al recognition of being the language
for computation. We help people find
representations for real-world things
and then prove things about their representations. In computer science we
have invented new mathematics for analyzing algorithms. We explained why a
binary search is so much faster than a
linear search, and why a bubble sort is
so much slower than a merge sort. We
figured out how to parse programming
languages efficiently, making the jobs
of programmers so much easier. Our
tools help programmers prove that
their complicated programs actually
work, meaning that users can sleep
at night knowing that their airplanes
won’t crash and their business software won’t ruin them. Our biggest triumph has been to show that over 3,000
common problems in science, engineering, and business are so difficult
to solve that even the fastest supercomputers would take centuries on simple
versions. We call this the P=NP issue.
Whoever proves that P=NP would win
all the math prizes and the ACM Turing
Award. And no, proving P=NP does not
boil down to proving N= 1.
I love building things. My math friends
like picturing things in their minds; I
like holding things in my hands and
putting them through their paces. You
tell me what you want, what budget I
have, and how much time I have, and
I’ll find a way to build a computing
system that does it. I don’t need everything to be figured out mathematically
before I can start. I built your operating systems, your networks, your TCP
and IP, your air traffic control system,
your banking systems, your game engines, and your search engines. I built
your memory chips, your CPUs, your
stacks, your graphics displays, your
warehouse computers, your BlackBer-ries, and your iPods. I know how to
make software and hardware artifacts
reliable, dependable, usable, safe,
and secure. I love the smells of solder,
motherboards, routers, power supplies, and musty cable racks. Sometimes I even think I can smell rotting
bugs in software. I’m so good at doing
things faster, cheaper, and better that
I keep on giving you Moore’s Law year
I love discovering new things about
nature. Recently my friends in biology
have discovered that DNA transcription is a natural information process.
What an amazing discovery. Computation is not an artifact of a computer,
it’s part of life! My friends in physics,
economics, materials, chemistry, meteorology, oceanography, and cosmology are all making similar discoveries.
What a great time for collaborations
on new discoveries about those natural
processes. But that’s not all I do. I discovered scientific principles for computing. My scientific analysis guided
the design of the first electronic computers. My principle of locality helped
us achieve high performance through
caching in everything from chips to
the Internet. I discovered fast algorithms for throughput and response
time of large systems and networks,
launching the performance evaluation
industry. I brought the experimental
method to architecture, program per-
formance improvement, large system
design, mathematical software, modeling, and simulation. My greatest triumph in the CS realm has been with
artificial intelligence. Now that they
have accepted my methods, they are
making remarkable advances with machines that mimic human intelligent
the Last Voice: the catalog
Students begin by learning the use of
computer programming as a problem-solving tool. Topics in procedural programming include expressions, control
structures, simple data types, input-output, graphical interfaces, testing,
debugging, and programming environments. The student then advances to
problem solving with object-oriented
programming. Topics include classes,
inheritance, packages, collections, exceptions, polymorphism, and recursive
thinking. A good deal of time will be
spent on programming projects.
1. Denning, P. Who are we? Commun. ACM 44, 2 (Feb.
2. Denning, P. The field of programmers myth. Commun.
ACM 47, 7 (July 2004), 15–20.
3. Denning, P. Recentering computer science. Commun.
ACM 48, 11 (Nov. 2005), 15–19.
4. Denning, P. et al. Computing as a discipline. Commun.
ACM 32, 1 (Jan. 1989), 9–23.
5. Dijkstra, E. The humble programmer. Commun. ACM
15, 10 (Oct. 1972), 859–866.
6. Shirky, C. Here Comes Everybody. Penguin, 2008.
7. Snyder, L. Fluency with Information Technology.
8. Wing, J. Computational thinking. Commun. ACM 49, 3
(Mar. 2006), 33–35.
Peter J. Denning ( email@example.com) is the director of the
Cebrowski Institute for Information Innovation and
Superiority at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey,
CA, and is a past president of ACM.
© 2008 ACM 0001-0782/08/0800 $5.00