Niklaus Wirth

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Niklaus E. Wirth (born February 15, 1934) is a Swiss computer scientist and winner of the 1984 Turing Award. He is best known for designing several programming languages, including Pascal, and for pioneering several classic topics in software engineering.


  • Software gets slower faster than hardware gets faster.[1]
    • Variation: Software is decelerating faster than hardware is accelerating.
    • aka "Wirth's law"
  • As a matter of fact, the adaptability of a program to changes in its objectives (often called maintainability) and to challenges in its environment in terms of the degree to which it is neatly structured.[2]
  • But active programming consists of the design of new programs, rather than contemplation of old programs.[2]
  • Clearly, programming courses should teach methods of design and construction, and the selected examples should be such that a gradual development can be nicely demonstrated.[2]
  • During the process of stepwise refinement, a notation which is natural to the problem in hand should be used as long as possible.[2]
  • Experience shows that the success of a programming course critically depends on the choice of these examples.[2]
  • In the practical world of computing, it is rather uncommon that a program, once it performs correctly and satisfactorily, remains unchanged forever.[2]
  • Programming is usually taught by examples.[2]
  • Go To statement considered harmful.


  • A good designer must rely on experience, on precise, logic thinking; and on pedantic exactness. No magic will do.
  • After more than 30 years of programming we ought to know that the design of complex software is inherently difficult.
  • As a result, software engineering has become the El Dorado for hackers. The more chaotic a program looks, the smaller the danger that someone will take the trouble of inspecting and debunking it.
  • But quality of work can be expected only through personal satisfaction, dedication and enjoyment. In our profession, precision and perfection are not a dispensible luxury, but a simple necessity.
  • C++ is an insult to the human brain.
  • I have never designed a language for its own sake.
  • I know of a particular, very large software producer that explicitly assumes that design takes 20% of developers' time, and debugging takes 80%.
  • Programming equals algorithims plus data structures.
  • The idea that one might derive satisfaction from his or her successful work, because that work is ingenious, beautiful, or just pleasing, has become ridiculed.
  • Whereas Europeans generally pronounce my name the right way ('Ni-klows Wirt'), Americans invariably mangle it into 'Nick-les Worth'. This is to say that Europeans call me by name, but Americans call me by value.


  1. Niklaus Wirth (February 1995). "A Plea for Lean Software". Computer 28 (2): pp. 64-68. Retrieved on 2007-01-13.
  2. a b c d e f g Niklaus Wirth (April 1971). "Program Development by Stepwise Refinement". Communications of the ACM 14 (4): pp. 221-227. Retrieved on 2008-05-22.

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