Server racks in server room data center

Computers now include many devices with far more ability than simple computation. They store data, connect us with others in the wider world, simplify writing and graphic design, and allow us to play sophisticated gains. What is the effect of computers and computing on our lives? What does it mean to work with computers or live with them?

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Those who can imagine anything, can create the impossible.

— Alan Turing

When religion goes hi-tech, it’s lost what it should have remembered. And that’s the basics!

— Anthony T. Hincks

For a long time it puzzled me how something so expensive, so leading edge, could be so useless, and then it occurred to me that a computer is a stupid machine with the ability to do incredibly smart things, while computer programmers are smart people with the ability to do incredibly stupid things. They are, in short, a perfect match.

— Bill Bryson, I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After Twenty Years Away

When all is said and done, the invention of writing must be reckoned not only as a brilliant innovation but as a surpassing good for humanity. And assuming that we survive long enough to use their inventions wisely, I believe the same will be said of the modern Thoths and Prometheuses who are today devising
computers and programs at the edge of machine intelligence.

— Carl Sagan, Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence

When I was an activist in the 1980s, ninety-eight percent of my time was spent stuffing envelopes and writing addresses on them. The remaining two percent was the time we spent figuring out what to put in the envelopes. Today, we get those envelopes and stamps and address books for free. This is so fantastically, hugely different and weird that we haven’t even begun to feel the first tendrils of it.

— Cory Doctorow, In Real Life

Buying the right computer and getting it to work properly is no more complicated than building a nuclear reactor from wristwatch parts in a darkened room using only your teeth.

— Dave Barry

For most digital-age writers, writing is rewriting. We grope, cut, block, paste, and twitch, panning for gold onscreen by deleting bucketloads of crap. Our analog ancestors had to polish every line mentally before hammering it out mechanically. Rewrites cost them months, meters of ink ribbon, and pints of Tippex. Poor sods.

— David Mitchell

We are now at a point in time when the ability to receive, utilize, store, transform and trasmit data — the lowest cognitive form — has expanded literally beyond comprehension. Understanding and wisdom are largely forgotten as we struggle under an avalanche of data and information.

— Dee Hock

I really didn’t foresee the Internet. But then, neither did the computer industry. Not that that tells us very much of course — the computer industry didn’t even foresee that the century was going to end.

— Douglas Adams

The fantastic advances in the field of electronic communication constitute a greater danger to the privacy of the individual.

— Earl Warren

The use of COBOL cripples the mind; its teaching should, therefore, be regarded as a criminal offense.

— Edsger W. Dijkstra

Testing may convincingly demonstrate the presence of bugs, but can never demonstrate their absence.

— Edsger W. Dijkstra, “Programming as a discipline of mathematical nature,” Am. Math. Monthly, 81 (1974), No. 6, pp. 608–12.

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

— Edsger Wybe Dijkstra

The human mind isn’t a computer; it cannot progress in an orderly fashion down a list of candidate moves and rank them by a score down to the hundredth of a pawn the way a chess machine does. Even the most disciplined human mind wanders in the heat of competition. This is both a weakness and a strength of human cognition. Sometimes these undisciplined wanderings only weaken your analysis. Other times they lead to inspiration, to beautiful or paradoxical moves that were not on your initial list of candidates.

— Garry Kasparov, Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins

The computer focuses ruthlessly on things that can be represented in numbers. In so doing, it seduces people into thinking that other aspects of knowledge are either unreal or unimportant. The computer treats reason as an instrument for achieving things, not for contemplating things. It narrows dramatically what we know and intended by reason.

— George Friedman, The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century

If builders built houses the way programmers built programs, the first woodpecker to come along would destroy civilization.

— Gerald M. Weinberg

Why is it that we reward programmers who work all night to remove the errors they put into their programs, or managers who make drastic organizational changes to resolve the crises their poor management has created? Why not reward the programmers who design so well that they don’t have dramatic errors, and managers whose organizations stay out of crisis mode?

— Gerald M. Weinberg

There are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary numerals, and those who don’t.

— Ian Stewart

The computer is credited with the capacity to create unsuspected amounts of busywork. We are straight on our way towards an energy-obsessed low energy society in a world that worships work but has nothing for people to do.

— Ivan Illich

Man is a slow, sloppy, and brilliant thinker; computers are fast, accurate, and stupid.

— John Pfeiffer

Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.

— Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

That’s the thing about people who think they hate computers. What they really hate is lousy programmers.

— Larry Niven

The computer may be incompetent in itself — that is, unable to do the work for which it was designed. This kind of incompetence can never be eliminated, because the Peter Principle applies in the plants where computers are designed and manufactured.

— Laurence J. Peter, The Peter Principle

We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

— Martin Luther King Jr.

A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any other invention with the possible exceptions of handguns and Tequila.

— Mitch Ratcliffe

I still love books. Nothing a computer can do can compare to a book. You can’t really put a book on the Internet. Three companies have offered to put books by me on the Net, and I said, ‘If you can make something that has a nice jacket, nice paper with that nice smell, then we’ll talk.’ All the computer can give you is a manuscript. People don’t want to read manuscripts. They want to read books. Books smell good. They look good. You can press it to your bosom. You can carry it in your pocket.

— Ray Bradbury

A computer does not smell … if a book is new, it smells great. If a book is old, it smells even better… And it stays with you forever. But the computer doesn’t do that for you. I’m sorry.

— Ray Bradbury

Hacking in its pure form stretched back centuries. It wasn’t restricted to a single medium. It was more than a methodology. It was an ethos.

— Robin Wasserman

Doing research on the Web is like using a library assembled piecemeal by pack rats and vandalized nightly.

— Roger Ebert

‘Anybody who’s spent any time with machines at all,’ he added, ‘and baby, that’s us all, knows first and foremost there’s only one thing certain about them, computer or bicycle. They go wrong.’

— Salman Rushdie
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