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

3.76  ·  Rating Details  ·  592 Ratings  ·  82 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
Greg Nigh
Jun 24, 2013 Greg Nigh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Letizia Sechi
Mar 23, 2013 Letizia Sechi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 12, 2014 Stephany rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 06, 2012 Vincent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Samrat Ganguly
Sep 06, 2015 Samrat Ganguly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read
I am an outsider when it comes to computer science. So I was the exact target audience as the writer has envisioned, a curious mind interested in new scientific knowledge that would not help him directly in any way, but instead would generate the happiness and wonderful feeling of knowing the unknown. He has succeeded very much, he has described the nine beautiful algorithm in very lucid way, never skipping any step in between. Though this strength sometimes becomes is weakness
"Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes" (Edsger Dijkstra)

E' indiscutibile che negli ultimi cinquanta anni l'informatica abbia profondamente trasformato la società ed è incredibile quanto questa disciplina sia poco conosciuta in rapporto alla sua pervasività nella vita delle persone. Ma cosa è l'informatica? La maggior parte delle persone ne hanno una percezione profondamente errata ed a questo contribuisce il fatto che questa materia venga insegnata poco
Bob Eager
May 03, 2014 Bob Eager rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 16, 2014 Tditada rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Karel Baloun
Perhaps my expectations were too high given that I'm an engineer, but I'm actually surprised how little I got from the significant effort MacCormick's writing style draws. I felt myself pulling through pages of sentences, and finally sighing -- oh, that was all there was to this idea?

To get non-technical readers interested would have needed a lot more wonder, curiosity and magic -- available in many blog posts about similar topics. Every explanation was far beyond verbose.

Technical readers are n
Maurizio Codogno
C'è solo una cosa che non mi è piaciuta di questo libro: gli esempi sono così semplificati che spesso diventa difficile riuscire a capire esattamente qual è la relazione con i sistemi reali. Usare la moltiplicazione anziché l'elevamento a potenza può lasciare perplessi, perché tutti sanno fare le divisioni e non si capisce perché invece il logaritmo discreto sarebbe così difficile da calcolare. Allo stesso modo l'insistenza sui "trucchi" per trovare mi sembra un tentativo di far pensare che l'in ...more
Tiago Fragoso
Nov 10, 2013 Tiago Fragoso rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best explanation on RSA I've read. Even better than its source material (The Code Book by Simon Singh)
Aug 09, 2015 Max rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: programming
This is probably the best introduction to algorithms, just because it gives you a light at the end of the tunnel - there are really neat applications and domains of algorithms beyond the inevitable searching/sorting you'll study first. I have no formal computer science background, so starting with something as mathematically rigorous as Thomas Cormen's Introduction to Algorithms ("CLRS") didn't work particularly well. There is very little math in this volume, and everything is explained in a nar ...more
Kat Dornian
Nov 12, 2014 Kat Dornian rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
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
Sep 10, 2012 Randy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 16, 2013 Tiernan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: csci
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
Jaideep Khanduja
May 29, 2013 Jaideep Khanduja rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
Feb 02, 2013 Warren Mcpherson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 07, 2013 Howard B. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 19, 2012 Brett rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 25, 2012 Jackie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: computing, 2012
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
Tim Urista
Apr 30, 2015 Tim Urista rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a good book which introduced the lay reader to the thinking behind some of the great algorithims in use today. I very much appreciated the multiple examples especially for part of cryptography. Overall, this book was helpful, but some parts seemed a little redundant and the examples for the cryptography section could have been tightened up. I also would have appreciated more discussion on how current pattern matching and artificial intelligence works since this topic is becoming increasin ...more
Nathaniel M
Apr 23, 2014 Nathaniel M rated it really liked it  ·  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!
Roberto Rigolin Ferreira Lopes
Discuss computer science beyond programming is a great idea. MacCormick even compiled an interesting set of algorithms together with easy to follow explanations. The computability example was fun but the whole book still needs some work on its presentation. I felt a bit annoyed by the constant use of “to keep it simple as possible”; the whole thing should unfold smoothly.
Filip Reierson
Jun 25, 2015 Filip Reierson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some of the analogues were a bit clunky and confusing to follow, but most were simply laid out and made the concepts easier to grasp. It was pretty straight forward, but there had some ups and downs in complexity. I also wish the author would have gone more in depth as I find the subject quite interesting and liked how simple he made it.
El libro repasa 9 algoritmos que han tenido un gran impacto en la sociedad en el último siglo, desde la indexación y ranking de páginas web hasta códigos correctores de errores y criptografía... El libro es entretenido e interesante si no tienes mucha idea de 'computer sciences', puesto que expone los algoritmos de manera clara y concisa, y sin necesidad de entender la complejidad matemática que hay detrás. Si has estudiado el tema previamente posiblemente el libro no te aporte nada nuevo.
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
Apr 02, 2014 Ameer rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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