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November 10, 2003

With Help from Roger Needham

Even though Roger Needham passed away earlier this year, he is going to help me out tomorrow. Two of the points that always come up when my work is discussed in Europe is my applied approach to Computer Science and my extensive interaction with industry. Specifically the latter is always subject to much scrutiny.

I am going to battle the questions with two quotes from Roger, because I can't describe my standpoint on these point more clearly than he did.

With respect the applied approach, like Roger I feel I am engineer (I did not get that ingenieur degree for nothing), and agree strongly about his quote:

Systems should be build to do useful things for real people

This doesn't mean that there is no room for fundamental research, but that I do that in the context of useful, real systems. Doing incremental work with assumptions that can never be met in real life is not my cup of tea.

In Europe I am often criticized for my strong ties with industry. I believe that there should be a strong symbioses between industry and academic computer science. Without the computer industry there would be no computer science, and without academic computer science that would be very limited progress in the industry. Roger's quotes sums it up nicely:

If there wasn’t an industry concerned with making and using computers, the subject wouldn’t exist.

It is not like physics, physics was made by God, but computer science was made by man.

It is there because industry is there

Thanks Roger.

Posted by Werner Vogels at November 10, 2003 10:01 AM