Jump to content

Edsger Dijkstra's fountain pen


rwilsonedn

Recommended Posts

I guess this may be pretty obscure to the many folks here not involved in software, but this morning I needed to look up the famous (well, relatively speaking) computer scientist Edsger Dijkstra. I found the following comment, which I have pasted from the current Wikipedia entry:

 

"Dijkstra was known for his habit of carefully composing manuscripts with his fountain pen. The manuscripts are called EWDs, since Dijkstra numbered them with EWD as prefix. According to Dijkstra himself, the EWDs started when he moved from the Mathematical Centre in Amsterdam to the Technological University (then TH) Eindhoven. After going to the TUE Dijkstra experienced a writer's block for more than a year. Looking closely at himself he realized that if he wrote about things they would appreciate at the MC in Amsterdam his colleagues in Eindhoven would not understand; if he wrote about things they would like in Eindhoven, his former colleagues in Amsterdam would look down on him. He then decided to write only for himself, and in this way the EWD's were born. Dijkstra would distribute photocopies of a new EWD among his colleagues; as many recipients photocopied and forwarded their copy, the EWDs spread throughout the international computer science community. The topics were computer science and mathematics, and included trip reports, letters, and speeches. More than 1300 EWDs have since been scanned, with a growing number transcribed to facilitate search, and are available online at the Dijkstra archive of the University of Texas."

 

This makes me wonder: first, has anyone in our noble assembly ever seen an EWD, either in manuscript or photocopy? Second, does anyone still distribute their own work in manuscript today? And third, does anyone have any idea what the great man's taste in pens might have been?

OK, it's hero worship as a hobby, but it's fun.

ron

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 15
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

  • rwilsonedn

    2

  • jar

    2

  • Toolan

    1

  • twall3

    1

Top Posters In This Topic

He was a great one. Never saw an original but did see some of the photocopies. The one pen I think I remember seeing in a picture of him was an older Sheaffer Crest, one with the pointed top like the middle one in this picture.

 

http://www.fototime.com/40AB8B0057FD11F/standard.jpg

Edited by jar

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I guess this may be pretty obscure to the many folks here not involved in software, but this morning I needed to look up the famous (well, relatively speaking) computer scientist Edsger Dijkstra. I found the following comment, which I have pasted from the current Wikipedia entry:

 

"Dijkstra was known for his habit of carefully composing manuscripts with his fountain pen. The manuscripts are called EWDs, since Dijkstra numbered them with EWD as prefix. According to Dijkstra himself, the EWDs started when he moved from the Mathematical Centre in Amsterdam to the Technological University (then TH) Eindhoven. After going to the TUE Dijkstra experienced a writer's block for more than a year. Looking closely at himself he realized that if he wrote about things they would appreciate at the MC in Amsterdam his colleagues in Eindhoven would not understand; if he wrote about things they would like in Eindhoven, his former colleagues in Amsterdam would look down on him. He then decided to write only for himself, and in this way the EWD's were born. Dijkstra would distribute photocopies of a new EWD among his colleagues; as many recipients photocopied and forwarded their copy, the EWDs spread throughout the international computer science community. The topics were computer science and mathematics, and included trip reports, letters, and speeches. More than 1300 EWDs have since been scanned, with a growing number transcribed to facilitate search, and are available online at the Dijkstra archive of the University of Texas."

 

This makes me wonder: first, has anyone in our noble assembly ever seen an EWD, either in manuscript or photocopy? Second, does anyone still distribute their own work in manuscript today? And third, does anyone have any idea what the great man's taste in pens might have been?

OK, it's hero worship as a hobby, but it's fun.

ron

 

Google is your friend ...

 

EWD1300-1318

 

Many of them (especially the early ones) are typed, with the latter ones hand printed.

fpn_1412827311__pg_d_104def64.gif




“Them as can do has to do for them as can’t.


And someone has to speak up for them as has no voices.”


Granny Aching

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you! Finally, after 30 years of wondering, I have found the answer to what P and V stand for.

 

I used to use these functions liberally... finding them indispensable.

