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TechReview: Interview with Don Knuth

[ Thanks to Kevin
Postlewaite
for this link. ]

Since the 1960s, Donald Knuth has been writing the sacred
text of computer programming. He’s a little behind schedule, but he
has an excuse: he took time out to reinvent digitial
typography.

“When you write about Donald Knuth, it’s natural to sound
scriptural. For nearly 40 years, the now-retired Stanford
University professor has been writing the gospel of computer
science, an epic called The Art of Computer Programming. The first
three volumes already constitute the Good Book for advanced
software devotees, selling a million copies around the world in a
dozen languages. His approach to code permeates the software
culture.”

“And lo, interrupting his calling for nine years, Donald Knuth
wandered the wilderness of computer typography, creating a program
that has become the Word in digital typesetting for scientific
publishing. He called his software TeX, and offered it to all
believers, rejecting the attempt by one tribe (Xerox) to assert
ownership over its mathematical formulas. “Mathematics belongs to
God,” he declared. But Knuth’s God is not above tricks on the
faithful. In his TeX guide, The TeXbook, he writes that it ”
doesn’t always tell the truth” because the “technique of deliberate
lying will actually make it easier for you to learn the ideas.”

“Now intent on completing his scriptures, the 61-year-old Knuth
(ka-NOOTH) leads what he calls a hermit-like existence (with his
wife) in the hills surrounding the university, having taken early
retirement from teaching. He has unplugged his personal e-mail
account, posting a Web page to keep the software multitudes at bay
by answering frequently asked questions such as, “When is Volume 4
coming out?”

Complete
Interview