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On Undertanding Programs – Dijkstra

In my life I have seen many programming courses that were essentially like the usual kind of driving lessons, in which one is taught how to handle a car instead of how to use a car to reach one’s destination.

My point is that a program is never a goal in itself; the purpose of a program is to evoke computations and the purpose of the computations is to establish a desired effect. Although the program is the final product made by the programmer, the possible computations evoked by it~the “making” of which is left to the machine!~are the true subject matter of his trade. For instance, whenever a programmer states that his program is correct, he really makes an assertion about the computations it may evoke.

The fact that the last stage of the total activity, viz. the transition from the (static) program text to the (dynamic) computation, is essentially left to the machine is an added complication. In a sense the making of a program is therefore more difficult than the making of a mathematical theory: both program and theory are structured, timeless objects. But while the mathematical theory makes sense as it stands, the program only makes sense via its execution.

Dijkstra – Notes on Structured Programming

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