Instructor's Manual to Accompany Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs

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MIT Press, 1998 - Computers - 211 pages
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This instructor's manual and reader's guide accompanies the second edition of Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, by Harold Abelson and Gerald Jay Sussman with Julie Sussman. It contains discussions of exercises and other material in the text as well as supplementary material, additional examples and exercises, and teaching suggestions. An appendix summarizes the Scheme programming language as used in the text, showing at what point in the text each element of Scheme is introduced.

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I think its fascinating that there is such a split between those who love and hate this book. Most reviews give a bell-shaped curve of star ratings; this book (on Amazon and elsewhere) has a peak at 1, a peak at 5, and very little in between. How could this be? I think it is because SICP is a very personal message that works only if the reader is a computer scientist (or willing to become one). So I agree that the book's odds of success are better if you read it after having some experience. 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++. Rather, the book tells you what those principles are, how they came to be selected as worthwhile, how they can be implemented from the ground up, and how a different combination of principles might be more appropriate for a particular problem. This approach requires you to understand the range of possibilities, and to think about trade-offs as you go through the design process. Programming is a craft that is subject to frequent failure: many projects are started and abandoned because the designers do not have the flexibility, experience and understanding to come up with a suitable design and implementation. SICP gives you an approach that will succeed, but it is an approach based on principles and wisdom, not on a checklist. If you don't understand the principles, or if you are the kind of person who wants to be given a cookbook of what to do rather than to think creatively, or if you only want to work on problems that are pretty much like the problem you worked on last time, then this approach will not work for you. There are other approaches that will be more reproducible for a limited range of simple problems, but there is no better way than SICP to learn how to address the truly hard problems. Donald Knuth says he wrote his books for "the one person in 50 who has this strange way of thinking that makes a programmer". I think the most amazing thing about SICP is that there are so FEW people who hate it: if Knuth were right, then only 1 out of 50 people would be giving this 5 stars, instead of about 25 out of 50. Now, a big part of the explanation is that the audience is self-selected, and is not a representative sample. But I think part of it is because Sussman and Abelson have succeeded grandly in communicating "this strange way of thinking" to (some but not all) people who otherwise would never get there.  

About the author (1998)

Julie Sussman and Stephanie Glakas-Tenet, authors of the national bestseller Dare to Repair and Dare to Repair Your Car, have been featured on the New York Times, Washington Post, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon bestseller lists. They have appeared on Good Morning America, Today, The Early Show, and FOX & Friends, and have hosted their own PBS special. As spokeswomen for the Lowe's and Habitat for Humanity Women Build program partnership, the authors have committed themselves to helping address the crisis of substandard housing by engaging women in the construction and maintenance of Habitat homes. In addition, they have partnered with the U.S. military and Lowe's to provide Dare to Repair clinics, teaching home repair and car care to military spouses managing the home front.

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 Panasonic Professor of Electrical Engineering at MIT. He is the coauthor (with Hal Abelson and Julie Sussman) of " Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs "(MIT Press). Sussman and Wisdom are also coauthors of "Functional Differential Geometry" (MIT Press).

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