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John MacCormick
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Nine Algorithms That Changed the Future: The Ingenious Ideas That Drive Today's Computers

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  370 ratings  ·  61 reviews
Every day, we use our computers to perform remarkable feats. A simple web search picks out a handful of relevant needles from the world's biggest haystack: the billions of pages on the World Wide Web. Uploading a photo to Facebook transmits millions of pieces of information over numerous error-prone network links, yet somehow a perfect copy of the photo arrives intact. Wit ...more
ebook, 232 pages
Published December 27th 2011 by Princeton University Press (first published December 1st 2011)
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A surprisingly interesting and simple read (though perhaps overly simple in many parts) on some of the most important computer algorithms used today and how computer scientists solved for them. The writing is better than you would expect, the concepts are interesting (how google developed search algorithms, how secure transactions are run online, etc.), and the details are explained in a way so that no prior knowledge of algorithms or computer programming is necessary.

The only thing some readers
Letizia Sechi
3 ragioni per leggerlo

Se pensando al termine “informatica” vi vengono in mente solo aggeggi che fanno bip bip bip o programmi misteriosi che hanno la tendenza a non funzionare proprio quando servono vi state perdendo tantissimo. Potreste scoprire che con qualche strumento in più anche l’informatica diventa affascinante «come un cielo stellato davanti agli occhi di un astronomo dilettante».

Il capitolo dedicato al riconoscimento di forme (pattern recognition) va al di là del puro fascino della
Enjoyed this very much. It is utterly enthralling, clearly written, and beautifully typeset. I think that, if people were exposed to this sort of technical clarity in concept early enough, we may have more interest in science and technology than we do in the U.S. currently (lack of interest does not seem to be much of a problem in parts of India, by contrast).

I am more familiar than I realized with the contents (at least in the first chapter), so there is not yet much "new" to me - but I've been
I like the premise of this book: Describe the key algorithms that make everyday computing possible in a simple accessible manner. Some of these algorithms include, indexing and pagerank which govern how search engines work, compression algorithms like JPEG which shrink the size of files, public key encryption which is the foundation for secure internet commerce and digital signatures, among others. I believe the author achieves his stated purpose which is to relate these beautiful and critical a ...more
Greg Nigh
Physicist Richard Feynman remarked about scientists that if you can't explain what you are doing to your grandmother, then you don't understand what you are doing. That's from the guy who made common sense out of quantum electrodynamics (QED).

The sorry fact of the matter is that science relies upon obscure vocabulary, technical jargon and a maze of self-reference, a practice that holds the curious public at a comfortable two-arms-length distance. Important information is certainly conveyed throu
This book is actually not really targeted to computer scientists like me, since I knew 8 of the 9 algorithms described in the book (Internet searches and indices was the exception). However, it did remind me a bit of my college days. Instead, this book is targeted to people who aren't computer scientists and want to get a feel for what computer scientists think about and what they do. To that end, it's difficult to say how successful it is since I don't know how well it introduces the nine ideas ...more
Bob Eager
This book was recommended for undergraduate CS students at Kent a year or so ago, but I've only just got round to reading it!

It is excellent. It requires no knowledge of computing or maths (but if you know some, you will be shown the connections). It is well written and accessible to all.

It basically explains nine ways in which computer science has affected everyday life. This is done without going into details of any programming - these are just algorithms, not programs, but of course that is a
Too simple, perhaps because I already knew something about the topics. I ended up a little bit annoyed by all the simple examples with colours and padlocks and gave it up. I would recommend it for someone who doesn't know anything about computer algorithms.
Kat Dornian
I picked this book up from the computer science section of my university library. Let me say, it should not have been there, by any means. I sped through this book pretty quick (having a degree in Computer Engineering). It dumbs down some cool algorithms, leaving out any technicality, so it's great for people who've never touched a computer or done math in their life (okay, that's an exaggeration, but it's pretty foolproof). In all honesty, I feel MacCormick could have turned this into a few tho ...more
I'm 1/3rd of the way through, and am loving this book.

It's a really easy read; the nine algorithms (well, actually it's not about nine algorithms.... it's about nine aspects of computing that were "solved" by specific algorithms... the nine algorithms are all interesting, and the explanations are written for a popular audience.

If you know a little bit about how web searches work, or how public key cryptography works, you will still appreciate the review. You will also enjoy the walk down memory
This book has a lot of things going for it; the writing is smooth enough and the examples are interesting enough that I didn't feel compelled to skip over even the concepts that I was already quite familiar with. In several cases, these helped me understand something in theory that I only previously understood in practice. However, while it was a pleasant read, I can't say that I got much out of it or increased my substantive knowledge of algorithms to any great degree.

One of the reasons I was

Book Review: Nine Algorithms That Changed the Future: A Good Read For Developers And Beyond

Whether you are a rookie, amateur or an expert in coding, this book would definitely prove to be an interesting read for you. It does not really matter if you are not a developer, even then it will definitely give you a good amount of interesting information. Whether you are tester, programmer, or a non technical having a fair amount of interest in technology and log
Warren Mcpherson
The concept of this book is great, it is well written, and I would expect it to lead to an even better second edition. The key of the book is to both understand some great ideas AND communicate them. Sometimes it is good to read a simple description of an idea you already understand to improve your own ability to communicate that idea.

Most of the chapters take a discrete innovation and lead the reader along a relatively easy path to understanding the idea. Two chapters seemed to me to stand out
Howard B.
Review of John MacCormick, “9 Algorithms that Changed the Future,” Princeton University Press, 2012.

