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Customer Review

354 of 362 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A high-intensity tutorial and a great reference, March 13, 2000
This review is from: The C Programming Language (Paperback)
This book (widely known as K&R, after the authors' initials) has for over twenty years been the best way to learn C. When I got this book in 1980, I had access to a Unix system and worked through much of the tutorial material in it. On the way I learnt a great deal, not just about C, but about good programming style, code reuse, the value of clear comments--in short, I was introduced to the skill set of an experienced computer professional.
The book was a trendsetter in several ways. For example, the very first exercise given is to print "hello, world"; this is now seen as the first exercise in innumerable other, more recent books, many of which may not realize that they are borrowing from K&R. The rest of chapter 1 (there's a chapter 0, an introduction; another geek-cool change which has been widely copied) is a tutorial that takes you through assignment statements, data types, if/else, for, while, printf, function definitions, arrays, and variable scoping, in less than 30 pages. If you work your way through the embedded exercises you'll have written utilities to strip tabs, reverse input by lines, strip trailing whitespace from input, and several others. This is much more challenging than most tutorials, but the effect on the student is that you feel you are being treated as an equal. The book doesn't talk down to you; it gives you accurate and concise answers. It's written for programmers, in other words.
The next few chapters go back over the elements of C in more detail, and should also be treated as a tutorial. Going through this material religiously will be far more valuable than any college class could possibly be.
There is a reference section at the back, which is good to have. But the real value of this book is in the tutorial approach: it is a rare pleasure in the computing field to find a book that is simultaneously clear, stimulating and informative.
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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 5, 2011 9:16:31 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 5, 2011 9:17:06 PM PDT
rwizard says:
"for over twenty years been the best way to learn C"
Well over twenty years - closing in on twice that many ;).

I purchased my first copy in 1977. It was first published in 1976, making it 35 years old this year.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 25, 2011 5:45:09 PM PST
Greg Siegel says:
This review was written eleven years ago, in 2000.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 15, 2012 12:11:22 AM PDT
R. Walker says:
Wow 1977. I was in 3rd grade.

I give this book as a gift to interns who come to work for me if they show the drive and desire to become good programmers. I received it myself as an intern on my first assignment in 1992.

The irony in giving this book as a gift is that I haven't had an intern who was learning ANSI C in at least 10 years. This is my point I explain. Learning the arts and craft of writing elegant programs can be learned quite well with this bible, and the concepts can and should be applied to any language, in any paradigm -- even functional.

A budding success understands this, if not right away then after a semester of being up until 4 AM three nights a week implementing abstract data structures from scratch (you know -- stacks, queues, lists, hash tables, etc). It is usually right after that class that the student considers what color car they want, how many bedrooms they'll require in their first house, and which Fortune 50 company will be lucky enough to get to hire them. That was my pattern, at least, when I graduated in 12/94, the year the World Wide Web was born.

I LOVE Computer Engineering and Computer Science, and this book is my bible!

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 15, 2012 2:24:33 PM PDT
Student says:
In 1977 I was -2 years old.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 28, 2012 6:21:40 AM PDT
Steven says:
Listen to your elders!

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 15, 2013 2:09:57 PM PST
dvish says:
I wasnt even born in 1977. I was born 4 years later!!

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 12, 2014 6:12:50 PM PDT
The Web was "born" in 1990 at the latest. It went "public" around 1991.

Posted on Oct 29, 2014 7:03:05 AM PDT
Diamond Dave says:
This book is still relevant today. It is referred to as the "New Testament of Programming". There are a lot of useful algorithms in here ans well as the first edition referred as the "Old Testament of Programming". The are Must have book for any Software / computer engineer. I've had mine for over 30 years and still use things from it every day.
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