Saturday, October 01, 2005

Programming On Purpose by P.J. Plauger Book Review

Programming On Purpose by P.J. Plauger was an interesting time travel back to the mid eighties. Object oriented programing was new, assembly was norm and dos was new and unix was starting to be old. The book consisted of selected essays from the authors monthly column in Computer Language Magazine. Starting out, tthis book contains the best example of why not to use a goto. In the forth essay when discussing bottom up design a problem is shown using goto statements. The best part is that there is a bug in it that can cause the program to never exit. Now this essay has been reviewed by editors and other essays had fixes that the readers of the magazine submitted and yet everyone missed it. This books feels like a very early idea/draft of what the book Code Complete became. It presents good ideas, some very basic such as using #define rather then putting 4988 hard coded all over your application. It also discuses some larger issues like modularity and structure. The book very much shows its age in places. For example it talks about the expense of piping data from one unix app to another as being too much. Along those lines you can clearly tell the transition to DOS in the writing as so many developers did in the early nineties. At the end it briefly touches on topics that aren't coding related, but very important to programming such as: office politics, planning, and working in groups. Honestly, unless you are interested in the computer science scene of twenty years ago I would recommend that you go and get Code Complete instead. It has much more and is up to date.

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