Browse Prior Art Database

Finiteness Assumptions and Intellectual Isolation of Computer Scientists

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000148348D
Original Publication Date: 1970-Aug-31
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2007-Mar-29

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

Wagner, Robert A.: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

Finiteness Assumptions and Intellectual Isolation of Computer Scientists by Robert A. Wagner Technical Report NO. 70-71August 19 70 Department of Computer Science Gornell UniversityUpson HallIthaca, New Pork 14850 Finlteness Assumptions and Intellectual Isolation of Computer Scientists by Robert A. Wagner* Abstract: W e investigate the consequences of assuming integer variables of algorithmic languages to be f i n i t e vs. infinite i n number and/or range. We suggest that different groups of computer scientists use different postulates about algorithmic languages. This leads to difficulty i n communication, since the assumptions are usually unstated. Key words and phrases: Algol vs. FgRTRAN, finiteness assumptions, intellectual isolation, integer variable range, memory finiteness, f i n i t e word size. CR categories: 2.2, 4.22, 5.23 *Computer Science Department Cornell UniversityUpson HallIthaca, New York 14850 Finiteness Assumptions and Intellectual Isolation of Computer Scienris ts

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Finiteness Assumptions and Intellectual
Isolation of Computer Scientists by

Robert A. Wagner

Technical Report

 NO. 70-71
August 19 70

Department of Computer Science -

Gornell University
Upson Hall
Ithaca, New Pork 14850

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Page 2 of 11

Finlteness Assumptions and Intellectual
Isolation of Computer Scientists by

Robert A. Wagner*

Abstract: W e investigate the consequences of assuming integer variables of algorithmic languages to be f i n i t e vs. infinite i n number and/or range. We suggest that different groups of computer scientists use different postulates about algorithmic languages. This leads to difficulty i n communication, since the assumptions are usually unstated.

Key words and phrases: Algol vs. FgRTRAN, finiteness assumptions, intellectual isolation, integer variable range, memory finiteness, f i n i t e word size.

CR categories: 2.2, 4.22, 5.23

*Computer Science Department
Cornell University
Upson Hall
Ithaca, New York 14850

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Finiteness Assumptions and Intellectual
Isolation of Computer Scienris ts

     Thus f a r , the f i e l d of Computer Science has been comparitively cohesive; a t l e a s t , it has usually been simple for workers i n the area, e.g., of computational linguistics, t o achieve communication with compiler wirters. Unfortunately,

this cohesiveness seems t o be diminishing. Workers i n

different areas are adopting distinct, incompatible (and largely unstated) postulates t o describe computer languages
and programs. This trend threatens communication, and possibly

the growth of the science, i n a way that obscure notation and

jargon cannot.

     An illustration of the "fragmentation" trend described above occurred recently, i n connection with an Admission t o Candidacy Examination, given t o all prospective Ph.D. students

at Cornell before they begin work on their theses. A s part of

t h i s oral examination, many candidates were asked the following

question :

     "Are there mathematical functi.ons which are programmable i n Algol, and not i n F$RTRAN ?" Interestingly enough, at the

moment this question apparently has three different answers !

"No

- Automata ~ h e o r y " I

"Yes

- Programming Languages"

I

I

I

I

I

I

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"Maybe

     - any sophisticated user or implementor of compilers. "

     Let us examine the underlyieg, unstated assumptions which workers i n each of these areas use to justify t h e i r respective stands.

     First, and perhaps easiest, consider the Automata Theorist. Recently Automata Theorists have begun t o pay more and more attention t o theoretical questions concerning higher-.

level languages, rather than low-level machines, such as
Turing machines. Such questions a s "What is the shortest F$RTRAN program capable...