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Lost Books on Computer Programming

I am not into old books on computers the way Graydon seems to be, but I still feel sad that the current generation of programmers will most likely never get exposed to some of the great books on computer programming that I was able to read when I was young.

At least here in Bangalore, it is almost impossible to buy these books from a bookshop unless they have either retained very old stock or are selling second-hand books. For example, here are a few books that seem to be very difficult to buy these days in Bangalore:
  1. "The Elements of Programming Style", Brian Kernighan and P. J. Plauger.
  2. "Algorithms + Data Structures = Programs", Niklaus Wirth.
  3. "A Discipline of Programming", Edsger Dijkstra.
  4. "The Science of Programming", David Gries.
  5. "Communicating Sequential Processes", C. A. R. Hoare.
  6. "How to Solve it by Computer", R. G. Dromey.
  7. "Microprocessors: A Programmer's View", Robert B. K. Dewar and Matthew Smosna.
(I am sure I have not listed a lot of other interesting and important books here, but these are the names that readily spring to my mind.)

Of these, I have only been able to buy Dromey's book so far. In my opinion, it is one of the most under-appreciated books in computer science and deserves to be read by every novice programmer. It is a perfect complement to the usual textbooks for a Data Structures and Algorithms course.

A kind soul has scanned in the pages from "A Discipline of Programming" and made them freely available to everyone. The electronic version of "Communicating Sequential Processes" is now freely available for download. But I still wish I had these books "for real".

By the way, Robert Dewar hopes to produce an updated version of "Microprocessors: A Programmer's View" sometime soon.

Alarmingly, some relatively recent books are also becoming difficult to find these days. For example:
  1. "Programming Pearls", Jon Bentley.
  2. "The Practice of Programming", Brian Kernighan and Rob Pike.
I also note rather sadly that the "XYZ Unleashed" and "Learn ABC in 3 Days" type books are still going strong even after almost a decade.

Thankfully, the "The Art of Computer Programming" (TAOCP) series by Donald Knuth is still easily available. "Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs" (SICP) by Harold Abelson, Gerald Jay Sussman and Julie Sussman is also visible in bookshops from time to time.

I think the strong sales of TAOCP are more due to the "classic book" effect than anything else. To quote Mark Twain, "A classic is a book that everyone wants to have read but no one wants to read". If there are people who have actually read TAOCP, they seem to have been rather successful at avoiding to meet me. To quote Bill Gates, "If you have read The Art of Computer Programming from cover to cover, send me your resume!".


  1. the blog was so inspiring, can you find where can i find an electronic copy of "The Science of Programing" - David Gries so that i can read them. if you get it don forget to send me at anandchakru@gmail.com

  2. Free Source Codes and Tutorials
    Nice post man, I've long been searching for this kinds of books. Thanks.

  3. hi accidently came on your blog while searching for "the science of programming by david gries. " if you have any link where it can be found please do reply to me at mlisagupta@gmail.com thanks in advance

  4. another nice book is
    Lucid, the Dataflow Programming Language

    This too is no longer available

  5. Where did you get "how to solve it by computer"?

    I had no such luck with online retailers. PHI does have the book on it's website.

    Help :)

  6. Anonymous: You can try your luck with Book Paradise (Jayanagar) or Blossoms (Church Street), if you stay in Bangalore. I bought this book a long time ago when it was still available. Unfortunately, I did not have the foresight (and the money) at that time to buy the others.

  7. I have been scouting for the R G Dromey book: "How to solve it by computers".
    Any updates of its availibility in Bangalore??


  8. neyas: Firstandsecond.com says it is available. You can try your luck with them. You can also note down the ISBN of the book (81-203-0388-1) and ask Prentice Hall of India about it.

  9. Nice collections, I appreciate.
    I am in need of "How to solve it by computer - Dromey" any link pls.


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