2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Nine Algorithms That Changed the Future: The Ingenious Ideas That Drive Today's Computers (Hardcover)
I've just finished reading the `9 Algorithms that changed the future' book. I enjoyed it on the whole, but I have to say I found it a little disappointing in some ways. With my maths ever shaky, I often wonder, with books like this that deal - albeit in a superficial and unpressured way - with fairly complicated maths, whether it would be better to take notes and work through the examples along with the text. In the end, however, it is a book for reading and getting a general feel for the topic. It's not a text book or a preparation for degree level maths! So while I wasn't floundering with the maths, I can't really say it has been taken in with as much clarity and ease as I would like.
Most of the topics were really interesting, and relevant to an ordinary computer user. It's good to know how search engines do their stuff, and why Google's PageRank is so successful. I'm always fascinated by the use of clock arithmetic in public key cryptography and digital signatures, and even the less exciting stuff about databases was interesting enough.
The book could have been much better laid out. I'm sure costs were important to the publishers, but colour would have helped, perhaps some photos, and I'm not impressed with the use of fonts - more imagination here would have helped a lot. Many of the illustrations were not on the pages that were referring to them, and this is really frustrating. Having to keep turning the page to look at an illustration while trying to follow the explanation elsewhere is very annoying, and it should be avoidable, surely?
The author included a chapter on pattern recognition and flirted with artificial intelligence. I think this is his own area of expertise, and I felt it wasn't really part of the general theme of the book. I also found my interest waned in the last chapter, where he talked about programs and concepts that could be proved to be non-computable. He was talking about proof by contradiction in maths, and using the same method to prove that there are some things which a computer could never do. It all became a bit philosophical and self-indulgent, and I wished he had just kept the book as a clean and clear look at the algorithms. Most ordinary computer users - as opposed to computer scientists - are interested in how and why things do what they do, without wanting to get bogged down in a discussion of things that have little to do with everyday existence.
On the whole, very interesting, and certainly worth reading again in due course - just disappointing in a few small places.