 

-Bruno

Edited by Bruno
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I guess this may be pretty obscure to the many folks here not involved in software, but this morning I needed to look up the famous (well, relatively speaking) computer scientist Edsger Dijkstra. I found the following comment, which I have pasted from the current Wikipedia entry:

 

"Dijkstra was known for his habit of carefully composing manuscripts with his fountain pen. The manuscripts are called EWDs, since Dijkstra numbered them with EWD as prefix. According to Dijkstra himself, the EWDs started when he moved from the Mathematical Centre in Amsterdam to the Technological University (then TH) Eindhoven. After going to the TUE Dijkstra experienced a writer's block for more than a year. Looking closely at himself he realized that if he wrote about things they would appreciate at the MC in Amsterdam his colleagues in Eindhoven would not understand; if he wrote about things they would like in Eindhoven, his former colleagues in Amsterdam would look down on him. He then decided to write only for himself, and in this way the EWD's were born. Dijkstra would distribute photocopies of a new EWD among his colleagues; as many recipients photocopied and forwarded their copy, the EWDs spread throughout the international computer science community. The topics were computer science and mathematics, and included trip reports, letters, and speeches. More than 1300 EWDs have since been scanned, with a growing number transcribed to facilitate search, and are available online at the Dijkstra archive of the University of Texas."

 

This makes me wonder: first, has anyone in our noble assembly ever seen an EWD, either in manuscript or photocopy? Second, does anyone still distribute their own work in manuscript today? And third, does anyone have any idea what the great man's taste in pens might have been?

OK, it's hero worship as a hobby, but it's fun.

ron

 

Having had the honor of knowing EWD, back when I was a much younger man and while he was still lecturing (and was he an excellent lecturer!), I have even had the honor of having him lend me his MB for writing on an occasion when mine ran out whilst in a technical discussion. Of course, not being as much into FPs then as now, I did not pay any specific attention to which model it was - at least, I paid more attention to the discussion than to the writing implement.

 

He was one of the "Old Great Ones", in this young profession which he (with A.M.Turing, another Great Old One who left us way too early) was part of creating, and whose contributions serve each of us every day.

 

Uhh, getting all misty here ;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, know who Dijkstra was. No, never met him or imagined I could. Yes, (wow) I'm honored to read a board that has people who knew him.

Washington Nationals 2019: the fight for .500; "stay in the fight"; WON the fight

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Found the picture.

 

http://www.fototime.com/5776978DC9686FE/standard.jpg

 

Maybe he had more than one pen?

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One of the regulars on Pentrace, was a PhD student at the Univ of Texas, and he studied Theoretical Physics. While he wasnt Prof Djkystra's student, he said he saw the Professor in seminars etc, using a vintage Montblanc pen.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 7 years later...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edsger_W._Dijkstra

 

"Dijkstra never wrote his articles using a computer. He preferred to rely on his typewriter and later on his Montblanc pen. Dijkstra's favorite writing instrument was the Montblanc Meisterstück fountain pen. He repeatedly tried other pens, but none ever displaced the Montblanc."

 

http://www.montblanc.com/en-us/collection/writing-instruments/meisterstueck.html?=undefined&filters=468123540

 

http://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/misra/Speeches.dir/Banquet-WG2.3-March2010

http://web.archive.org/web/20170224094721/http://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/misra/Speeches.dir/Banquet-WG2.3-March2010

 

"He tried to create the the [sic] perfect blend of fountain pen ink by mixing inks from different vendors in various proportions to achieve the right color (brilliant black), checking the resistance of the ink to fading under intense sunlight (by taping his writings to his office window under Texas sun), and determining how best to fill up a fountain pen for an airline flight (either completely empty or completely full)."

 

He probably would have loved Noodler's Black inks like Heart of Darkness or Old Manhattan Black :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm afraid that I understand less than one percent of what he studied, but I still find this whole thread fascinating. I always appreciate these sort of intimate glimpses into the minds of geniuses!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's fun to think, reading those documents, that the process of writing them out so carefully may have helped crysilize the ideas themselves. Reminds me about what the author Neil Gaiman says about using FP's- just in a different field.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow...this is fascinating. I've been using Dijkstra's shortest-path algorithm for years in my work, and it makes me more appreciative (and more nostalgic) to know that he wrote manuscripts longhand with a fountain pen.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now







×
×
  • Create New...