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Programming Books

Donald Knuth Turns 80, Seeks Problem-Solvers For TAOCP (stanford.edu) 71

An anonymous reader writes: When 24-year-old Donald Knuth began writing The Art of Computer Programming, he had no idea that he'd still be working on it 56 years later. This month he also celebrated his 80th birthday in Sweden with the world premier of Knuth's Fantasia Apocalyptica, a multimedia work for pipe organ and video based on the bible's Book of Revelations, which Knuth describes as "50 years in the making."

But Knuth also points to the recent publication of "one of the most important sections of The Art of Computer Programming" in preliminary paperback form: Volume 4, Fascicle 6: Satisfiability. ("Given a Boolean function, can its variables be set to at least one pattern of 0s and 1 that will make the function true?")

Here's an excerpt from its back cover: Revolutionary methods for solving such problems emerged at the beginning of the twenty-first century, and they've led to game-changing applications in industry. These so-called "SAT solvers" can now routinely find solutions to practical problems that involve millions of variables and were thought until very recently to be hopelessly difficult.
"in several noteworthy cases, nobody has yet pointed out any errors..." Knuth writes on his site, adding "I fear that the most probable hypothesis is that nobody has been sufficiently motivated to check these things out carefully as yet." He's uncomfortable printing a hardcover edition that hasn't been fully vetted, and "I would like to enter here a plea for some readers to tell me explicitly, 'Dear Don, I have read exercise N and its answer very carefully, and I believe that it is 100% correct,'" where N is one of the exercises listed on his web site.

Elsewhere he writes that two "pre-fascicles" -- 5a and 5B -- are also available for alpha-testing. "I've put them online primarily so that experts in the field can check the contents before I inflict them on a wider audience. But if you want to help debug them, please go right ahead."
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Donald Knuth Turns 80, Seeks Problem-Solvers For TAOCP

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 21, 2018 @03:47PM (#55973169)

    Didn't he just get arrested for buying an iPhone X?!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    For the title of "Last Great Work of Computer Science Written By a Single Human Without Intentional AI Assistance".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 21, 2018 @04:22PM (#55973363)

    Will he be covering the numerous algorithmic and data structure discoveries made by the Rust programming language's creators? For example they have discovered new algorithms for tracking ownership of resources. Knuth's work couldn't be considered anywhere near comprehensive as long as it is missing coverage of what the Rust programming language has given us.

    • I'm tempted to mod this +1 funny.

    • It's supposed to be a joke, but it's not really funny. Merely referencing things isn't actually funny, no matter how current.

      Knuth's work couldn't be considered anywhere near comprehensive as long as it is missing coverage of what the Rust programming language has given us.

      I take it you don't like Rust very much. But no, Knuth's work is about algorithms and as far as I can tell doesn't cover any aspect of type theory. And no, his book isn't comprehensive to the world of programming: it's a book on algorithm

      • or perhaps Alan Morgan's Law: "Any sufficiently advanced troll is indistinguishable from a genuine kook."

      • by Megol ( 3135005 )

        Do you really not understand that type systems have associated algorithms?

        Type inference?
        Type checking?

  • by Ecuador ( 740021 ) on Sunday January 21, 2018 @04:32PM (#55973419) Homepage

    One of my favorite XKCD strips is Knuth-related: https://xkcd.com/163/ [xkcd.com]

  • ... he should just hire some people to do so.

  • Happy Birthday! (Score:4, Informative)

    by joh ( 27088 ) on Sunday January 21, 2018 @04:55PM (#55973603)

    'nuff said.

  • I used to make jokes about which Volume 4 would publish first: Knuth's, or Star Wars (i.e., episode 1). Of course, even with all of the LucasFilm soap opera, it looks like episode 9 will beat it.
  • Happy Birthday! Thanks for the Balanced Binary Tree!

  • by thogard ( 43403 ) on Monday January 22, 2018 @12:57AM (#55975673) Homepage

    I would love to see a short story written by him about the connections between pipe organs and computers. Until the invention of the steam locomotive, organs were the most complex devices ever made. Many of the terms of CPU/ALU parts came from the pipe organ such as register, buffer and accumulator. There is a reference in one of his books that he was going to use the royalties from TAOCP to buy an organ.

    • Oops, I forgot to log in before I the last post A.C. post, the one with the link to his webpage describing his organ. Eh, as Sterling Archer would probably say, *phrasing*....

      But seriously, Knuth also likes to solve puzzles. I met him at a gathering of puzzlers from the SF Bay Area and didn't even recognize him until someone introduced me to "Don" and it finally clicked. There was some serious brain power in that room....
    • I believe that Neal Stephenson's novel Cryptonomicon has a computer made in part out of a pipe organ. Or perhaps that's what you were referring to?

  • by Tough Love ( 215404 ) on Monday January 22, 2018 @06:51AM (#55976655)

    Heard the preview. [youtube.com] I've heard worse, but that isn't saying much. Competently written, more than competently performed. Inspired? No. Cohesive? No. As tidily organized and precise in detail as any technical text he has published. Worth sitting through? Don't entirely know yet because the composition is not released, but at this point it seems safe to say, that would be more out of respect for the person who wrote it than the enjoyment of a masterpiece. On other fronts, I will be more than happy to attempt to wade through as much of the new AOCP as I can possibly manage, when available. I hope it does become available, at least, more so than the 6th volume of Ice and Fire.

  • I used Don's insertion sort from TAOCP, Sorting and Searching, to fix a knotty programming problem I had years ago. I've always been a fan of TAOCP, what a treasure trove of info!

To write good code is a worthy challenge, and a source of civilized delight. -- stolen and paraphrased from William Safire

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