Rags of Light

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The temperate techie.

In my long-ago techie days, the name of Edsger Dijkstra (d. 2002) was familiar to anyone who was at all serious about computers. He more or less invented computer science as a mathematical and engineering discipline.

Via Alan Jacobs’ (@ayjay) newsletter, I learned that Dijkstra distributed hundreds of issues of a handwritten newsletter to his colleagues. He’d photocopy the original and distribute it; colleagues would photocopy it in turn and distribute it further. One source calls him “the first blogger”.

What strikes me most about Dijkstra is his freedom from dependence on the technological world that he did so much to advance. He didn’t own a TV or a mobile phone, and didn’t go to the movies. This PDF image (look at it!) of one of his elegantly hand-written newsletters is lovely. (I wonder how often he had to start a page over to produce this flawless calligraphy). If my handwriting were nearly as good, I’d give thought to trying to follow his example.