Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, 2nd Edition Hardcover – Jul 25 1996
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Abelson and Sussman's classic Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs teaches readers how to program by employing the tools of abstraction and modularity. The authors' central philosophy is that programming is the task of breaking large problems into small ones. The book spends a great deal of time considering both this decomposition and the process of knitting the smaller pieces back together.
The authors employ this philosophy in their writing technique. The text asks the broad question "What is programming?" Having come to the conclusion that programming consists of procedures and data, the authors set off to explore the related questions of "What is data?" and "What is a procedure?"
The authors build up the simple notion of a procedure to dizzying complexity. The discussion culminates in the description of the code behind the programming language Scheme. The authors finish with examples of how to implement some of the book's concepts on a register machine. Through this journey, the reader not only learns how to program, but also how to think about programming.
About the Author
Hal Abelson is Class of 1922 Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a fellow of the IEEE. He is a founding director of Creative Commons, Public Knowledge, and the Free Software Foundation. Additionally, he serves as co-chair for the MIT Council on Educational Technology.
Gerald Jay Sussman is the Matsushita Professor of Electrical Engineering in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is also the coauthor of Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (MIT Press, second edition, 1996).
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Top Customer Reviews
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?
To use an analogy, if SICP were about automobiles, it would be for the person who wants to know how cars work, how they are built, and how one might design fuel-efficient, safe, reliable vehicles for the 21st century. The people who hate SICP are the ones who just want to know how to drive their car on the highway, just like everyone else.
Those who hate SICP think it doesn't deliver enough tips and tricks for the amount of time it takes to read. But if you're like me, you're not looking for one more trick, rather you're looking for a way of synthesizing what you already know, and building a rich framework onto which you can add new learning over a career. That's what SICP has done for me. I read a draft version of the book around 1982 and it changed the way I think about my profession. If you're a thoughtful computer scientist (or want to be one), it will change your life too.
Some of the reviewers complain that SICP doesn't teach the basics of OO design, and so on. In a sense they are right. The book doesn't directly tell you how to design and write an object-oriented program using the subset of object-oriented principles that show up in the syntax of Java or C++.Read more ›
That being said, it is _not_ a book on how to build software. I've seen many good software engineers discard this book because most of the code presented has no business anywhere near a real software engineering project. Even a lot of the concepts portrayed don't belong in day to day use.
But at the end of the day, this book gets the closest I've seen to explaining the hard parts of computer science and software engineering. It's a book about patterns without explicitly discussing them. It's a book about how design software without much explicit discussion of the design process. Much like some of the abstractions and "meta" concepts that it presents, it's a book that teaches you how to learn how to learn about programming...
If it's such a great textbook, then why half of the reviewers hate it? Elementary: SICP is not just a textbook, it's also a Computer Science aptitude and vocational test. If you read it and like it, then Congratulations! You are a real programmer and computer scientist, with hair on your chest. If you don't like it, then you should be studying something else. Law, mortuary science, whatever, but not CS.
Most recent customer reviews
Barry Mazur (talking about mathematics, not programming) once characterised the encounter with a genuinely new concept in terms of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's experience on reading... Read morePublished on July 7 2004 by S. Matthews
I never heard so many interesting and different views expressed for any book.some call it a waste of time and others a classic. Read morePublished on Jan. 23 2004 by Amit Rajvanshi
I have very mixed emotions about this book. On the one hand, it is perhaps the best introductory work on the philosophical and theorectical issues of computation, dealing with many... Read morePublished on Nov. 7 2003 by Joseph Osako
I bought Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs and the Instructor's Manual hoping that the answers would be in at least one of them. No answers. Read more
Note that his book has 657 pages, not the alleged 556 pages mentioned in the "product details".
In my humble opinion, the best book ever written on the subject.
As has already been noted in other reviews, any discussion of programming languages is as prone to generating pointed, excited intercourse as a discussion of religion is. Read morePublished on July 2 2003 by D. Nicholson
This book is an excellent companion to The Little Schemer. TLS is a profound and witty tour of recursion theory, but does not touch on the practical considerations of creating... Read morePublished on Jan. 13 2003 by Jonathan Feinberg
I would have to agree that this book has very little to do with modern software engineering. While some experience with meta-languages is certainly beneficial, spending an entire... Read morePublished on July 19 2002
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