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Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2001 10:48:35 +0200
From: Niklaus Wirth, ETH Zuerich
Subject: Greetings letter for educational site
To: Fyodor Tkachov <ftkachov@al20.inr.troitsk.ru>
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Dear Dr. Tkachov,

I apologize for the delay in my answer. I have been busy with all kinds of things, and finding the right words proved to be not so easy. Here is my letter of greetings that we discussed earlier. I hope you find it suitable. Comments are most welcome.

With best regards, Niklaus Wirth


It is my pleasure to write a few words concerning the introduction of my language Oberon in courses on programming at the Moscow State University.

In 1970 I published the Report on the Language Pascal and presented its first compiler. Pascal was based on the concept of structured programming using a structured language, and of strict, static data typing. It subsequently became a language widely accepted for teaching programming in many places of the world. Several implementations of Pascal made it a popular software engineering tool. In 1979, it was followed by Modula-2, designed in the same spirit, but with additional features supporting the construction of large systems, of software engineering. This included the concept of modules with clearly specified interfaces, and supported by the facility of separate compilation with complete type checking. The latest family member, Oberon, was designed and implemented in 1988. It incorporates the features needed for Object Oriented Programming, retaining Pascal's style, and is the result of my aiming at simplicity without sacrificing expressive power. This must be the essence of a language equally suitable for classroom and practice.

I am very happy to add that Pascal has been quite popular also in Russia, and so was Modula-2, supported by an active group of Modula promoters in Moscow. This is not so surprising, as a structured, precisely and concisely defined language will certainly appeal to people educated within a strong mathematical tradition as is Russia's. (And perhaps they will appreciate a programming language whose syntax is so much less complicated than that of Russian :-) The mathematically trained mind welcomes a language governed by few, but general rules. The benefit is that compilers and supporting software are also simple and compact. Mountains of software become superfluous.

The goal of the competent engineer must be to produce reliable and efficient machinery, in this case software. The more demanding the requirements, the better he/she must understand the problem and the tools. The more concise and compact the produced software, the fewer are the chances of errors. Programs must be intellectually manageable, and only their formulation in a structured language makes this possible. Exact reasoning must prevail over trial and error.

Pascal, Modula, and Oberon were designed and implemented while I was teaching at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zuerich with the intent to provide the proper tools for proper teaching and for proper software engineering. My former students founded a company embedding the Oberon System in commercial environments. The result was named Component Pascal to make the widely known ancestor Pascal evident.

It is my sincere hope that Oberon will help in the education of excellent software engineers and scientists in Russia, and that it will become an asset in a country which has greatly valued sound education.

Niklaus Wirth

Перевод на русский язык

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