An algorithm is a well defined procedure for performing a task. A household example of an algorithm is a recipe — for example, the list of ingredients together with the sequence of instructions needed to bake a pie. In order for a computer to perform a task, it needs ingredients — the data — and instructions — the algorithm.

Author John MacCormick, currently Professor of Computer Science at Dickins
Have you ever wondered about the millions of financial transactions that take place each day, and how computers manage to process them infallibly? Or what black voodoo Google uses to find the precise lolcat picture that you were looking for?

The answer is computer algorithms: precise recipes that computers can follow to achieve a specific goal. 9 Algorithms that Changed the Future identifies and explains the algorithms that everyday users encounter on a daily basis: from search engine indexing a
Dave Lefevre
This is a book that explains the background of some of our most important computer algorithms to those with a non-computer science background. It takes algorithms most people use every day, such as the procedures behind a Google search, and breaks them down into non-computer examples. It's VERY easy to read and it's very informative.

I used to work for a New Media program, and one thing I was often frustrated with was that the students tended to not have any appreciation or respect for the real w
Fantastic explanations of important computer science concepts, written to be easily understandable by readers with no computer science background. I loved reading this--as a heavy computer and Internet user (particularly search, as a librarian) with an interest but not much experience in computer science, descriptions of how algorithms I use every day work are definitely of interest. The analogies MacCormick uses are excellent, and almost all of the concepts made perfect sense to me. The reader ...more
Nathaniel M
Apr 23, 2014 Nathaniel M rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adults
John MacCormick

Despite his reputation a leading lecturer and scholar in the field of computer science, MacCormick's writing style is accessible, as are his explanations of technical concepts. If you want an introduction to computer science, this book is for you!
9 Algorithms that Changed the Future tells of nine important computational ideas in a very understandable way. John MacCormick explains the basics of internet searches (search engine indexing and page ranking), how information is kept safe (public key cryptography, digital signatures, and database consistency), and how software is made efficient (error-correcting codes and data compression). In the chapter on pattern recognition he explains how computers can learn to recognize faces, read licens ...more
Cool stuff for the non technical. He breaks down all the ideas to the point where you need no background at all to understand what's going on, drawing on tons of non technical analogies. If you know a lot about computers you won't find anything new here.
Harsha Vardhan
A delightful read that introduces the algorithms that affect our everyday lives. However, the author failed to keep me enthused towards the end. If you find the chapter on Digital Signatures interesting, I'd recommend "The Code Book" by Simon Singh.
Jean-luc Nahon
Really basic, good intro for beginners

I expected more depth and insights in particular around applications of these algorithms. it's a good intro for people who have never dealt with these concepts before. However, if you have attended any CS classes, this book won't bring much value.
This book describes nine revolutionary algorithms without delving into deep computer science or mathematics. Ideas such as these truly are the core of software engineering, and one of the main reasons I got into this field. In the conclusion, the author speculates on what sorts of solutions might be generated in the near future - very interesting ideas.

In my opinion, both the description the Pattern Recognition algorithms and the overview of the Halting Problem were more complex than they needed
Rob Neely
Very well written book. As others have noted, it's a bit on the light side of you're a computer scientist - but I definitely learned alot, and would recommend this book to anyone (yes, even non-geeks) who wants to understand how computer science is more than just programming. I don't know that I necessarily agreed with all of the author's choices for greatness (web search and pagerank each warranting their own separate chapter?), but at the same time - it's hard to argue that the ones he picked ...more
The topics are brilliantly chosen and presentation is quite apt for the uninitiated. However, the book is not as good as The Code Book. The reason I used this comparison is due the large overlap of topics. Historical contexts with just the right amount of math makes the The Code Book a very good book, as compared to 9 algorithms. I found the undecidable problems quite interesting. Again, the explanations could have used a little more of math. Overall, I would suggest this book to anyone who has ...more
Nine Algorithms That Changed the Future (2013) by John MacCormick is a well written good read that looks at exactly what the title suggests. The book covers indexing, pagerank, public key cryptography, error correcting codes, pattern recognition, data compression, database algorithms, digital signatures and also covers computability.
The chapters do involve thought and the book isn’t a completely light read. But it’s well worth it. Along with Patterns in The Stone this is one of the best books I’
This book was a great overview of nine of the most influential computer-based algorithms that affect us today. I am intrigued by the programs that make our internet experience so amazing. Not claiming to understand the depth of the math and science that go into these, this book was right on my level. If you are into this kind of thing, I don't believe this book will be over your head. The author's explanations were fairly accessible, though sometime a bit tedious. I will likely refer to this boo ...more
A simple but understandable look at the details behind many of the most important algorithms running in computers today. As somebody who has designed software for years, I still found myself learning new things about systems I use every day. At the same time, the explanations seemed clear enough so that even to others who view computers as mysterious, these techniques would still make sense. Nicely done, making something as dry and inaccessible as computer logic an enjoyable and accessible read.
Interesting. If you use computers and wonder how they work their magic, this book shows how, in language you don't have to be a computer scientist, mathematician or programmer to understand. It breaks down the major ideas of how the computers do complicated, but everyday tasks, into relatively simple "tricks." If you want a general idea of how digital signatures or public key cryptography works without getting a computer science degree, this is a good book for you.
Very interesting. No prior experience with computers (beyond web-browsing and icon double-clicking) required. I especially liked the portions dedicated to Google's PageRank and indexing, as well as public key encryption, and neural networks. Very cool stuff. However, due to the "accessibility" of the material, I am left craving more detailed examples of specific implementations of these concepts. Not within the scope of the book, but I still would have liked more.
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