The Jedi unite, brilliant misfits

Meeting new people and learning about what cool things are happening now in the array language community after my decade hiatus is completely awesome.

And this picture has it all.  Here you see Jordan Tirrell, an up and coming J programmer with veteran Jon McGrew, who I quote once and a while, especially when he makes a good joke about nothing.

Jordan is extra lucky, not to mention smart, because he gets to occupy the spot under Ken Lettow’s wing, after studying with Cliff Reiter at Lafayette College.  This must be great fun, because Ken, who I also just met on this trip to NYC, rocks! Here’s what he wrote me about 10 days ago:

BTW,  on Sunday I went to the bookstore and bought the book “The (mis)behavior of Markets, a fractal view of Financial Turbulence” by Benoit Mandelbrot & Richard L. Hudson.  If you get to interview Mandelbrot you should definitely read this book beforehand.  I could not put it down.

In addition to the main theme of the book, Mandelbrot drops little nuggets about his time at IBM which I think you might find interesting.  Example:

It was 1961.  I had been working a few years at IBM’s main laboratory up the Hudson River from Manhattan.  It was a  surprising place for a pure scientist.  The company had re-tooled itself from a manufacturer of mechanical tabulating machines to a pioneer of electronic computers; and for that task, it had staffed up a large laboratory by including a number of brilliant misfits who were allowed to pursue every imaginable topic.  Some were obviously related to computers, but many not.  I, a recent arrival from France, was working on a new use for computers: economics.

Brilliant misfits!  I love that description.  It is mind bending to think of the talent that resided at IBM at this time, Iverson, Mandelbrot, Brooks, Backus etc.

I’m glad I don’t have to give an award to the most helpful on my trip to NYC because it would be a three-way tie between APL, Q and J folks.  And this Totally Rocks!

And Ken, I love brilliant misfits too! The book arrived today! Hooray!

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4 Responses to “The Jedi unite, brilliant misfits”


  • Hi Catherine, thanks again for putting this meeting together. It was really great talking with you, Jon, Gitte, Morten etc. Looking forward to doing it again soon.

    Ken

  • I was Googling at random when I saw Jordan Tirrell’s photo, which lead me here. Then I read the quote from Mandelbrot, which reminds me of the following quote from Kenneth E. Iverson:

    I left Harvard with offers from IBM Research and Bell Laboratories. Fred Brooks (who had joined IBM somewhat earlier) advised me to choose IBM because computers were their primary concern. After I joined the IBM Research Division, Fred advised that I stick to whatever I really wanted to do, because management was so starved for ideas that anything not clearly crazy would find support. In particular, I was allowed to finish and publish a book on my notation, (A Programming Language, Wiley, 1962), as well as Automatic Data Processing, with co-author Fred Brooks (Wiley, 1963).

  • aprogramminglanguage aprogramminglanguage

    Thanks for the note, Roger.

    Wow! A lot has happened since last summer! Ken Lettow has now formally joined the documentary team as Researcher and next week we’re off to North Carolina to talk to Professor Fred Brooks!

  • aprogramminglanguage aprogramminglanguage

    And I neglected to mention – even though Rick Procter has reminded me several times…

    2012 is the 50th anniversary of the publication of A Programming Language.

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