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Books Programming

Volume 4A of Knuth's TAOCP Finally In Print 173

jantangring writes "It's been 28 years since Volume 3 of Donald Knuth's The Art of Computer Programming was published. The book series is a classic work of computer science in spite of the fact that still more than half of the seven volume series is still to be finalized. In 1992 Donald Knuth retired to medieval monkness in order to finish his work. After many long years in draft, volume 4A now in print and you can get it in a boxed set if you don't mind admitting that you don't already own the first three volumes. They won't be checking if you read it."
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Volume 4A of Knuth's TAOCP Finally In Print

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  • by kriston ( 7886 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @10:30AM (#34980714) Homepage Journal

    Who else hasn't read his copy of volume three?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 24, 2011 @10:37AM (#34980784)

      I have read his copy of volume three. The sheer walls of his retreat were quite a challenge but the rest of it was easy.

    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      It's not a novel you have either read or not read.
      It's more like an encyclopaedia, where you read what you need or want, and quite often read some more to get the background.

      Now I wish they would sell 4A + the empty box, so I could upgrade my 1-3. But my guess is that the publishers haven't read the books, and didn't plan for upgrades.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by haystor ( 102186 )

        I came into programming from a math background. Every time I try to read his books, the programming stuff is wonderful and then he writes something about a math problem or two and I lose a week of my life.

      • Why not buy 4A, get some cardboard and make your own box, if the box is that important? I'd be happy to just have them on a shelf, if I had a bookshelf. Just now it's more of a jumble of piles.

      • by vlm ( 69642 )

        Now I wish they would sell 4A + the empty box, so I could upgrade my 1-3. But my guess is that the publishers haven't read the books, and didn't plan for upgrades.

        Its a CS computer science book. Something like "apt-get dist-upgrade" is mostly appreciated by IT people not CS people. Bonus if you understand why its apt-get dist-upgrade instead of apt-get upgrade, unless you plan on keeping your old box (for kindling?)

    • by Xtifr ( 1323 )

      Volume 3's the good stuff! It's volume 2 I've never done more than skim. (Though I do have to admit that the analysis of balanced ternary in vol2 was fascinating, but not very practical in the real world where computers use binary.)

      • by Mr Z ( 6791 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @03:54PM (#34985310) Homepage Journal

        I've actually leaned on both volumes 2 and 3. The discussions about floating point and number systems are very useful in Volume 2. The sorting and searching networks in Volume 3 are must-have reading if you're trying to do complex sorting functions on highly parallel machines. (Think median filters, for an example, particularly in the context of sub-word SIMD.)

        I read the first couple draft fascicles for Volume 4A, and see a bunch in there I can directly apply to other work I do, such as exhaustively evaluating portions of a larger search space. Also, some of the Boolean logic properties are very interesting.

        Fun fact: It turns out that during the exact same month (March 2007?), both Knuth and I attacked essentially the same problem. We both set out to find minimal instruction sequences to implement all Boolean functions of 5 variables. I didn't find this out until well after the fact, while hunting through his website looking for a new Volume 4 fascicle. We actually had fairly similar results, but his approach was far more elegant (naturally). Also, mine was constrained to tree-like sequences and a specific target instruction set, whereas his permitted any DAG and used more generic Boolean operations. (For example, I had a "not-and" operation which does "A and not B", whereas I don't think he did.) Still, it was rather amusing to see we had both tackled the same problem at about the same time, and came up with similar overall results.

    • The Art of Computer Programming, Volume 4A, The Combinatorial Algorithms, Part 1

      Sounds interesting, but I don't think I have time to read it now.

  • I got the first 3 as a boxed set many years ago, so.....
    • Volume 4 only took 28 years to create.

      Imagine how long it would have taken him, if Knuth had an email account [stanford.edu] and had to read email every day!

      • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @11:36AM (#34981432) Journal
        He's a professor. I'm pretty sure he can procrastinate without the aid of email. He wrote an entire typesetting system as a procrastination exercise once! Most PhD students would envy that level of dedication to The Art Of Procrastination.
      • Thank the gods he doesn't have Facebook. I've been trying to get back into programming in the evenings, but have to stop every 5 minutes to check Facebook and Slashdot.. stupid addictive personality.

        • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

          by camperdave ( 969942 )
          What you need to do is download Slashbook. It allows you to convert both Slashdot and Facebook into a single twitter feed that you can follow on your iPad. There's also an open source parallel called Facedot that works on Android phones.
      • Email is a wonderful thing for people whose role in life is to be on top of things. But not for me; my role is to be on the bottom of things. What I do takes long hours of studying and uninterruptible concentration. I try to learn certain areas of computer science exhaustively; then I try to digest that knowledge into a form that is accessible to people who don't have time for such study.

        I'd ask if this guy is a native English speaker, but his wikipedia page says he's originally from Milwaukee, WI.

        Now, I've heard of both:
        Being on top of things
        Getting to the bottom of thigns

        but I've never heard of someone wanting to "be on the bottom of things." This image conjures up pictures either suitable for prison life or a procrastinator's paradise; possibly both

    • Now you can get the fourth part of the trilogy (credit: Douglas Adams).

      • Well, technically, it's the 3 1/2th part of the trilogy, since this is just Volume 4A.

        For my part, I'll hold off buying until Volume 4 is actually complete. Assuming the world survives 2012 and Y2G [wikipedia.org].

        • You do know that there are more than one Mayan Calendars out there, right? As for 2038, meh, we will worry about it in 2037
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I just want to point out that these books are called "The Art of Computer Programming" and not:

    The Art of Software Engineering.

    The Art of Computer Science

    or The Art of [insert some pretentious title]

    And even without and pretentious term for what it is, it is still taken quite seriously and nobody disparages it.

