- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional; 1 edition (June 19, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 032163537X
- ISBN-13: 978-0321635372
- Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 26 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #228,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Elements of Programming 1st Edition
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"A wise manager will make copies available free to any members of her programming staff who commit to read it. The training budget could hardly be better spentÂ Elements of Programming has the power to change the readers professional life." Martyn Thomas FREng, Components in Eletronics
From the Back Cover
"Ask a mechanical, structural, or electrical engineer how far they would get without a heavy reliance on a firm mathematical foundation, and they will tell you, 'not far.' Yet so-called software engineers often practice their art with little or no idea of the mathematical underpinnings of what they are doing. And then we wonder why software is notorious for being delivered late and full of bugs, while other engineers routinely deliver finished bridges, automobiles, electrical appliances, etc., on time and with only minor defects. This book sets out to redress this imbalance. Members of my advanced development team at Adobe who took the course based on the same material all benefited greatly from the time invested. It may appear as a highly technical text intended only for computer scientists, but it should be required reading for all practicing software engineers."
-Martin Newell, Adobe Fellow
"The book contains some of the most beautiful code I have ever seen."
-Bjarne Stroustrup, Designer of C++
"I am happy to see the content of Alex's course, the development and teaching of which I strongly supported as the CTO of Silicon Graphics, now available to all programmers in this elegant little book."
-Forest Baskett, General Partner, New Enterprise Associates
"Paul's patience and architectural experience helped to organize Alex's mathematical approach into a tightly-structured edifice-an impressive feat!"
-Robert W. Taylor, Founder of Xerox PARC CSL and DEC Systems Research Center
"Elements of Programming" provides a different understanding of programming than is presented elsewhere. Its major premise is that practical programming, like other areas of science and engineering, must be based on a solid mathematical foundation. The book shows that algorithms implemented in a real programming language, such as C++, can operate in the most general mathematical setting. For example, the fast exponentiation algorithm is defined to work with any associative operation. Using abstract algorithms leads to efficient, reliable, secure, and economical software.
This is not an easy book. Nor is it a compilation of tips and tricks for incremental improvements in your programming skills. The book's value is more fundamental and, ultimately, more critical for insight into programming. To benefit fully, you will need to work through it from beginning to end, reading the code, proving the lemmas, and doing the exercises. When finished, you will see how the application of the deductive method to your programs assures that your system's software components will work together and behave as they must.
The book presents a number of algorithms and requirements for types on which they are defined. The code for these descriptions-also available on the Web-is written in a small subset of C++ meant to be accessible to any experienced programmer. This subset is defined in a special language appendix coauthored by Sean Parent and Bjarne Stroustrup.
Whether you are a software developer, or any other professional for whom programming is an important activity, or a committed student, you will come to understand what the book's experienced authors have been teaching and demonstrating for years-that mathematics is good for programming, and that theory is good for practice.
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Basically, I could not help but feel like I was re-reading old and very good ideas from the 1970's about writing provably correct and reusable programs. The book often combines these with algebraic structures to produce efficient and reusable C++ code that is as general as possible. It does all this quite well, though it's a bit like being hit on your head with a sledgehammer at times. The code here is hardly beautiful, but on the whole it was a reminder of why the C++ Standard Template Library was such a brilliant effort. However, at the end of every chapter I felt like the focus on C++ implementations limited the discussion about what the universal "elements of programming" are supposed to be. In particular, I would fault the book on not including any material on mathematically rigorous type inference systems that have been developed since the early 1980's, particularly because types are so central to what the book discusses, and since the book's errata online suggests the authors are dabbling with re-implementing all the code in Haskell.
The bibliographic references also suggested a certain arrogance (I cannot imagine it is ignorance): there are no references to the extensive literature on the formal verification of software. It is this tone that finally got to me, the insinuation that putting so-called software engineers on a formal mathematical foundation was something never attempted before this book was written! People have been doing it for over 40 years, but you wouldn't know it by looking at the bibliography.
In the end, whatever your programming background, if you really work through the text and solve the exercises you will definitely be better off than when you started. I know I'm glad I read it. But I'd be surprised if you really enjoyed it, or if you understood what "elements of programming" you should be looking for in your next software project (particularly if it is not written in C++).
After reading this book I had to ask myself if I would recommend earlier books that covered similar ground (which are missing from the bibliography in this book), like A Discipline of Programming or The Science of Programming (Monographs in Computer Science) (Volume 0), to a practicing programmer. In fact this book made me pull out my copy of Dijkstra's monograph and re-read it after nearly two decades. I have to say that A Discipline of Programming still impresses where this book comes across as, well, somewhat flat.
*Elements of Programming* is an interesting book that unfortunately over-shoots much of an audience. The primary author, Alexander Stepanov, designed the Standard Template Library for ISO C++: a kit of tools that provides generic procedures for manipulating data which other "richer" languages implement far less efficiently. In this first attempt at explaining the *raison d'etre* behind his idea of "generic programming", Stepanov and his co-author Paul McJones recapitulate the methods used in STL at reduced scale to impress upon programmers the importance of understanding the mathematical parameters that make code fast, correct and useful. It's a great idea for a book, but this first pass fails to make the mathematics and the programming cohere.
Mathematically, Stepanov is caught between two paradigms. He speaks warmly of Chrystal's *Algebra*, a nineteenth-century compendium of calculational methods (for fans of this approach, it is available in a Dover reprint). Since digital computers presumably have to be able to do what human "computers" used to know how to do, this left-field approach has some plausibility. However, a great deal of the text takes "fast" algorithms inspired by these kinds of bedrock mathematical facts and sets them in the abstract "axiomatic" algebraic setting introduced by van der Waerden. This is too much too soon for those of us who are mathematical dilettantes; far too many principles are employed too obscurely, which will make it hard for a CS neophyte to hook these ideas up with what they're learning about program correctness and complexity elsewhere.
The second half of the book is set apart by the authors as a general treatment of "iterators", which traverse data structures in a fashion general enough to permit generally applicable algorithms for sorting, copying and other tasks. For those of us who are fans of C++ this is treat enough; seeing basic reference-manipulation expanded out to cover "polymorphism" is cool. However, the associated algorithms lack the "pop" of the more basic ones introduced earlier; Quicksort is mentioned only in passing, a place where a discussion would have been worth the purchase price of the book alone. Finally, although efficiency is not a *bad* thing, with the cost of computing power drifting ever downward expressing "higher-order" ideas clearly (including to your MIS boss) in concepts and code is probably more important than bit-diddling.
I can only recommend this to dedicated C++ fans, who will learn a lot about how to write powerful and elegant C++ code. Others need other books.
The tone's exceedingly dry and academic, and I got very tired of the authors repeated assertions that you need to be using a "real programming language such as C++." Guess all the value-providing projects I've helped roll out in Perl, Java, C#, and other languages haven't counted.
That said, this is a wonderful book for those interested in raising their skills in hardcore algorithms and low-level software engineering.
Most recent customer reviews
mathematics. I thought that while in the process of programming, I
might find myself doing some math...Read more