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am 9. Mai 2000
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 one 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.
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am 24. Mai 2000
I have read a lot of reviews here which lament the use of Scheme for teaching the fundamental concepts in this book. People have stated that while the book pretends to be language-independent it relies solely on Scheme, which invalidates the point.
I disagree strongly!
I think part of the problem is that it takes a bit of time to really "grok" Scheme. If you've never been exposed to it before (as I haven't), Scheme may seem strange and unnecessarily arcane to you at first. However, after doing it for a bit you will realize (as I have) that Scheme is amazingly flexible, succinct, powerful and unbelievably elegant. It incorporates all the features that other languages such as C++ take for granted and skip over, and exposes the real machinery behind them, without introducing a whole host of obscure syntactical details. This clarity and elegance of Scheme has helped me understand all other languages I have to deal with so much better!
Thus, in presenting the topics of this book in Scheme, the authors are actually succeding in making their discussions language-independent! Truly, the difference here lies in what your goals are: if you want to program in some specific language and just memorize it, this is not a book for you. However, if you actually want to understand how that language works, this will be akin to an epiphany for you. A very good book!
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am 19. September 2000
The comments written about this book on this site are glaringly stupid. One guys writes, "one of the assignments is to write a scheme interpreter in scheme! How much dumber can you get?"
Well, obviously not much dumber than you. You don't writing a think meta-circular interpreter would teach you anything about computer languages? (Isn't that the point?) Or programs expressed at the most mathematical level possible? You probably don't think learning about recursion is very important either. Oh yeah, that's just something you had to learn about when there weren't loops. Obviously, if all you do is hack perl scripts, don't buy this book. If you don't want to learn something really important that requires doing things a different way other than to which you're accustomed and getting at the basis of things, don't buy it.
The fact that the material in this book is taught to freshmen at MIT and Berkeley and other top computer science programs in the nation might say something to you. It may come off as archaic and worthless to some, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. The more I reflect on the things I learned from SICP, the more I realize they are important. The lambda calculus and scheme are simplicity and elegance at their finest. The difference between the understanding those people have of this material and that which is illustrated by the comments by 'programmers' here reminds me that they're right, this book isn't for programmers. It's for people who want to learn computer science.
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am 16. Juni 1999
The negative reviewers entirely missed the point of this book. The issues are not c++ versus scheme, nor the gap between the book's examples and real-world programs, nor that recursion is less intuitive than looping.
The real point is to teach some very core foundations of computer science that show up everywhere. For example, supposedly revolutionary XML looks a heck of a lot like a nested scheme list, first described in 1960. And processing an active server page (or Java server page) is very much like the textbook's specialized language evaluator. Finally, c++ polymorphism through vtables and part of Microsoft's COM mechanics are the exact same thing as the book's data-directed programming section.
This is very deep material for a programming newbie to learn outside a course, but for an experienced nerd who's looking for a systematic framework, it's absolutely terrific. I had done lots of lisp and compiler work before reading the book, so many of the concepts were not new. But it's with this framework in mind that I learn new technologies, and this approach greatly speeds up how long it takes to understand each week's "new" hot product/language/tool/mindset. Put another way: why do so many popular computer books take 1000 pages to describe a few trivial concepts?
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am 18. März 2009
Ich kann mich der Meinung, dass dieses Buch nur für's Studium - sozusagen als "Zwangslektüre" - geeignet ist, überhaupt nicht anschliessen. Ich bin über C++ Template Meta-Programming darauf gestossen und es hat mir sehr geholfen, Funktionale Programmierung, "excessives" Arbeiten mit Rekursionen, das lambda-Kalkül, lazy-evaluation, etc..., besser zu verstehen.
Will sagen: Der Inhalt ist nicht überholt, bloss weil die Gedanken in Scheme formuliert sind!
Das SICP ist sehr lehrreich und es wird durchgängig mit anschaulichen Beispielen gearbeitet, die das Beschriebene prägnant (kurz & knapp) auf den Punkt bringen und die man während des Lesens auf seiner Linux-Kiste mit dem 'gcl' gleich ausprobieren kann.
Frank Bergemann
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am 4. Juli 1997
... and sadly this book is no exception. Nonetheless, in 20 years of being a nerd, this is the only great book about computers that I've encountered.

If you're already a great programmer,
it will take you an evening to read the first few chapters and you'll
discover a precision vocabulary for discussing what you've spent 10
years learning the hard way. If you're not already a great programmer,
I would have thought that these few chapters would save you from having
to spend years flailing around in the dark. Unfortunately, there
doesn't seem to be a substitute for practical experience.

Sidenote: the authors used to have a review wall outside their offices
at MIT. University professors from around the world writing in
scientific journals said "finally I understand what all this computer
science stuff is about; this is the most brilliant book ever. I'm glad
that we're using it to teach freshmen now." In the center was a review
from Byte magazine: "I didn't understand any of this book."

SICP is tougher to read than _Teach Yourself to be a Dummy in 21
Days_ but it is the real thing, well organized and written.

I shudder as I type this, but SICP can even help you write better Perl scripts...
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am 20. Mai 2000
This is one of the great classics of computer science. I bought my first copy 15 years ago, and I still don't feel I have learned everything the book has to teach.
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?
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am 16. Januar 2006
Ein absolutes Standardwerk und ein Muss für jeden Informatiker. Werden hier zwar die Grundlagen mittels Scheme vermittelt, so gehen die Autoren doch auch darüber hinaus vermitteln einen Blick auf die Informatik, wie man es sonst nicht findet.
Ich war - bis auf den später doch arg technischen Teil, der Erstellung eines Lisp-Interpreters - doch die ganze Zeit sehr angetan und begeistert von diesem Buch.
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am 28. Oktober 1999
...not an intro to programming, mind you, but an intro to computer *science*. Rather than giving a few tips, tricks, and pointers, this book teaches the *fundamentals* of computer science. Beginners looking for a quick and dirty way to learn programming should look elsewhere. If all you care about is the quickest path from zero to mediocre skill in programming, skip this book. However, if you actually want to be any good at programming and be able to *fully* understand what's going on, this book is an EXCELLENT investment, not only in terms of cash, but in terms of the time you spend reading it. My first introduction to this book was as an EECS major at U.C. Berkeley in '91. I can't stress enough the incredible advantage you will have after reading this book over someone who took the path of least resistance and learned programming from a Teach Yourself In 21 Days book. Anybody can learn how to program, but it's literally impossible to be a truly *good* programmer without a rock-solid understanding of the fundamentals, and that's precisely what this book is good for.
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am 16. August 1999
The phrase 'two cultures' is usually used to describe the gap of understanding between the arts and sciences but reading the previous reviews it seems we have two cultures in the programming community. I think this division is between those who view programming as a pragmatic activity and those who also see the beauty of the underlying mathematical ideas.
I agree entirely with the previous reviewers who say this book has no practical point, for 99.9% of programming they are right. BUT they are missing the point big time. The ideas expressed in this book are beautiful and interesting and that is the point. The vast majority of programming books are workaday volumes with no more aesthetics than Roget's thesaurus. This is all the more reason to treasure this unique book.
In summary if you're mathematically inclined programmer and you're prepared to exercise your brain then this book will give great pleasure.
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