“Computer Science is no more about computers than astronomy is about
telescopes.”

– E. W. Dijkstra

Its clear that astronomy is not about telescopes and that its about stars
and celestial bodies et al. But when we say computers science is not about
computers, what is it about then?? Perhaps if I had heard this many years
ago
I mightve laughed at its apparent absurdity or might have just nodded and
casually forgotten about it.

Like I was saying… couple of weekends ago I was reading “Black Holes and
Baby Universes and Other Essays” by physicist Stephen Hawkings.

There in an autobiographical essay, he says after a disease and a surgery he
was terminally ill – speechless and paralyzed – completely immobile.

He still wanted to continue his research.

But his communication was limited to the help of another person flipping
through alphabets, and he would raise his eyebrows for the required one. He
would write sentences this way – very slowly letter by letter.

Then a software programmer sent him a device which flipped alphabets
similarly, and he could use his finger to indicate when the required letter
was reached. This was a major breakthrough – and it evolved gradually – the
stationary PC was eventually replaced by one embedded into his wheelchair
making him mobile. A screen was eventually replaced by a voice synthesiser –
allowing him to even speak again.

A man who was condemned by doctors to live as a vegetable counting down his
days – went on to write many more books, give many more speeches and do a
lot more research!!

(only a rough summary, explained much better in the book)

Of course it was basically the man’s indomitable spirit that got him back,
but software was instrumental.

After reading about this, Dijkstra’s words made a bit more sense than the
obvious 🙂 I felt this is what software is really about – improving the
quality of life and creating equality… Even a paralyzed person is now able
to live like an *equal* among other normal people – living a highly
respectable life!