Programming Habits in Python

Greg Jorgensen gregj at
Thu Dec 7 03:28:21 EST 2000

"A.M. Kuchling" <amk at> wrote in message at
> On Wed, 29 Nov 2000 08:37:08 GMT, Greg Jorgensen <gregj at> wrote:
> >I'm not contending that all junior programmers are dummies, or even that
> >everyone should read Knuth, though it's hard for me to imagine how anyone
> >claiming to be a programmer can sleep without Fundamental Algorithms
> >their pillow ;-).
> I sleep quite well, thank you. :) I've started reading Knuth's TAoCP
> several times but never gotten very far, mostly because vol. 1 quickly
> embroils you in MIX, making it very hard to distill anything of
> practical value from the book.

I agree that Knuth's aren't the most practical books for today's readers,
but I disagree that it's hard to distill anything of practical value from
TAoCP. The section on heap allocators in Vol I is the basis for almost every
C implementation of malloc. Knuth's exhaustive survey of pseudo-random
number generators in Volume II is still referred to by almost every book
written since. Volume III, Sorting and Searching, was THE source for usable
algorithms before more practical books were written. Inventing a (rather
trivial) language let Knuth steer clear of language wars and limitations of
languages then in vogue. Knuth has since expressed some regrets about using
such a low-level language, but at the time it seemed a good choice
(programmers pretty much had to know how to read and write assembly back
then), and the high-level languages then in vogue (PL/I, Fortran) have so
many shortcomings that the example implementations would have suffered.

Regardless of the language Knuth had chosen to use for examples, the
examples would be antiquated today. It's too bad that not every classic of
the programming literature has been re-written in terms of Java and Visual
Basic to suit modern audiences. Kids today don't know what they are missing.

> The algorithm textbook parallel to
> Halliday/Resnick, for me at least, would be the
> Cormen/Leiserson/Rivest book; clearly written, covers lots of topics,
> fairly rigorous, but not so detailed as to be impossible to read.

I like Robert Sedgewick's "Algorithms in C."

Greg Jorgensen
Deschooling Society
Portland, Oregon, USA
gregj at

More information about the Python-list mailing list