Niklaus Wirth 15.2.1934 – 1.1.2024

Niklaus Wirth has died on 1.1.2024 at the age of 89. Known to most as the creator of the programming language Pascal, Wirth was also primary designer of the programming languages Euler, PL360, ALGOL W, Modula, Modula-2 and Oberon, heavily influencing coming languages and the paradigm of object oriented programming, and programming methodology altogether. Furthermore, he led the team designing the Lilith workstation, a graphical workstation with a bitmapped graphical display, heavily influenced by the Xerox Alto.

Apart from being a pioneering designer of computer systems and programming languages, Wirth was also an advocate of lean software. 1995, in the article “A Plea for Lean Software”, he stated

Software expands to fill the available memory.


Software is getting slower more rapidly than hardware becomes faster.

The latter statement would then become known as “Wirth’s law”.

The statement I like the most is this one

The belief that complex systems require armies of designers and programmers is wrong. A system that is not understood in its entirety, or at least to a significant degree of detail by a single individual, should probably not be built.

as it is proven true by how retro- or vintage computing is becoming more and more popular. Maybe this increased popularity can be understood as a wish for less complexity in a world full of overcomplex and overengineered hard- and software.