On Sun, 2008-04-06 at 18:51 -0500, John Thompson wrote:
On 2008-04-04, Robert Rabinoff <[email protected]> wrote:
Heh. My one-and-only formal computer class was learning FORTRAN, which
we ran on an IBM 1620. The computer had more important things to do than
run student programs, so we would write them out in spiral bound
notebooks in class and as homework, then come to the computer center
after hours when the keypunches weren't being used for more important
work, punch the cards and put them in the job queue to be run over night
(we weren't allowed to touch the sacred computer). The next day we'd
come back for the job printout (on wide greenbar paper, of course),
peruse the errors in our programs, punch new cards, drop them in the
queue and repeat until it worked.
When I first learned to program in 1964 we used an IBM 1620, fondly known
as CADET (Can't Add, Doesn't Even Try).
Most of us "old timers" have been through this. I think that this
exercise made us better programmers. We learned to write code with
fewer errors so that we didn't have to do multiple iterations. Of
course it also meant that we didn't do too much exploration with novel
algorithms, and that was a real impediment to evolution of the
However, without that experience, programmers today are somewhat less
efficient due to the cut/paste/debug/repeat programming style and when
something works once, move on. This leaves some of the more esoteric
bugs like open ended strings, buffer overflows, memory leaks, openended
chains and so forth, to be discovered in use, with the attendant
problems of finding isolating and repairing them falling on other
shoulders. The various Programming Proverbs books do a pretty good job
of pointing out some of the issues, but nothing works like experience.
One of my favorite books was Algorithms + Data Structures = Programs.
Don't remember who wrote it, and I'm sure it is somewhat archaic right
now, but the lessons about how you structure the data impacting the
speed and efficiency of a program were precious to me.
When I learned to create double-linked chains for data structures, I was
able to create new and novel programming techniques, and coupled with a
good round of lessons on sorting (bubble, double bubble, hash tables,
quick sort and insertion sort ) along with some illustrations of speed
of sort vs data table size, and how to utilize one for one type of data
and another for different data entry, I gained great insight.
Another algorithm that I love, but don't yet fully understand is the
PRML algorithm. I think it has lots of applications if one can
structure the data as a net.
Optimal path algorithms are also worthy of some additional study.
And if you are doing image processing some 2d Fourier Transforms, and
some efforts with Gaussian filters is great. If you do not know what
these are, please look them up. Some of the new pattern recognition
stuff is pretty neat, too, but I am not as conversant with them as with
the others. Line following algorithms, and other algorithms to help
separate images from each other are great, too.
Some of the newer speech recognition algorithms are so proprietary you
cannot see their underlying algorithms, but this is an area worthy of
greater study as well.
Distributed computing is neat, and I am interested in its operation,
scheduling, flagging data, and separating algorithms are also areas of
interest. I still have a book on CAPP architectures here somewhere. I
think that the 80386(tm) processor had some special registers to enable
CAPP operations on a hardware level, but I believe they were dropped
with the 80486(tm) and later processors.
You can read libraries of books to learn about what is out there, but
coding and getting a few dozen good algorithms to work that apply to the
80% job of your desired work will take you a long way to being one of
the top guys. Then learning how to find and implement new algorithms
will take you the rest of the way, in my experience.
And for all the emphasis on Object programming, either OO which only
works at compile time, or realtime objects, without ultimately having
good underlying algorithms, the programs are just poor examples of how
to confuse the person reading or working on your code. Comments are
necessary, and for objects documentation about the object, its data
structures, and the available algorithms is important to make them
really portable and useful.
Repeat after me: Self documenting code is an oxymoron.
And even if you are a wizbang programmer, if your code is too obtuse
(and I have written my share of obtuse programs), if the next guy cannot
understand it, or what it actually does, it is not effective in the real