    You don't have to be called an engineer or scientist to be taken seriously.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 24, 2011 @11:06AM (#34981100)

      General public's view of:

      Programmer: A fat guy behind a PC making Facebook and Google.
      Engineer: An intelligent construction worker.
      Scientist: A guy doing pointless research just so he can say he does research.

      • by celle ( 906675 )

        "Programmer: A fat guy behind a PC making Facebook and Google."

        Programmer: A fat guy behind a PC making Facebook and Google giggle.

        Somehow it seems better that way.

  • by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @10:35AM (#34980766)

    From Vol 1: "However, it must be admitted that MIX is now quite obsolete. Therefore MIX will be replaced in subsequent editions of this book by a new machine called MMIX, the 2009.

    I take it Vol 4A is still MIX with 6-bit bytes?

  • by woboyle ( 1044168 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @10:40AM (#34980814)
    Volume 3 is my most used one. I pretty much devoured it when I was doing research on databases and practical optimization of sort/search algorithms. I bought the first 3 volumes pretty much when they were all first available, back in 1983 near the beginning of my software engineering career in the Silicon Valley.
  • Finally! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wandazulu ( 265281 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @10:44AM (#34980854)

    Given the $$$ for the boxed set, which was way more than a poor college/post college programmer could afford, I promised myself I'd get these books when volume 4 came out. Over the years I've read through and copied, a lot of times by hand, his algorithms while sitting at B&N or someplace, and I always would finish by saying "Why don't I just buy this and save me the trouble?" Then suddenly everything was on the internet, and I could refer back to my notes, and then I didn't need to look at my notes any longer, but I kept wanting to buy the books, if anything to show gratitude. Now that the 4th is out, I'm going to do it.

    • by Qzukk ( 229616 )

      And you'll buy the boxed set again when 4B comes out, followed by 4C?

      And again when he releases the planned vol 5?

      And again when he gets around to going back to redoing vol 1 2 and 3 in MMIX and releasing the 4th edition?

      And again if he gets around to his planned Vol 6 and Vol 7?

      Personally, I'll stick to the individual volumes (hopefully he will issue the changes to vol2 and vol3 as fascicles as he did with the Vol 1 Fascicle 1 release defining MMIX)

  • by JamesD_UK ( 721413 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @10:47AM (#34980896) Homepage
    Donald Knuth has published a book and a date has been set for the release of Duke Nukem Forever? It's all too much.
  • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @11:14AM (#34981202) Homepage
    I thought that Knuth had a deal with a mysterious British intelligence agency that as long as he didn't publish volume four they would let him remain metabolically active. I hope he doesn't have some illness that made their threats moot.
  • ... for the spoken book edition.
    • by cpghost ( 719344 )
      Audio books? That's so old school. I'm waiting for the TAOCP Trilogy^WSeries right from Hollywood.
  • I'm preordaining this so I can have a chance at finding a mistake and getting a reward check.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by e9th ( 652576 )

      I'm preordaining this

      Cool! Now we can call it the Reverend Volume 4A.

    • I'm preordaining this so I can have a chance at finding a mistake and getting a reward check.

      You don't have to race to find errors in Dr. Knuth's books. He's certainly detailed and careful, but no volume as large and complicated as his can escape small errors.

      I got two checks from him (back when they were real checks) just from Digital Typography (a book I highly recommend).

      • by hubie ( 108345 )

        I got two checks from him (back when they were real checks) just from Digital Typography (a book I highly recommend).

        Did you ever cash them? I always hear that the people who got them never cashed them. I always thought that it must be a pain in the ass for Knuth to balance his checkbook with all those uncleared checks. :)

        • by pjt33 ( 739471 )

          The reason GPP said "back when they were real checks" is because so few people actually cashed them that when it became clear that there were security problems with telling everyone your bank account number, Knuth started issuing cheques from the Bank of San Serriffe. If you really prefer the money you can trade it back in, but mine is framed above my computer.

  • Pretty hot to see this bump for the old Alma Mater:

    check the fine print at the bottom:

  • wtf 28? (Score:2, Funny)

    by kwikrick ( 755625 )

    Volume 3 was first published in 1973. That is 38 years ago. Also, the first (incomplete) paperback edition of volume 4 was published in 2005. In 2011, volume 4 is still not complete. Wtf 28 years? Please don't post again until the whole series is complete.

    • Volume 3 was first published in 1973. That is 38 years ago. Also, the first (incomplete) paperback edition of volume 4 was published in 2005. In 2011, volume 4 is still not complete. Wtf 28 years? Please don't post again until the whole series is complete.

      The series will never be complete. Besides the fact that Knuth is getting on in years, there's the little problem that computer science continues advancing, which has required Knuth to revise the existing volumes in addition to working on writing the new ones.

      None of which affects the value of the existing volumes in the slightest, of course.

  • Part 1 was the best. Reloaded & Revolutions were OK. I hope 4A is better.

  • Knuths' books used to be the dope, now they're more like the antidote. Most code monkeys these days are consumed by hacking their way through the jungle overgrowth and not losing sight of the sky (33 million lines of code in Helios). We've become so engaged by the canopy, we actually forget the soil has worms. There are times when it would be useful to regain this awareness.

    As fascinating as the worms are, most code monkeys have poor digestive capacity for worms. Those of us who are ecologists rather th

  • What happened to volumes four through seventy three ?
  • While we're on the topic of TAOCP, I have the first one and have tried reading through it (currently starting as a junior CS student), but have been struggling a little bit with the language he uses for his examples. What language is that, and are there any good tutorials online so I can just sort of pick it up and figure out the rest of it so I can understand his use of algorithms?

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