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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Advice to young programmers

Study , Study and Study

- Never ever think that you have acquired all or most of the knowledge
which exists in the world. Almost everybody in US at age of 14 and
everybody in India at age of 24 starts thinking that he has acquired all the
wisdom and knowledge that he needs. This should be strictly avoided.

- You should be habituated to studies...exactly in the same way as you are
habituated to brushing teeth and taking bath every morning. The habit of
study must become a ‘part of your blood’. And the study should be from
both the areas: CS, since it is your profession, and something from non-
CS...Something which doesnot relate to your work. This would expand
your knowledge in other field too. A regular study, everyday, is extremely
essential. It doesnot matter whether you study of 20 minutes of 2 hours,
but consistency is a must.

- You should always study basics and fundamentals. There is no point in
going for advanced topics. When I was at the age of 24, I wanted to do
PhD in program verification, though I was not able to understand anything
from that. The basic reason was that my fundamental concepts were not
clear. Studying ‘Algebraic Geometry’ is useless if you donot understand
basics in Algebra and Geometry. Also, you should always go back and re-
read and re-iterate over the fundamental concepts.
What is the exact definition of ‘fundamental’? The stuff which is around
for a while and which forms basic part of the concepts can be regarded as
more fundamental. Of course, everybody understands what a fundamental

- Here are few books which I would strongly recommend that every CS
professional should read and understand.

i. “Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs” by Albenson
and Sussman
I personally donot like the material present in this book and I do
have some objections about it but this is the best book I have ever
seen which explains all the concepts in programming in a clear and
excellent way.
This book is available online at

ii. Introduction to Computer Architecture: by Hennessy and Patterson.
How many of you have shipped the programs by writing them in
assembly? A very good understanding of basics of how a
computer operates is what every CS professional must have.
H&P Wrote two books on CA. I am talking about their first book,
the introductory text for understanding basic aspects of how a
computer works.
Even if you feel that you know whatever is written in that book,
donot stop reading. It’s good to revise basics again and again.

iii. “Fundamentals of Programming” by Donald Knuth.
The core of CS is algorithms and Data structures. Every CS
professional must have the 3 volumes of Knuth’s Book on
programming. It really doesnot matter if you take 30 years of your
life to understand what Knuth has written, what is more important
is that you read atleast some part of that book everyday without fail.

iv. Introduction to Algorithms by Cormen, Leiserson and Rivest
This book should be read daily to keep your concepts fresh. This is
the best book for fundamental concepts in algorithms.

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