New Japanese edition of Elements of Programming

Second Japanese edition of Elements of Programming
Elements of Programming, second Japanese edition
The original Japanese translation of Elements of Programming went out of print. But Yoshiki Shibata, the translator, proposed to Tokyo Denki University Press that they publish a new edition, and they agreed. It is available via, and joins the English, Russian, Chinese, and Korean editions.

We wrote a special preface for this edition:

To our Japanese readers:

We are very grateful to our publisher and our translator Yoshiki Shibata for this opportunity to address our Japanese readers.

This book is in the spirit of Japanese esthetics: it tries to say as much as possible in as few words as necessary. We could not reduce it to 17 sounds like a traditional haiku, but we were inspired with its minimalist approach. The book does not have much fat. We actually hope that it does not have any fat at all. We tried to make every word to matter.

We grew up when Japanese engineering was beginning to revolutionize the world with cars that did not break and television sets that never needed repairs. Our hope is that our approach to software will enable programmers to produce artifacts as solid as those products. Japanese engineers changed the experience of consumers from needing to know about cars, or, at least, knowing a good mechanic, to assuming that the vehicle always runs. We hope that the software industry will become as predictable as the automotive industry and software will be produced by competent engineers and not by inspired artist-programmers.

Our book is just a starting point; most work to industrialize software development is in the future. We hope that readers of this book will bring this future closer to reality.

We would like to thank Yoshiki Shibata not only for his very careful translation, but also for finding several mistakes in the original.

Korean edition of Elements of Programming

In addition to the English, Korean edition of Elements of Programming Japanese, Russian, and Chinese editions, Elements of Programming is now available in a Korean edition published by Pearson Education Korea and available from Kyobo Book Centre. Five editions, five scripts.

P.S. I can’t find a listing for the book at; I will update this post and our book website if I hear of one.

Algol 68: Informal Introduction and more

Cover of Informal Introduction to Algol 68Several years ago I began an archival collection for the Algol family of programming languages: Algol 58 (originally known as the International Algorithmic Language), Algol 60, and Algol 68. I began looking for implementations of Algol 58 and Algol 60. Since then I’ve also found information (including, in some cases, source code), for many Algol 68 implementations.

I’d like to announce the return of a very useful Algol 68 resource: a scanned copy of Informal Introduction to Algol 68, posted by permission of coauthor Charles H. Lindsey and copyright holder IFIP. This is the revised 1980 reprint of the second (“completely revised”) edition of 1977. For convenience, I’ve also posted separate files containing the large fold-out Table of Contents and the appendix of Syntax Charts.

This book, together with Marcel van der Veer’s modern Algol 68 Genie implementation and the extensive documentation accompanying it (including a hypertext version of the Revised Report) provide an excellent way to study Algol 68.

In addition to the above-mentioned, a number of other people have contributed to the overall Algol archive project. I’d like to single out Neville Dempsey for his dedication to spreading knowledge of and appreciation for Algol 68.

50th Anniversary of LISP 1.5 Programmer’s Manual

Cover of LISP 1.5 Programmer's Manual
I just noticed that August 17 was the 50th anniversary of the LISP 1.5 Programmer’s Manual by John McCarthy, Paul W. Abrahams, Daniel J. Edwards, Timothy P. Hart, and Michael I. Levin. On that day in 1962 it was published as a bound report of the Computation Center and Research Laboratory of Electronics of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was also published by MIT Press — perhaps simultaneously — and is still in print. A second edition was released in 1965; the only difference that I see comparing tables of contents is the addition of Appendix I: LISP for SHARE distribution.

This was of course the first book on LISP. It is a reference manual rather than a textbook, but many people managed to learn LISP from it, and a number of people managed to implement LISP from it. Today ACM’s Digital Library lists 327 citations for it, and Google lists about 23,900 hits. I’m pleased to say that #1 on Google is the authorized PDF at my History of LISP archive at the Computer History Museum.

Through the generosity of several people, the History of LISP archive includes not only the book but also several versions of the underlying source code:

If you’re resourceful and you’d like to actually run the system described in this book, you don’t need an IBM 7090 or a time machine; the SIMH simulator package and the files and information here are sufficient; scroll down until you find “Running Lisp 1.5 in the SIMH IBM 7094 emulator.”

Elements of Programming video

On November 3, 2010, we presented a lecture on Elements of Programming to the Department of Electrical Engineering Computer Systems Colloquium (EE380) at the Stanford University. While we both take responsibility for the contents, Alex Stepanov lectured. A video of the lecture is online at Stanford; eventually it will also be available via YouTube and iTunes.

Update 7/11/2012: The video made its way to YouTube and iTunes. By the way, the abstract (with a link to the slides) is here.

Elements of Programming

Elements of Programming, by Alexander Stepanov and Paul McJones, was published this month by Addison-Wesley Professional. From the preface:

This book applies the deductive method to programming by affiliating programs with the abstract mathematical theories that enable them to work. Specification of these theories, algorithms written in terms of these theories, and theorems and lemmas describing their properties are presented together. The implementation of the algorithms in a real programming language is central to the book. While the specifications, which are addressed to human beings, should, and even must, combine rigor with appropriate informality, the code, which is addressed to the computer, must be absolutely precise even while being general.

The roots of the book go back many years. In 1976 Alex had two important revelations: an essential part of programming is to find the most general form of each algorithmic component and, as he wrote a few years ago, “Our ability to restructure certain computations to be done in parallel depends on the algebraic properties of operations. For example, we can re-order a + (b + (c + d)) into (a + b) + (c + d) because addition is associative.” Much of his subsequent career, including his development of the C++ Standard Template Library, can be described as pursuing the consequences of these ideas.

I met Alex in early 2003, shortly after each of us joined Adobe Systems. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we discovered a common connection, to John Backus. Our first collaboration was co-chairing a company-wide internal engineering conference in 2004. After that I began attending the course on Foundations of Programming that Alex was teaching at Adobe. In 2005, I joined Alex in the Software Technology Lab, which was led by our colleague Sean Parent. In 2007, Alex invited me to work with him on converting his course notes into a book. We soon concluded that a fresh start was necessary. About two years later, Elements of Programming was complete.

The code in the book can be downloaded from the companion web site.

ACM Classic Books Series

Last summer, ACM posted PDF versions of some books in its Classic Books Series, which resulted from a poll of ACM members initiated by David Patterson, who was then ACM President. The books are accessible to anyone who creates a free ACM Web Account.

The available books include:

Update: I had neglected to include the book by Aho and Ullman..

Update: The URL above for the ACM Classic Books Series was updated to

Classic LISP books online

With the permission of The MIT Press, I have posted online copies of two classic LISP books on the History of Lisp website at the Computer History Museum:

  • John McCarthy, Paul W. Abrahams, Daniel J. Edwards, Timothy P. Hart and Michael I. Levin. LISP 1.5 Programmer’s Manual. The M.I.T. Press, 1962, second edition. PDF
  • Berkeley and Bobrow, editors. The Programming Language LISP: Its Operation and Applications. Information International, Inc., March 1964 and The MIT Press, April 1966. PDF

In addition to these I have continued to track down information about more versions of LISP, so the web site keeps growing.

I also gave a brief announcement of this project at the recent International Lisp Conference 2005, and a number of people volunteered to help me track down more information.

If I’ve neglected your favorite version of LISP, please go through your closet or basement and find those manuals, listings, mag tapes, etc.

[Edited 10 May 2014: =>, etc.]