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ACM Forum.

Human Rights

I am one of the computer professionals whose scientific freedom and human rights have at one time been violated (see Report in the August 1989 Communications, pp. 957-74, including Dissent and Response to the Dissent-Ed.). When the martial law was introduced in Poland in December, 1981, I was interned (detained without charge) in a prison camp near Warsaw. At that time, I was employed as a Teaching and Research Assistant ,at the Institute of Informatics, Warsaw University. I was released from internment in May, 1982. 1 was greatly moved to see my name and those of my colleagues in jack Minker's report ("Computer Professionals Whose Scientific Freedom and Human Rights Have Been Violated," 1982-communications, December 1982). Considering the difficulties with passing the information about human rights abuses from Poland to the West at that time, it was surprising how timely and accurate the report was. The report helped me in keeping my job and later, in obtaining a passport and leaving Poland to pursue doctoral studies in the U.S.

While in this country, I read the third report on human rights prepared by jack Minker ("Computer Professionals Whose Scientific Freedom and Human Rights Have Been Violated," 1984-Communications, Jan. 1985). To the best of my knowledge, the information about Poland contained in this report was comprehensive, detailed, accurate and up-to-date.

It is extraordinary that the enormous task of gathering, confirming, compiling, and regularly publishing extensive data about abuses of human rights of computer professionals has been performed since its inception 10 years ago by a single person, jack Minker. I am personally grateful for his unyielding efforts, and I would like to commend him very highly for this unique service to the world computer science community. I am sure that as long as he is in charge of the ACM reports, computer professionals all around the world can feel quite a bit safer.

Jan Chomicki ACM Student Member University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, NC 27599

As a person mentioned several times in the reports of the ACM Committee on Scientific Freedom and Human Rights, I would like to express my serious concern about the "dissenting report" (Communications, August 1989).

I can understand the barely concealed irritation of the authors of the dissenting report by the fact that most of the 144 persecuted individuals were Jews. Indeed, as some of the Soviet officials had told me (unofficially), "there are too many Jews here"; this "just one group" (p. 972) has clearly been overrepresented. Moreover, I do understand that "the significance and reliability of information" obtained from such "external sources" as "various Soviet Jewry committees" might be considered questionable by the dissenting report authors: the "missions" of these organizations are "very different from ACM's." Of course, "it is not reasonable to expect such passionate advocates to provide impartial evaluations of the individual cases" because both the committees and the individuals "can hardly be expected to maintain their detachment." If the authors of the Report would just base it on the detached and impartial Soviet government information, the dissenting report would probably never have to appear.

In my case, I was contacted many times by various people, including members of the subcommittee, in order to verify the citations in question. Although neither I nor persons who got in contact with me, violated any written Soviet laws, these contacts were often extremely difficult to arrange because then, and even now, information from the USSR was scarce and difficult to obtain due to multiple unwritten (i.e., secret) Soviet regulations. However, for all individuals known to me the information published in the Reports of the CSFHR was correct to the best of my knowledge.

I had spoken out there when I encountered such behavior of Soviet officials from KGB and other impartial bodies, and I am not willing to remain silent here. 1, as a Jew, will never forget that 6 million Jews and some 50 million non-Jews were killed as a result of impartial observation of the activities of one of the governments. More recently, the world impartially observed the murder of an unknown number of people, including probably some computer scientists, by the progressive and humanitarian government of Pol Pot. It is difficult to understand why sincere and noble attempts to help the government persecution victims have become the cause of irritation and hatred.

I am happy to express once more my gratitude and admiration to all the members of ACM who supported me in difficult times, and expecially to themembers of CSFHR Daniel McCracken, jack Minker, and Anthony Ralston.

Haim Kilov 40 Court Street Apt. 2 Morristown, NJ 07960

Don't Quote Me, But . . .

Thank you for publishing my letter entitled "Why is it difficult to write about programs?" in the June 1989 issue of Communications (p. 675).

