February 9, 2009

Postmodern Programming Tackles Primes

by Nick Montfort · , 8:00 am

A long while ago Gilbert Bernstein discussed process intensity and programming with us in the comment section after my review of Alex Galloway’s Gaming. I mentioned one of Edsgar W. Dijkstra’s notes, EWD277, in which the problem of writing a program to find the first 1000 prime numbers is discussed.

Bernstein, who is from my alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin, where Dijkstra taught, recently pointed me to a hilarious paper that discusses the same problem and proposes a different programming methodology to solve it, while also referring to different Dijkstra note on structured programming and offering an excellent set of references. The paper is “Notes On Postmodern Programming” by James Noble and Robert Biddle. Section 13 is the one that lays out the new (or perhaps not so new) approach.