he’s anything but invisible).

      Also, although Dijkstra is fun and intellectually stimulating to read, it is practically hard to agree with everything he says and/or implement it. The reason is simple: Dijkstra was a genius. Not everyone else is one ;).

  2. There exists an easy test to recognize a “systems person”:

    – Hi! What are you into?
    – I am into Systems
    – That’s cool! Have you built any lately?

    The answer usually varies between 0 and 1 and when it is greater than zero it was built 10+ years ago.

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