Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?
Programming IT Technology

Knuth: All Questions Answered 400

sunhou writes: "The AMS published a lecture by Donald Knuth called All Questions Answered (pdf), where Knuth simply responded to questions from the audience. Topics ranged from errors in software ('I think Microsoft should say, "You'll get a check from Bill Gates every time you find an error"') to how he gets distracted by fonts on restaurant menus, to software patents. There were some really good questions (and responses)."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Knuth: All Questions Answered

Comments Filter:
  • by Above ( 100351 ) on Saturday March 16, 2002 @10:55PM (#3175610)

    TeX has always facinated me. Let's face it, it works. I believe there is more bugs than he is writing checks for, but that said they are seldom encountered by mere mortals. If you do normal stuff it just works.

    There is nothing else like it. No commercial product, no non-commercial product. If you want to typeset mathematics, it's the only game in town. If you want to typeset anything, it's one of very few games in town. It's open source. It's multi-platform. It has a huge following, but gets no press.

    It really is an amazing thing, and something that every open source project should aspire to....

  • by Humba ( 112745 ) on Saturday March 16, 2002 @11:48PM (#3175753)
    Did you cash the check?
  • by Moridineas ( 213502 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @12:01AM (#3175785) Journal
    Let's not go too far now..Sure, it's a good product, and great for all the reasons you mention, but the only game in town (for mathematics or anything)? No, not really. Sure it's used a lot for university journals (papers etc), by students (engineers at my university HAVE to learn it, even if they only learn bold, center, etc), and even by some tech-oriented presses (some O'Reilly books--not all--use latex for at least some of their content..I'm not sure I've seen even an O'reilly book that uses tex and nothing else).

    In the publishing field, there is quite a lot of software used before latex and from what I understand, it's looked down upon by many as being lower quality (though it seems these stigmas originated in years past...I have no idea if they are still justified)--and I don't mean in comparison to MS Word or WordPerfect. The publishing field still also largely uses Macs...and pre-OSX macs at that.
  • It *is* funny (Score:3, Insightful)

    by anomaly ( 15035 ) <> on Sunday March 17, 2002 @12:43AM (#3175863)
    But I think that it's important to note that Donald Knuth, like many other brilliant men, is a Christian. Thus, it's unlikely that he would presume himself to be God.

    It *is* funny, though. :-)

  • by nomadic ( 141991 ) <> on Sunday March 17, 2002 @01:02AM (#3175900) Homepage
    How dare they use an openly documented, commonly used format.
  • by PhotoGuy ( 189467 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @02:01AM (#3176002) Homepage
    Knuth truly does represent much of what is good an interesting about our profession.

    For those who didn't read the article, or didn't come across this fact elsewhere, Knuth actually personally writes a cheque to anyone who finds errors in his books.

    While the algorithms and theory that he wrote about in his classic texts are used by computer programmers worldwide every day, it's unfortunate that the kind of pride of workmanship that he personally demonstrates, doesn't seem to be the norm.

    I've always felt like the programming profession was, and still is, a bit of a joke as far as standardized quality goes, as compared to other engineering disciplines. The old joke, "if builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs ..." is still frighteningly true; other engineering professions do not often have a commonplace equivalent of a blue-screen or core-dump. There are occasional engineering failures, but none as widespread as programming errors.

    Maybe because we're still forging new ground so quickly that it can't be expected to have solid results. Still, for things as standardized, commonplace, and essential as operating systems, the design should be such that a blue screen is unheard of.

  • You know, I went and installed Mandrake 8.1 on my crappy Celeron 500 this past January and I was pleasantly surprised with the eye-candy-riddled installer, etc. I installed the office workstation package group. When I got done, I wrote a letter, and soon discovered that TeX was not included! What the hell? I get the impression that the folks at Mandrake are too busy trying to make their product look like an MS-bundle system to include a decent word processor. I think the world would be a better place if folks would try to stop imitating the WYSIWYG giants (Corel, MS, SUN) and start evangelizing about TeX and LaTeX. I can't remember the last time I used a WYSIWYG word processor when I had a choice.

    As a mathematician, I am forever grateful for Knuth and Lamport. They are the Gutenburgs of our time.
  • Re:some humor..... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mashby ( 11155 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @02:53AM (#3176095)
    Bleh, sorry, meant to hit preview beforehand. The submit and preview buttons really should be further apart, it's a little too easy to hit the wrong button the way they are now..
  • by Pete ( 2228 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @06:38AM (#3176361)
    I am sorry. But I have no respect for a man who does not read e-mail and appears to be proud of this.

    Did you even read the link you posted?

    He explains in perfectly understandable English exactly why he doesn't use email (note the lack of hyphen, which is also explained in the document you linked) - aside from the very occasional post to someone via his secretary. Try reading that document a few times, maybe you'll get it.

    Communication via email may be appropriate for you. It's certainly appropriate for me, and probably for the vast majority of people who read and post to slashdot. But Knuth has made the decision that it's not appropriate for him anymore - note that the guy did use email for 15 years, from 1975 to 1990 - so he is perfectly aware of what he's missing out on (not much) and what he's gaining (a hell of a lot of extremely valuable time) by choosing to not use email.

    Perhaps you should reconsider the way your system of respect works.


    PS. I have no idea what made you think that he's proud of not using email.

  • Re:It *is* funny (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 17, 2002 @09:03AM (#3176537)
    Well, if it is so funny, why do you have to try to prove it wrong? Do you think we can't figure this one out?

    'like many other brilliant men, is a Christian'

    This is a pointless statement. This has no relation whatsoever. Are you recruiting?

    It was a joke, we got it, you didn't get it fully, and now you have to explain to us what we already understand. Please try to avoid this in the future. This is almost as pointless as this reply I am posting, but I feel I can do some good with this problem we are facing with people restating and restating the obvious.
  • Re:PDF (Score:2, Insightful)

    by FFFish ( 7567 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @02:37PM (#3177282) Homepage
    "Soon to be obsolete print media"?!

    What planet you living on, sonny? Paper use has never been so high. Paper will be around long after all the erstwhile electronic "substitutes" are gone and forgotten.

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead