Monday, October 11, 2010

GHC10: Friday Keynote, Barbara Liskov, Another Perspective

I did not originally blog on Dr. Barbara Liskov's Friday morning keynote, but found while writing up my trip report that many of the things she mentioned had really stuck with me so I wanted to share with a wider audience.

First of all, Dr. Liskov was an amazing and energetic speaker - enough to keep 2000 jet-lagged women wide awake through an intense technical walk through the history or structured programming languages at 8:30 in the morning. Fascinating and inspiring!

My notes mostly come from my twitter feed, as well as Teri Oda's, and the Grace Hopper Conference wiki. Hope you get something from them as well!

Friday morning was full of extreme technical talks, beginning with the 8:30 AM keynote from Barbara Liskov, Professor at MIT and 2008 ACM Turing Award Winner.  Dr. Liskov regaled us with the evolution of programming languages by describing a series of must-read papers and the advances she made to this are of the science.  She started in computer systems, and in those days, it was the job of the programmer to make up for the lack of
system resources and under provisioned systems.

Dr. Liskov's advice:
  • "Reading programs is much more important than writing them." (she notes people will be reading your program for years to come and you only write it once - comment!)
  • "Don't try to work on a problem when you get too tired. The solution won't come to you until you're rested."
  • "Programmers think in terms of programming languages...if the language supports and idea it's much more accessible to them."
Dr. Liskov's recommended papers:
Dr. Liskov was a pioneer in computer language development. Many of the concepts she was discussing with her peers in the 1970s are just now appearing in modern languages. When asked what her advice was on the best "first language", she said "Python is used a lot, but lacking features we
want students to learn. C# and Java have those, but are harder to learn."

[Update: Thank you, Kelly, for the additional papers!]