The Enduring Art of Computer Programming

I saw on reddit that today is Donald Knuth's seventieth birthday.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

hmm… Happy bithday professor Knuth.
Jeff, good to see you doing this… :slight_smile:

Being a quibbler, I have to mention that I think Stroustrup is more famous. But then, if you’ve heard of one you should have heard of the other.

Shoot, I meant to link my other post on learning about famous computer scientists, too:

Programmers as Human Beings

Both of those books, by the way, are outstanding.

Just bought myself the 3 volume set as a christmas present to myself (paid about half price by shopping around at the Amazon partner stores but they wouldn’t let me use my gift tokens). Also recommend the Millennium Edition of “programming pearls”, which says that serious programmers should have 2 copies: one for work and one for home.

You didn’t mention the concrete mathematics book he co-authored that he talks about in the introduction. Suspect I’m gonna need a copy before too long.

Nice article! And happy birthday to professor Knuth!

Currently completing a CS degree, I’m disappointed in myself that I only of Knuth in 2007 while doing algorithms/data structures. I still have a very very long way to go!

After doing a fair bit of reading on the man I’ve discovered that he is absolutely brilliant! Not brilliant as in Einstein brilliant, but in a totally different way that transcends the gap between scientist and student.

He offers money (a very small amount… $3.14 or something) for anyone that discovers a spelling mistake in his books. It’s this silly down-to-earth-ness that makes people want to listen to his insanely brilliant ideas.

Great man. Happy Birthday.

Ah, Donald Knuth.

Thanks to him, we know have to learn the O( ) notation for all the algorithms! It’s extremely useful, I still think “Mmm, that’s in O(n), can’t I make it faster?”.

And of course, having written my thesis in Latex, I’m damn glad he made Tex or I would have had to make it in Word. The horror!

And his Art of Computer Programming of course. So far only used it to find all permutations of a string but it came in use :slight_smile:

And a good sense of humor too, check out

3 cheers to Knuth!

“Mr.” Knuth? Mister? Thats DOCTOR Knuth to you!

Insert Dr. Evil “four years of Evil MiX Programming School” bit here


I missed all those old folks. Back then, computer scientists had deep knowledge, humor, fantasy and less “ego”.

Happy birthday professor Knuth.

A Conversation with Don Knuth: Part 2 (1982)

The main thing that struck me was that the liturature was so spotty. Computer science was a very new field, without an identity of its own, and standards of publication were not terribly high, especially when quantitative aspects of algorithm performance were concerned. A lot of the published articles were just wrong, so you had three possibilities: the wrong answer by the wrong method, the right answer by the wrong method, and the right answer by the right method. You had about a one-third chance on any of these possibilities. The literature on computing was already large but very unreliable…

Any similarity between that, and today’s developers who grow up learning from the internet and Google searches, is I’m sure completely coincidental…

(also, I wish I could get to the rest of that 14 page interview, it looks really interesting.)

A brilliant computer nerd with a cool sense of humor. That’s the way (uh huh uh huh) I like it.

Knuth contributed to Mad???

someone pick my brain up off the floor and shove it back up my nostrils.

and next week: the dirty limericks of petzold.

“For mainstream press coverage of Donald Knuth, JEFFERY recommends:”

Referring to yourself in the third person? Seriously?

Von hates that. Leave such lunacy to egotistical movie stars

This is an astonishing find, Don Knuth and Mad. What a combo! Thanks, Jeff.

Hey Now Jeff,
I wonder if Mr. Knuth is thinking ‘How ya like me now’. I’m just joking thinking of Kool Moe Dee after seeing Knuth is my homeboy. Another great post, I never realized he dedicated his books to his machines.
Coding Horror Fan,

This is nuts…I went to MLHS!

All this time I never knew who Knuth was.

Great article.

MIX rules ok ? WHAT is MIX ?

MIX is a hypothetical computer used in Donald Knuth’s monograph, The Art of Computer Programming (TAOCP). MIX’s model number is 1009, which was derived by combining the model numbers and names of several contemporaneous, commercial machines deemed significant by the author. (“MIX” also has the value 1009 in Roman numerals.)

The 1960s-era MIX has since been superseded by a new (also hypothetical) computer architecture, MMIX, to be incorporated in forthcoming editions of TAOCP. Software implementations for both the MIX and MMIX architectures have been developed by Knuth and made freely available (named “MIXware” and “MMIXware,” respectively).

Several derivatives of Knuth’s MIX/MMIX emulators also exist. GNU MDK is one such software package; it is free and runs on a wide variety of platforms.

I was so proud when I got a job and could actually afford to buy my own set of Knuth. Still proudly on the shelf right behind me, in fact.

off-topic, or perhaps, side-topic, Jeff Shallit was a prof of mine. I remember his lectures well, as I thought he was insane. Well, not insane. More like passionate about weird CS problems,… to the point of insanity. I guess insanity for me, since I was trying to get through a set of courses that term, but every lecture was like a get-into-google-brainteaser.

The only one I remember was something about the big O of doing a binary search in an infinite list, something like that. I look back thinking ‘good times’, but at the time, I don’t think I thought so, heh