Classic computer science papers you should read.

Many of the early papers on programming languages published in journals such as “Communications of the ACM” prior to the 1990’s were extremely readable, written by the computer science pioneers. They were often very opinionated, but ironically resonate even today with the challenges posed within the industry. Here is a sample of the more interesting papers.

  • Dijkstra, E.W., “Programming considered as a human activity”, EWD117 (1964-67)
  • Dijkstra, E.W. “go to statement considered harmful”, Communications of the ACM, 11(3), pp.147-148 (1968)
  • Dijkstra, E.W., “The humble programmer”, Communications of the ACM, 15(10), pp.859-866 (1972)
  • Holt, R.C., “Teaching the fatal disease (or) Introductory computer programming using PL/I”, SIGPLAN Notices, p.8-23 (1973)
  • Wirth, N., “On the composition of well-structured programs”, Computing Surveys, 6(4), pp.247-259 (1974).
  • Wirth, N., “On the design of programming languages”, in IFIP Congress 74, pp.386-393 (1974)
  • Wirth, N., “An assessment of the programming language Pascal”, IEEE Trans. Software Engineering, 1(2), pp.192-198 (1975)
  • Hoare, C.A.R., “The emperor’s old clothes”, Communications of the ACM, 24(2), pp.75-83 (1981)

If you program, you should read these papers, to gain a historical insight to the field today.


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