However, a somewhat unfortunate typesetting error happened there in the middle of the first full paragraph of the second column. One sentence in my manuscript read like this:

Thus nobody gets confused when I write, "My name is Markku Sakkinen", although really my name is 'Markku Sakkinen' and I am Markku Sakkinen.

but was printed as follows:

Thus nobody gets confused when I write, "My name is Markku Sakkinen," although really my name is Markku Sakkinen and I am Markku Sakkinen.

The sentence pretty much loses its sense if read literally; I was a little puzzled by some comments sent by James Fetzer via e-mail before I had seen a copy of the publication of his letters (see Forum, Communications, June 1989, p. 676; Aug. 1989, p. 921). still, most people who are really interested in these questions presumably will deduce that some error of this kind has happened. It is probably not worthwhile to publish a correction a couple of months after the original has appeared, especially as this is not an important technical paper.*

Markku Sakkinen Department of Computer Science University of Jyadskyla Seminaarinkatu 15 SF-40100 Jyvaskyla Finland Electronic mail address:

markku@jytko.jyu.fi (Bitnet: SAKKINEN@FINIYU)

In partial answer to the letter by Markku Sakkinen in the June Forum, I use a notation which clearly distinguishes natural language from identifiers. To my best knowledge, this "naming standard" was developed by Charles Simonyi and used at Microsoft Corporation sometime around 1981.

The philosophical basis of the standard is to name data and functions according to type. The names that result are composites of primitive "type tags." Since the tags are short, and few, they are very easy to remember. Few type tags are required even in large programming projects since most data and functions have composite semantics.

To make these identifiers distinguishable from natural language one ought not to use natural words as type tags. As composites of type tags, identifiers are clearly not natural language, and their dereferencing and context remain clear.

For example, a pointer to an array of task control blocks would be named "prtcb"; "p" abbreviates "pointer to," "r" abbreviates "array of," and "tcb" is a nonstandard application-specific tag for "task control block."

Some frequently seen tags are:

px pointer to an x

ix index of an x

rx array of x's

sc counted string

sx size of, in bytes

w "word" size integer

fl floating point

cx count of x's

dx delta, or step size of an x

f flag

sz zero terminated string

ch character, usually ascii

I "long" integer

dfl double floating point

Identifiers of the same type in the same scope can be distinguished by appending qualifiers: e.g., pchfst, pchlst.

Some standard qualifiers are: t (temporary), 0, 1, 2, etc., fst (first), 1st (last),* * nxt (next), prv (previous), max (maximum value), min (minimum value), mac (maximum current value), Qualifiers are omitted when possible.

A programming group can add tags and qualifiers to the standard, for specific purposes.

Function names are analogous; some favorite verb tags are get, put, init, Iok (lock), and ulok (unlock), cpy. Inverse operations are generally prefaced with a "u."

The standard I know has probably mutated from Simonyi's; all errors here are mine.

I really hated this standard untill saw programmers produce identical identifiers, without talking to each other. I have not seen other naming standards remove this communication burden.

We have used the standard successfully in C, assembler, and FORTH, and old code remains clear, short, and comprehensible. I do not have to remember names and their semantics, and text searches for identifiers rarely land in comments.

The lecture on transition logic was fascinating.

Ray Van De Walker 1782 Nisson Rd., #60 Tustin, CA 92680

"Not to be confused with 1st,-Ed,

Get Graphic

In the Turing Award interview in the June 1989 issue of Communications (pp. 711-18), Ivan Sutherland says that a visual display of a program's structure might help people understand the program, but he did not have any suggestions as to what programs look like. I propose a less ambitious visual aid: the inclusion of figures in source programs. They would enhance understanding in the same way as do figures in technical papers.

I am a graphics programmer, so sketches of geometric entities are important as I develop the ideas in my programs, and inclusion of these sketches in the source would be worth "a thousand words" of alphanumeric comments. The hardware capabilities of most modern printers, workstations, and even many video display terminals allow the printing and display of one-bitper-pixel raster images. Desktop publishing systems provide software for mixing text and images, but current source editors and compilers would choke on such mixtures. I hope that designers of future software engineering systems will consider the utility of graphical annotations to source text.

Nelson Max Professor, Department of Applied

Science University of California, Davis Davis, CA 95616

Drop Charges

I found the column by Larry Press, "Thoughts and Observations At The Microsoft CD-ROM Conference" (Communications, July 1989 issue, pp. 784-88) to be very informative and well written.

