[SIGCIS-Members] Volume 4 of Knuth!

Thomas Haigh thaigh at computer.org
Tue Jan 25 14:51:07 PST 2011

For those of you not familiar with this, Knuth published the first three of
seven planned volumes of his overview of computer algorithms from 1968 to
1973. This was a crucial step in the development of computer science as a
coherent intellectual field. Unfortunately the literature of the field was
growing a lot faster by the late 1970s, so every year the scope of the task
grew and completion became more challenging. Progress slowed, probably
influenced by Knuth's sidetrack into computerized typesetting with the TeX
system. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Art_of_Computer_Programming. 

The appearance of volume 4A would not be entirely unexpected. The new volume
covers just part of chapter 7 in the original 12 chapter outline. Knuth has
been putting out preprint chunks of the book as "paperback fascicles" for
some years now, and he retired early to work on the book undisturbed some
time ago. See http://www-cs-faculty.stanford.edu/~uno/taocp.html#vol4. 

This leaves plenty of work for Knuth. No fascicles appear to have been
issued yet for volumes 4B and 4C. Knuth remains committed to volume 5,
estimated for 2020, but his web page seems to suggest that he now views
volumes 6 and 7 as optional and not part of the core of the project. Still,
given the size of the field today even one additional chapter would be a
respectable lifetime's work in itself.  


-----Original Message-----
From: members-bounces at sigcis.org [mailto:members-bounces at sigcis.org] On
Behalf Of Ceruzzi, Paul
Sent: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 4:04 PM
To: 'members at sigcis.org'
Subject: [SIGCIS-Members] Volume 4 of Knuth!

Amazon has listed volume "4A" of Knuth. I won't believe it until I get my
hands on it. Volume Three (Sorting and Searching), was published in 1973.
Does this strike anyone else besides me as strange? Knuth had a huge
influence the history of computing--besides his contribution to computing. I
use the past tense because I haven't seen Volume 4 yet.

I wrote a bit more on this in the IT History blog (ithistory.org/blog).

Paul E. Ceruzzi
Chair, Division of Space History
National Air & Space Museum
MRC 311; PO Box 37012
Washington, DC 20013-7012

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