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Introduction to the Theory of Computation 3rd Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1133187790
ISBN-10: 113318779X
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The text meets my objectives very well. The author presents the material in an appealing manner, making a hard subject accessible and intuitive to the students. He manages to do that while maintaining the rigor and formalism that the subject warrants. The book has a lot of information packed in it, and can serve as a reference book for students interested in research in theoretical CS."

"As one of my students puts it, the book is 'fun to read and helps him learn the subject better'."

"This is a model for readability, with sensitivity for what students find difficult."

"Excellent prose (simple and succinct) with very good diagrams. It is by far the best presentation of automata in the business."

About the Author

Michael Sipser has taught theoretical computer science and mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the past 32 years. He is a Professor of Applied Mathematics, a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), and the current head of the mathematics department. He enjoys teaching and pondering the many mysteries of complexity theory.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Course Technology; 3 edition (June 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 113318779X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1133187790
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #261,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I'll be honest and say I haven't read the book yet. But, if I haven't read the book yet, why the 2-star review (or any review for that matter)?

It's because this "edition" is a rip-off (honestly, is that surprising?). The text is the EXACT SAME AS THE SECOND EDITION except for one 25-page section (I have perused the two books enough to be able to confirm this). Even the problems are the exact same!

So, you're basically paying anywhere from $100-150 for the newest cover art and 25 pages. Don't waste the money; go get a copy of the 2nd edition instead.
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Format: Hardcover
The price of this book is exorbitant, especially for as horribly condensed as it is.
Simply put, this book feel as if the author's main goal is to cover the material in as few pages as possible.

This is a very complex subject matter, and it's very obvious that the author knows his stuff inside and out. There's no doubt about that. However, the entire book feels as if it is written for a mathematical peer instead of to a student. Meaning, if you didn't get it the first time, you're out of luck. He explains things one time and one time only and then from then on treats the reader as if they're masters of the material. This can be extremely tedious and frustrating if something doesn't make sense. The author will utterly leave you in the dust.

Secondly, everything is in paragraph form. Examples and mathematical proofs are condensed into paragraphs to save as much space as possible instead of laid out in a way that's easy to interpret and understand. Chugging through the examples is a real chore since they're just one big block of text.

The book also skips every instance of explanation that it can. Examples treat the reader as if everything is clear as day when it's really not. For example, if he's explaining topic X, he'll use explanation A, B, and C to explain it without any regard to the idea that A, B, and C aren't as clear as he thinks it is. If A, B, and C aren't clear to you, X isn't going to make any sense.

The book suffers greatly from lack of clarity and it's very obvious the author has never heard the term, "show, don't tell". It would be a much better book if the author took more time to explain in more detail. Give examples of what he's talking about.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Given the fact that this is considered one of the "standard" reference books, I was surprisingly unimpressed with this book.

There are a number of complaints I have about this book:
1. Its price is just obscene - the fact that they would charge that much for a book that a lot of people are forced to purchase is just wrong on the face of it.
2. The lousy price is especially irritating given what you get for it. Fact is, even at a much lower price this textbook would be a bad value. At a mere 480 pages, this is not an especially long textbook; not sure how the publisher can possibly justify charging an above-average price for a shorter-than-average textbook. There's really nothing I can think of that would justify this book's price tag; it's not like they add some fabulous feature (software package, etc.) that makes this book worth the extra money. I suppose it's more of a "they charge it because they can" type scenario.
3. Not only is it overpriced, it's not even particularly well written. Quite bluntly, the book's relatively short because it doesn't explain anything.

With regards to the third point, I completely agree with the other reviewer who commented that this book is written as if you already understood the material; this is exactly what he does. I had to consult other textbooks all the time in order to be able to solve the book's problems because I found the author's explanations inadequate. It's almost like the author had a minimum word count and he was struggling to meet it ("OK, just 10 more pages to go before I can release it").

On the plus side, the problem sets are, for the most part, decently selected if you have decent reference material to help you with them (e.g.
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Format: Hardcover
Sipser starts from a treatment of basic set theory and proofs. He moves from there through regular languages & finite automata, context-free languages & pushdown automata, and on to Turing machines & the associated complexity theory (that P and NP jazz), and more. He thus builds a rigorous and pretty complete theory of computation course from the ground up, accessible to any determined reader with a little aptitude for finite math.

The end of each chapter features dozens of general "exercises" and more rigorous "problems". Answers are provided for a few. When an exercise or problem makes reference to the chapter text, it's always easy to locate, as "figures", "theorems", "definitions", and so on are counted in the same series -- e.g. Figure 1.4 is found just before Definition 1.5. It's a small but refreshing design choice, one of many nice design choices in this beautiful volume.

The new edition is quite expensive indeed, especially considering how small the book is. The new content since the second edition consists of some corrections and minor changes, and a new section on deterministic context-free languages. If you are buying this book for a course that won't cover deterministic CFL's -- a very challenging topic -- you might ask your instructor for permission to use the second edition. The new material does have some relevance to compilers, though, so you might like to have it handy if you plan to study compilers later.
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