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Out of Their Minds: The Lives and Discoveries of 15 Great Computer Scientists

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Imagine living during the Renaissance and being able to interview that eras greatest scientists about their inspirations, discoveries, and personal interests. The latter half of our century has seen its own Renaissance - informations technology has changed irrevocable the way we live, work, and think about the world. We are fortunate, therefore, that the authors of Out of Imagine living during the Renaissance and being able to interview that eras greatest scientists about their inspirations, discoveries, and personal interests. The latter half of our century has seen its own Renaissance - informations technology has changed irrevocable the way we live, work, and think about the world. We are fortunate, therefore, that the authors of Out of Their Minds have been able to talk so candidly with the founders of computer science. In Out of their Minds, readers will hear the Newtons and Euclids of the computer age as they talk about their discoveries in information technology that have changed forever the way we live, work, and think about the world. Based on interviews by freelance writer Cathy Lazere and the expertise of computer scientist Dennis Shasha, Out of their Minds introduces readers to fifteen of the planet's foremost computer scientists, including eight winners of the Turing Award, computing's Nobel Prize. The scientists reveal themselves in fascinating anecdotes about their early inspirations and influences, their contributions to computer science, and their thoughts on its explosive future. These are the programmers whose work


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Imagine living during the Renaissance and being able to interview that eras greatest scientists about their inspirations, discoveries, and personal interests. The latter half of our century has seen its own Renaissance - informations technology has changed irrevocable the way we live, work, and think about the world. We are fortunate, therefore, that the authors of Out of Imagine living during the Renaissance and being able to interview that eras greatest scientists about their inspirations, discoveries, and personal interests. The latter half of our century has seen its own Renaissance - informations technology has changed irrevocable the way we live, work, and think about the world. We are fortunate, therefore, that the authors of Out of Their Minds have been able to talk so candidly with the founders of computer science. In Out of their Minds, readers will hear the Newtons and Euclids of the computer age as they talk about their discoveries in information technology that have changed forever the way we live, work, and think about the world. Based on interviews by freelance writer Cathy Lazere and the expertise of computer scientist Dennis Shasha, Out of their Minds introduces readers to fifteen of the planet's foremost computer scientists, including eight winners of the Turing Award, computing's Nobel Prize. The scientists reveal themselves in fascinating anecdotes about their early inspirations and influences, their contributions to computer science, and their thoughts on its explosive future. These are the programmers whose work

30 review for Out of Their Minds: The Lives and Discoveries of 15 Great Computer Scientists

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ushan

    This is a well-written collection of short biographies of twelve computer scientists (Stephen Cook and Leonid Levin of computational complexity, Leslie Lamport of distributed systems, Edsger Dijkstra, Donald Knuth, Michael Rabin and Robert Tarjan of algorithmics, John Backus, Alan Kay and John McCarthy of programming languages, Edward Feigenbaum and Douglas Lenat of AI) and three hardware and software engineers (Frederick Brooks of OS/360, Cray cofounder Burton Smith, Daniel Hillis of Connection This is a well-written collection of short biographies of twelve computer scientists (Stephen Cook and Leonid Levin of computational complexity, Leslie Lamport of distributed systems, Edsger Dijkstra, Donald Knuth, Michael Rabin and Robert Tarjan of algorithmics, John Backus, Alan Kay and John McCarthy of programming languages, Edward Feigenbaum and Douglas Lenat of AI) and three hardware and software engineers (Frederick Brooks of OS/360, Cray cofounder Burton Smith, Daniel Hillis of Connection Machine). Unusually for a popular book, it is technically correct (there are small mistakes here and there - Turing did not consider the Halting problem; the opposite of a functional language is an imperative language, not a "normal language" - but they are insignificant). This book is very USA-centric: why Leslie Lamport and not Robin Milner? Why Alan Kay and not Ole-Johan Dahl? Why Robert Tarjan and not Sir Anthony Hoare? The book's predictions for the future are so wrong as to be ridiculous. WWW, e-commerce and cellphones were just beginning to become popular when this book was being written (and this fact spawned research into many new areas of computer science, from distributed caching to RF analog logic), yet it predicts integration of commonsense reasoning into databases and self-reproducing robotic factories in space.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Roberto Rigolin F Lopes

    Let us choose one of these freaks, say Lamport. The man was obsessed with special relativity so he used it as inspiration to order events within distributed systems. Beautiful. Now the question is: What do computer scientists do when they go crazy? Well, they develop shortest path algorithms, object-oriented programming paradigms and rigorous methodology to evaluate algorithms (to cite three great inventions in this book). In short, you need to be out of your mind to enjoy such discoveries.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jukka Paulin

    I'm always fascinated by stories about discoveries. Good book! I'm always fascinated by stories about discoveries. Good book!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Ray

    Micro-biographies of Dijkstra, Knuth, 13 others.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Christian

    My education in Computer Science never really offered a glimpse into the lives of those that discovered what I was studying. This book was a nice introduction to the lives of those who've changed the field. The book presents the lives and contributions of a few important Computer Scientists concisely while still being entertaining. It goes over who the person was, a bit of context about his live, and why his contributions were important. It gives you just information to peek your interest. I also My education in Computer Science never really offered a glimpse into the lives of those that discovered what I was studying. This book was a nice introduction to the lives of those who've changed the field. The book presents the lives and contributions of a few important Computer Scientists concisely while still being entertaining. It goes over who the person was, a bit of context about his live, and why his contributions were important. It gives you just information to peek your interest. I also very much enjoyed the incredibly accessible descriptions of the fundamental problems that these people solved.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Don