The column mentions that Hewlett Packard is considering making CD-ROM documentation the default and charging the customers extra for supplying the paper version. I feel that a "customer friendly" approach would be to permit users to print out individual pages, sections, chapters, etc. at their own discretion. This would permit customers to optimize their documentation costs according to their requirements.

Amol Khedkar Dept. of Computer Science Florida Atlantic University Boca Raton, FL 33431

Popular Standards

X3J3 has voted the second draft of the 8x Fortran Standard out of committee. Public review is scheduled from July 27 to November 24. The document distributors are unable to ship a copy of the draft as of July 27.

For the first Fortran 8x public review, there was hardly any PR and reviewers were charged $50 for a poorly-printed draft standard. To the best of

my knowledge, this was the first time ACM had not distributed a draft standard. I understand that ACM did not distribute so that CBEMA could be paid $25 per copy. I think ACM should distribute draft standards for the following reasons:

* ACM has a quality track record in

giving previous draft standards wide distribution.

* ACM distribution does not require

as much additional advertising. Lahey Computer Systems is making a copy of the draft standard available for $23 per copy, including shipping via UPS second day. We will begin shipping August 21. We are doing this for the following reasons:

* The standard is a volunteer effort

whose goal has never been to raise funds for a worthy cause.

* The standard is typeset at no

charge by an X3J3 committee member.

* Limiting distribution of draft

standards to those willing to pay large (circa $50) sums is in direct opposition to the goal of producing the best possible final standard.

* Many comments of the first public

review were critical of the print quality of that document.

* WG5 resolution I6 asks that draft

standards receive the widest possible distribution.

I hope future draft standards are distributed by ACM.

Thomas M. Lahey, President P.O. Box 6091 Incline Village, NV 89450-6091 1-800-548-4778

Leave Home Without It

I am writing to protest mildly some overly-assertive use of the Association's name, and some hard-sell marketing.

In the past several months, I have received several offers from the Association to sign up for a Gold Mastercard (or whatever it is), sponsored (or whatever) by the Association. I already have too many credit cards, and I long ago decided that the effort required to evaluate each new offer (I get many every month) to determine whether or not to replace an existing one is not worth the expected payoff. So I open these letters from you, see what they are, and throw them away. Getting five or six of these is only a slight annoyance.

This evening, however, I got a telephone call from someone claiming to be from the "Association of Computing Machinery." Assuming that he meant the ACM, I pointed out that he had the name wrong. He grunted, obviously eager to get on to the rest of his script. He then began to tell me of the glories of this Gold Mastercard (or whatever it is). I interrupted, politely I think, to say that I had already gotten the offer several times in the mail, and was not interested. Rather than politely hanging up, which is the Right Thing to Do in those circumstances, he challenged me to tell him What Was Wrong with his wonderful offer. It became clear that he was not with the ACM at all, but was with whatever bank it is that actually provides the thing. I eventually convinced him that he was wasting his time harping at me, and he "thanked" me and hung up.

If it is at all possible, I would rather NOT be bothered by pushy salesmen who do not know when to Go Away. I am VERY well aware of the ACM whatever-it-is offer, having thrown it away several times in the mail. The implication that perhaps I do not know how to read mail, and that I might enjoy being called by a pushy salesman and harped at, is not flattering. I already pay Lots of Money to belong to the ACM. I would rather not be subjected to annoying telephone calls as an additional cost of membership.

David M. Chess 3215 Lake Front Drive Mohegan Lake, NY 10547

Afterthought: I am not really complaining about the doubtless underpaid hireling that called me. I object to being called by ANY salesperson, given all the times you have sent me the same offer by mail.
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Article Details
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Author:Chomicki, Jan; Kilov, Haim; Sakkinen, Markku; Van De Walker, Ray; Max, Nelson; Khedar, Amol; Lahey,
Publication:Communications of the ACM
Article Type:letter to the editor
Date:Oct 1, 1989
Words:2415
Previous Article:Space for computing.
Next Article:Technical correspondence.

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