Recent News

[click here to zip down to the schedule of public lectures]

Wanted: A Name For High-Tech Grief

A rapidly spreading kind of trauma now affects millions of people every day, but the English language hasn't yet been extended to deal with it.

Well-known neologisms like `jet lag' and `road rage' describe well-known phenomena. But what do we call the combination of helplessness and agony that affects us when our computers or computer-based appliances do inexplicable things, for which there's no apparent workaround?

TG Daily - Man throws his computer out the window, police sympathize

I've often seen secretaries in tears when they're trying to cope with name-brand operating systems. My computer-savvy friends tell me that their vacations with relatives tend to be occupied mostly by the need to fix hardware and software glitches. I myself have often cried out for help to colleagues who have generously made house calls, in order to unwedge my highly customized Linux system.

Recent discussions with friends have led to several good suggestions, including:

In a few random conversations I found that the first of these was most likely to provoke instant recognition and a lively response. But my sample size has been small.

What to do? I suggest that, the next time you're attacked by this malady, you run through the list above and see which term best characterizes your feelings. Then blog about it. The best term should soon rise to the top, and become integrated into our common vocabulary.

More sneak previews of Volume 4

Paperback previews of new material for The Art of Computer Programming, called ``fascicles,'' have been published occasionally since 2005, and I spend most of my time these days grinding out new pages for the fascicles of the future. Early drafts of excerpts from some of this material are now ready for beta-testing.

I've put these drafts online primarily so that experts in the field can help me check the results; but brave souls who aren't afraid to look at relatively raw copy are welcome to look too. (Yes, the usual rewards apply if you find any mistakes.)

(If you have trouble downloading these files, your browser is probably screwing up; please see my FAQ page for a workaround.)

Note to Internet friends: I'm extremely grateful that hundreds of you have taken time to read these drafts, and to detect and report errors that you've found. Your comments have improved the material enormously. But I must confess that I'm also disappointed to have had absolutely no feedback so far on several of the exercises on which I worked hardest when I was preparing this material. Could it be that (1) you've said nothing about them because I somehow managed to get the details perfect? Or is it that (2) you shy away from the more difficult stuff, being unable to spend more than a few minutes on any particular topic? Although I do not like to think that readers are lazy, I fear that hypothesis (1) is far less likely than hypothesis (2). I may have to remove material that nobody cares about. But I still cling to a belief that this stuff is extremely instructive. Thus I would like to enter here a plea for some readers to tell me explicitly, ``Dear Don, I have read exercise N and its answer very carefully, and I believe that it is 100% correct,'' where N is one of the following:

Note that you don't have to work the exercise first; you're allowed and even encouraged to peek at the answer. Please send success reports to the usual address for bug reports (, if you have time to provide this extra help. Thanks in advance!

A Recent Bio/Profile from Stanford Magazine

Love at First Byte by Kara Platoni

Farewell, Old Friend

My father-in-law, Dr. James W. Carter, passed away peacefully in November 2006 at the age of 93. Here is a brief memorial booklet about his life and work.

Did you borrow a video from me?

Videotapes of most of my Computer Musings have been made since 1998, and I have often loaned copies to people who were unable to attend in person.

Now there is good news and bad news. The good news is that dozens of these videos have been digitized, and they are available for viewing. The bad news is that three people have not returned the tapes they borrowed, and there is no backup copy; I learned recently that my copy was unique, because all the master tapes were erased. If you are the person who currently has any of the following tapes:

please PLEASE return it/them immediately.

Orthogonal latin squares in the 14th century

While doing some historical research for Volume 4, I was surprised to encounter several instances of orthogonal latin squares in a book published in Cairo in 1322(!). To my knowledge, such latin squares had never been spotted in any other works prior to 1725. [Click here for a brief sketch of the details.]

Why the Internet is wonderful

I just found an Australian webpage that contains the phrase "toffs sneer". (If you wonder why I looked for it, think alphabetically:-)

Public lectures

Although I must stay home most of the time and work on books that I've promised to complete, I do occasionally get into speaking mode. Here is a current schedule of events that have been planned for this year so far:

Wednesday 6 June, 4:30pm, in Terman Auditorium
A Computer Musing lecture entitled ``Cool graphs''
Saturday 04 August, 8pm
``NegaFibonacci numbers and the hyperbolic plane'', the J. Sutherland Frame memorial lecture at MathFest 2007 in San José
Tuesday 23 October, 2:00pm at the Oxford University Comlab Lecture Theatre
``Pistols and BDDs''
Monday--Wednesday, 29--31 October
Participating in Journées algorithmiques in Bordeaux; lecturing about ``Pistols and BDDs'' on Monday afternoon at 1400
Monday, 3 December, 6:00pm, in Skilling Auditorium
A Computer Musing entitled ``Sideways heaps'' [the thirteenth annual Christmas Tree Lecture]
Saturday, 19 January 2008, at 1:00pm
giving a keynote talk, "Some puzzling problems," at ANALCO'08 in San Francisco

Click here for the ``recent news'' that was current at the end of 2006, if you're interested in old news as well as new news.

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