Customer Review

580 of 599 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Classic, May 20, 2000
This review is from: Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs - 2nd Edition (MIT Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) (Hardcover)
This is one of the great classics of computer science. I bought my first copy 15 years ago, and I still don't feel I have learned everything the book has to teach.
I have learned enough to write a couple books on Lisp that (currently) have four to five stars. Yet SICP, which is pretty much the bible of our world, has only three? How can this be?
Reading the reviews made it clear what happened. An optimistic professor somewhere has been feeding SICP to undergrads who are not ready for it. But it is encouraging to see how many thoughtful people have come forward to defend the book.
Let's see if we can put this in terms that the undergrads will understand -- a problem set:
1. Kenneth Clark said that if a lot of smart people have liked something that you don't, you should try and figure out what they saw in it. List 10 qualities that SICP's defenders have claimed for it.
2. How is the intention of SICP different from that of Knuth? Kernighan & Ritchie? An algorithms textbook?
3. Does any other book fulfill this purpose better?
4. What other programming books first published in the mid 1980s are still relevant today?
5. Could the concepts in this book have been presented any better in a language other than Scheme?
6. Who is al? Why is his name in lowercase?
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Tracked by 4 customers

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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 21, 2006 3:47:30 AM PST
al is al davis, the owner, formerly living but now dead, of the Raiders football franchise. al can be seen perambulating, but vacantly, on sundays and thursdays. enough for al.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 27, 2008 6:08:33 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 16, 2009 3:08:55 PM PST]

Posted on Dec 29, 2009 4:29:13 PM PST
I think the dislike expressed by people towards this book,is rather it doesn't use a modern procedural language as language of common choice. I've done both Scheme and Python, while I like both, the newer class version of SICP with Python sounds more appealing to me.

Posted on Aug 16, 2010 10:19:04 PM PDT
Well said. I hope to live long enough to repair the defects of a modern education. This tool should help

Posted on Aug 1, 2013 2:02:09 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 1, 2013 2:09:18 PM PDT
Majik says:
Generally there are two ways to write a text book.

The first is to be completely dry and address the fundamentals of the science with zero opinion and fully empirical statements throughout, citing every reference.

The second is the "for dummies approach," where you're friendly to the reader and you treat the reader like a human who has both emotional and intellectual needs.

The second school did not come into ready use until the 1991 with the introduction of _DOS for Dummies_ which set a precedent that it is possible to address both the emotional and intellectual needs; that in doing so, one might profound difficult subjects in a way that is accessible to a larger audience, for in the consumption of such materials often the difficulty is not the capacity for absorption of the material, but rather the method through which the material is delivered or as Donald Norman put it, the affordability of the material.

Those who rate the book poorly are likely of the expectation that the second school of thought is both affordable and for granted, much as those same have never seen a cassette tape; lived in a world where you couldn't phone up anyone anytime without having to fish for quarters in your pocket and find a payphone; sat in front of a purely text-based BBS on a 80x25 display waiting an hour for a 1MB game to download.

As we evolve we, and I mean humans here, have a growing expectation for what is to be taken for granted.

Or to sum up the entire thing in three words: Ow my balls.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 2, 2013 8:32:06 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 2, 2013 8:32:37 AM PDT
SpaceGhost says:
I agree with you and I do not come here in defense of SICP, but we should keep in mind Code Complete is also somewhat dry and offers cited empirical statements and yet it's still readable.

I think there's even more missing from SICP than what you correctly identified. There's definitely a big didactic issue there.
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