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Self-Reference is an Illustrative Essential Owen Astrachan

Summary: Self-Reference is an Illustrative Essential
Owen Astrachan
Department of Computer Science
Duke University
Durham, NC 27708
This paper includes an abstract, a discussion of the
usefulness of self-reference in early computer science
courses, and some examples to illustrate this usefulness.
Most readers will not be troubled by this example of
self-referential writing. Why then is self-reference, usu-
ally in the form of recursive subprograms, thought to
be so onerous as to be placed in its own left-until-the-
end-and-often-uncovered chapter in most introductory
texts? Self-reference is one of the cornerstones of com-
puter science from the unsolvability of the halting prob-
lem, to writing a Pascal compiler in Pascal, to reveling
in the beauty of Quicksort. We argue that the notion of
self-reference should permeate rst courses in computer


Source: Astrachan, Owen - Department of Computer Science, Duke University


Collections: Computer Technologies and Information Sciences