BookLog: D is for Digital

From D is for Digital by Brian Kernighan

Some computing is highly visible: every student has a computer, each one of which is far more powerful than the single computer that cost several million dollars, occupied a very large room, and served the whole Princeton campus when I was a graduate student there in 1964. Every student has high speed Internet access, as does at least half the population of the United States in their homes. We search and shop online, and we use email, texting and social networks to keep in touch with friends and families.

But this is only part of a computing iceberg, much of which lies hidden below the surface. We don’t see and usually don’t think about the computers that lurk within appliances, cars, airplanes and the pervasive electronic gadgets that we take for granted — cameras, video recorders, DVD players, tablets, GPS navigators, games. Sometimes their pluses and minuses come to the surface, almost accidentally, as in a newspaper article that quoted an executive of Hewlett-Packard as saying “In essence, a digital camera is a computer with a lens.” The same article also quoted an unhappy consumer: “This isn’t a camera, it’s a computer,”comment on how hard it sometimes is to use computers.

Nor do we think much about the degree to which infrastructure depends on computing: the telephone network, television and cable, air traffic control, the power grid, and banking and financial services. The pervasive nature of computing affects us in unexpected ways. Although we are from time to time reminded of the growth of surveillance systems, incursions into our privacy, and the perils of electronic voting, we perhaps do not realize the extent to which they are enabled by computing and communications.


I was reading this interview with Brian Kernighan and came across the link to the book. I looked at the table of contents and reviews and felt that it may be a great book for the first year Engineering students. In Chennai Engineering colleges, they have a subject titled Fundamentals of Computing. While the CS students know what it is about, many others from different branches of Engineering, are not able to relate to this topic. I was hoping that a book like this would make students understand the “computing that is all around us” .



Kernighan, Brian (2012-02-04). D is for Digital (Kindle Locations 73-83). Brian W. Kernighan. Kindle Edition.

Good Reads: An Element of Beauty in Learning

There is an element of beauty versus duty in learning most things. When the task is all duty, you may do it, but you may never like it. Indeed, you may come to hate it and stop altogether when the external forces that keep you on task (your teammates, your sense of belonging) disappear. When you enjoy the beauty of what you are doing, everything else changes.

From Eugene’s Math and Computing as an Art.

I think I finally found my morning reading. I stumbled upon this blog following threads of a controversy about a new CS curriculum and ending up in A Small Curricular Tempest. I spent a few hours, reading many of his posts, before I realized that I spent a few hours. This is what used to happen when I was a teenager and in early twenties. Endless hours of reading, engrossed and not even noticing the passage of time.

Thanks Eugene for making my day a bit better and giving me lots of stuff to read.