[Oberon] Niklaus Wirth 15.2.1934 - 1.1.2024

Andreas Pirklbauer andreas_pirklbauer at yahoo.com
Wed Jan 3 20:16:26 CET 2024

Dear all,

I am deeply saddened to have received the news of Niklaus Wirth’s passing and extend my heartfelt condolences to his family and all those who were dear to him. I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the profound and positive impact that Niklaus had on my life and career, and to express my gratitude for all that he meant to me.

I first encountered Niklaus in the 1980s at ETH Zurich, where I was fortunate enough to be part of the great excitement when Oberon was first created. I recall being in an office located in the Rechenzentrum (data center) building in Zurich, where the computer science department of ETH was located. At the time, Niklaus had just released Oberon, and we, as the first users, were all congratulating him on this important achievement.

One particular interaction with Niklaus stands out in my memory. As I was walking by his office, he called me in and, after complimenting my work (on an admittedly modest extension to a Modula-2 compiler for the 68k processor), delivered a biting critique on an opportunity that he believed I should have seized. Despite his direct approach, I always valued his insightful feedback, which was a refreshing contrast to the overly-coddling standards of today. Great teachers and mentors are forthright, astute, and genuine, and Niklaus was undoubtedly one of the best. He had a knack for identifying “the essential” and if he took notice of you, it was sure to redound to your benefit. He was also beyond the slightest doubt one of the most brilliant and phenomenally competent engineering minds that I have ever encountered. But more importantly, it was his way of thinking that had the most profound influence. The “school of Niklaus Wirth”, the art of simplicity and elegance is simply unmatched. I doubt that I will ever encounter anyone quite like him again in my lifetime again..

Over the years, I got to know him personally as well and we have become friends. I discovered a highly educated man in the great humanist tradition.

I will miss Niklaus deeply, and I will keep his memory alive in my thoughts. I am grateful for the time we shared, for his great hospitality in Zurich throughout the years, and I am honoured to have been touched by his influence.


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