    Covers the heros of computer science: Dijkstra, Lenat, Alan Kay, and some lesser-known (but no less important) scientists. The book makes a noble attempt to thread their discoveries and work together in a timeline leading up to the present, but unfortunately some of the biographies were just too dry and I ended up skimming through a few. But the book also makes a decent attempt at covering the technical details of their work (NP-completeness, search algorithms, memory latency) and its in this as Covers the heros of computer science: Dijkstra, Lenat, Alan Kay, and some lesser-known (but no less important) scientists. The book makes a noble attempt to thread their discoveries and work together in a timeline leading up to the present, but unfortunately some of the biographies were just too dry and I ended up skimming through a few. But the book also makes a decent attempt at covering the technical details of their work (NP-completeness, search algorithms, memory latency) and its in this aspect that the book really shines. If you want a well-rounded understanding of some of your favorite computer science algorithm, this is a great book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Doug

    A nice overview of Computer Science discoveries found by living computer scientists: Knuth, Dijkstra, Backus, etc., My main complaint is that all the heavy concepts it goes into, such as P=NP, or even the shortest-path algorithm, are better explained elsewhere. I'ts a quick and dirty overview, not something you can really learn a lot from if you have a background in the topic. I found the glossary at the end as informative as the book. A nice overview of Computer Science discoveries found by living computer scientists: Knuth, Dijkstra, Backus, etc., My main complaint is that all the heavy concepts it goes into, such as P=NP, or even the shortest-path algorithm, are better explained elsewhere. I'ts a quick and dirty overview, not something you can really learn a lot from if you have a background in the topic. I found the glossary at the end as informative as the book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    David

    I love reading about great computer scientists. Even more about great logical leaps and "a-ha!" moments. This book was entertaining, but simply did not have the kind of depth and true understanding I would have hoped for. I love reading about great computer scientists. Even more about great logical leaps and "a-ha!" moments. This book was entertaining, but simply did not have the kind of depth and true understanding I would have hoped for.

  9. 4 out of 5

    marilyn

    Saw Prof. Shasha lecture on a few of the stories from this book and it was delightfully fascinating. Feynman-esque anecdotes about CS pioneers? Yes please.

  10. 4 out of 5

    A little heavy on mathematical theory and concepts for my taste - but its an excellent overview of some of the early giants in the history of the computing field.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ariel Burbaickij

    in parts nice, in parts too shallow, some parts like Levin's solution to Kolmogorov's puzzle or Bakery Algorithm are written in confusing and unclear style in parts nice, in parts too shallow, some parts like Levin's solution to Kolmogorov's puzzle or Bakery Algorithm are written in confusing and unclear style

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mikkel Hansen

    I recently decided that I wanted to get a better understanding of computer science as a field. My background is in mathematics and physics and I always enjoyed reading about the histories of these fields, so I wanted something similar for computer science. I hoped to get two things out of reading this book: 1) A better understanding of the historical development of the field and 2) inspiration for other intersting works or books to look into. I think this books delivers reasonably on both fronts I recently decided that I wanted to get a better understanding of computer science as a field. My background is in mathematics and physics and I always enjoyed reading about the histories of these fields, so I wanted something similar for computer science. I hoped to get two things out of reading this book: 1) A better understanding of the historical development of the field and 2) inspiration for other intersting works or books to look into. I think this books delivers reasonably on both fronts, especially considering the short length. I now have a better understanding of the history of some of the programming languages like FORTAN and Lisp. The book also peaked my interesting to getting closer to the knots and bolts of algorithms in general, so I have decided to give Donald Knuth's The Art of Computer Programming vol. 1 a try. I had considered it before, but this book tipped the scale.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rhea

    It's an amazingly crafted book, describing great work put together in an inspirational manner! It's an amazingly crafted book, describing great work put together in an inspirational manner!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Antczak

    Not as engaging as their later book, Natural Computing.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Vlad Bezden

    By today this book is outdated. All the information in the book can be found in Wikipedia.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Jones

    As a freshly-minted college grad who studied Computer Science yet at times feels like he lacked the passion he once had for software, when I picked this book up and read it cover to cover, with its cast of fervent, eccentric characters, it was hard not to feel inspired and moved. Much of the ideas and science presented in the book was review for me, but the lives of those scientists and how the book expertly portrayed them had a great effect on me.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Derya Erisdottir

    An excellent book. It deals with subjects of computer science, but it really is a collection of short biographies, revealing the kind of person that goes and explores new scientific territory. As such, it's very interesting for non-computer-scientists as well, although they will get more out of it. An excellent book. It deals with subjects of computer science, but it really is a collection of short biographies, revealing the kind of person that goes and explores new scientific territory. As such, it's very interesting for non-computer-scientists as well, although they will get more out of it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    Required reading in a computer science class during university. A good introduction to some of the great minds that helped develop the practice of computer science.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Varun

    All the stories are motivating and book is a light read. It is a must read if love technology.

  20. 4 out of 5

    V

  21. 5 out of 5

    Léa

  22. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

  23. 4 out of 5

    Miika

  24. 5 out of 5

    Einar

  25. 4 out of 5

    Joel

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ali Ghasempour

  27. 4 out of 5

    John

  28. 4 out of 5

    Léo Kölln

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kai Stanciu

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mihalis

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