6 Replies - 552 Views - Last Post: 12 June 2012 - 07:32 PM

#1 Switters  Icon User is offline

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Approaches for working through Knuth

Posted 11 June 2012 - 08:52 AM

I did a search on both "Knuth" and "The Art of Computer Programming" and only found some references to these volumes as part of broader discussions.

I purchased the 4-volume set a few weeks back during my summer-hiatus from grad school classes. Man, these books are intense! Has anyone successfully worked through 1 (or all) of them? If so, what was your approach? People I have asked in person seem split down the middle, where some actually treat them like course books and others have them for handy desk references, like a thesaurus.

Any thoughts?

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#2 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is online

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Re: Approaches for working through Knuth

Posted 11 June 2012 - 09:06 AM

Heavy stuff. (literally, as well as figuratively) I think you'd make best use of the books if you work through them. This is definitely a case where the exercises are a big part of the point of the book. I've had a whack at it, but time keeps getting in the way, and it's a tough go on your own. I suspect the best approach might be to find a few other people who are also trying to work through the stuff and form a little study/support group. Sometimes it helps to sit down with a couple of people and work through the stuff on a white board until it makes sense.
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#3 Switters  Icon User is offline

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Re: Approaches for working through Knuth

Posted 11 June 2012 - 11:44 AM

Thanks for the ideas.

After browsing through the "remedial math" section and the first bits of the actual programming exercises, I am NOT excited about having to use a fictitious language as the paradigm for the whole series.
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#4 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is online

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Re: Approaches for working through Knuth

Posted 11 June 2012 - 11:50 AM

It's actually a pretty good way to work. It keeps you from getting hung up with details of this language or that one, lets you focus on the real stuff.

Because the language doesn't have to have a lot of stuff you don't need (i/o, for example :) ) it's very clean and easy to work with. And because it doesn't have to limit itself to ASCII characters, there's less ambiguity. It's a lot more like reading math.
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#5 peace_fixation  Icon User is offline

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Re: Approaches for working through Knuth

Posted 12 June 2012 - 06:07 PM

I'm going to work through some Knuth over my semester break, I've only skimmed a few chapters so far, but my first impression is that these books could keep me busy for a few years, at least!

I must say for the 'heaviness' of the content, it's written in a very conversational style and is a delight to read. :)
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#6 The Architect 2.0  Icon User is offline

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Re: Approaches for working through Knuth

Posted 12 June 2012 - 07:25 PM

while I realize the material covered is highly fundamental, I'm just wondering if there's any material in those books that might be outdated by this point? or has Knuth had time to revise as necessary?
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#7 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is online

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Re: Approaches for working through Knuth

Posted 12 June 2012 - 07:32 PM

I think if you want to understand something that supersedes anything in Knuth, you'd do very well to absorb Knuth's treatment first.
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