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on November 5, 2001
As the author says, the members of the research community of Computer
Science have done their discipline a disservice by not making any
special efforts to write accessible accounts of the field, as a result
of which the 'layman' still has little idea of what goes on 'under the
hood', so to say.
He has therefore undertaken the challenging task of presenting the basic
ideas underpinning Computer Science in a way that's easy for the general
reader to grasp. He sets out to present the essential notions of
Algorithms and data structures, Turing machines, Finite state machines,
Decidability, Computability, Complexity, NP-completeness, Correctness,
Parallel algorithms, Probabilistic algorithms, and more with a minimum
of mathematics and yet without sacrificing intellectual rigour - and
most admirably, succeeds in doing so.
David Harel is a big name in Theoretical Computer Science, one of the
leading researchers, and chairman of the Applied Mathematics and
Computer Science Department at the Weizmann Institute of Science.
What made my mind up about reading this book were the strongly encouraging
remarks on the back cover by Aho & Hopcroft, two of the foremost authors
and researchers in the field, who've written some great textbooks themselves.
This book presents all the basic fundamental ideas of the theory of computation,
using as little maths as possible. Yet, the intellectual rigour is never
compromised, which means that the reader truly gets a flavour of how a
Computer Scientist thinks, and how much fun it can be.
It also shows you how certain problems cannot be solved cheaply while others
cannot be solved at all (solved exactly, that is), no matter how much
'computing power' you have - ie theory proves the existence of certain
fundamental limits on the problems that we can hope to solve.
The writing is exceptionally good - like a true master of his subject,
Harel makes concepts seem easy to grasp, though you may find that later
on, you realize it was quite a subtle notion that was discussed.
The illustations are a great help, and occasional humour provides relief
from all the thinking you'll be doing!
Even though it's written for the general reader, it is also useful for
programmers, systems analysts and designers, software engineers and
students, since Harel cuts to the core of the concepts and offers
valuable insights into the theory that they might already know.
All in all, this book covers amazing ground and is a great introduction
to algorithms and the theory of computation. For probing further, you'll
need mathematics and textbooks, but this an excellent starting point.
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on November 5, 2001
As the author says, the members of the research community of Computer
Science have done their discipline a disservice by not making any
special efforts to write accessible accounts of the field, as a result
of which the 'layman' still has little idea of what goes on 'under the
hood', so to say.
He has therefore undertaken the challenging task of presenting the basic
ideas underpinning Computer Science in a way that's easy for the general
reader to grasp. He sets out to present the essential notions of
Algorithms and data structures, Turing machines, Finite state machines,
Decidability, Computability, Complexity, NP-completeness, Correctness,
Parallel algorithms, Probabilistic algorithms, and more with a minimum
of mathematics and yet without sacrificing intellectual rigour - and
most admirably, succeeds in doing so.
David Harel is a big name in Theoretical Computer Science, one of the
leading researchers, and chairman of the Applied Mathematics and
Computer Science Department at the Weizmann Institute of Science.
What made my mind up about reading this book were the strongly encouraging
remarks on the back cover by Aho & Hopcroft, two of the foremost authors
and researchers in the field, who've written some great textbooks themselves.
This book presents all the basic fundamental ideas of the theory of computation,
using as little maths as possible. Yet, the intellectual rigour is never
compromised, which means that the reader truly gets a flavour of how a
Computer Scientist thinks, and how much fun it can be.
It also shows you how certain problems cannot be solved cheaply while others
cannot be solved at all (solved exactly, that is), no matter how much
'computing power' you have - ie theory proves the existence of certain
fundamental limits on the problems that we can hope to solve.
The writing is exceptionally good - like a true master of his subject,
Harel makes concepts seem easy to grasp, though you may find that later
on, you realize it was quite a subtle notion that was discussed.
The illustations are a great help, and occasional humour provides relief
from all the thinking you'll be doing!
Even though it's written for the general reader, it is also useful for
programmers, systems analysts and designers, software engineers and
students, since Harel cuts to the core of the concepts and offers
valuable insights into the theory that they might already know.
All in all, this book covers amazing ground and is a great introduction
to algorithms and the theory of computation. For probing further, you'll
need mathematics and textbooks, but this an excellent starting point.
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This book is the most amazing book on algorithms I've read. The concepts are so well explained that moving to "An introduction to Algorithms by Cormen, Rivest" will be very easy.
I come from a non-computer science background. When I started my coursework in Computer Science I was intimidated with Cormen - (although that IS THE MOST AUTHORITATIVE and a complete text!) until I found Harel.
Harel covers ALL the key aspects of algorithms and quite a bit of Data Structs too. He explains all the concepts in a non-mathematical, yet intellectually stimulating manner.One can literally read through the book in single day and gain insight into the most difficult topics like, unsolvable problems, hard problems, NP and NP complete problems.
On a side note - I pity those reviewers who returned the masterpiece and took objection to Bible quotes. Please grow up and look at what the book has to offer instead of taking objection to such insignificant embellishments
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on July 27, 2001
P>This book describes why a program is a very different thing than an algorithm, and why the latter is objects worth of study in their own right. From this, it goes on to show that some problems can not be solved with computers even if you wait until the Universe becomes dark. And then to show why there are tasks that simply can not be computed at all, not even in theory.
All this without using a programming language, and without requiring that the reader has a major in mathematics.
I recommend this book to anyone knowing that gravity and the speed of light sets limits on the aircrafts we can expect Airbus and Boeing to make, but that do not know anything about the "gravity" that Intel and NetBSD has to struggle with.
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on May 25, 2002
I know this may be a computing classic since one tends to find this title on reading lists, but frankly I regret having bought it. I am not troubled by the contents of the book or the way Mr Harel describes them, however, I do strongly object to the fact that he continuously bothers the reader with bible quotations that seem to be growing on every second page like a malignant cancer. This may not offend you if you are Jewish or Christian, but short of that it is an annoyance of global proportions. If I want to read the Bible I will take a copy of the Bible and read it, but if I take a book about Algorithmics I don't want to be forced to combat missionaries. I will return this book asap!
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on September 29, 2002
This is a book about solving problems, finding the limits of the kinds of problems we can solve, and those we will never solve, and how we solve them. It is also a book about the essential results of computer science, and will give the reader a better understanding of what computers can do, and why some problems in computer science are much harder then they appear.
As far as I know, this is the only book that distills the essence of computer science, and presents it in a format suitable for the average reader. This is computer science's answer to Stephen Hawkings "A Brief History of Time".
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on September 3, 1999
This is a truly magnificent book. It comprehensively covers most of the topics in the analysis and design of alogorithms with no mathematical burden to hamper you from getting through this subjet. Later on, you will most probably need a more intensive and mathmetical-analysis oriented book but be sure this second book will be far more easy to go through after you have have finished the "Algorithmics" book. Enjoy it.
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on December 12, 1998
The book is an introduction to every aspect of algorithm analisis and design ,with chapter on parallel algoritms,algorithm analysis,algorithm design,turing machines,algorithm correctness and so on. I recommend the book as an introduction since each subject it covers needs a book of it's own so it can't possibly cover every aspect of these topics
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on April 13, 1999
This book is just fantastic. It gives a perfect introduction to the most important aspects of algorithm design, correctness, complexity, P vs NP, etc. It has solid foundations in the theory, and brings these difficult concepts within reach of the average programmer, in an easily readable style. Kudos to the author.
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on December 14, 1999
Though the content is o.k. I was troubled by the use of only the male pronoun in the first edition, and the use of religion to defend that choice. I find referring to all people as "he" troubling and I'm a man. I actually sent my FREE copy back to the publisher because of this.
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