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Programming Pearls, Second Edition by Jon Bentley

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Column 2: Aha! Algorithms

The study of algorithms offers much to the practicing programmer. A course on the subject equips students with functions for important tasks and techniques for attacking new problems. We’ll see in later columns how advanced algorithmic tools sometimes have a substantial influence on software systems, both in reduced development time and in faster execution speed.

As crucial as those sophisticated ideas are, algorithms have a more important effect at a more common level of programming. In his book Aha! Insight (from which I stole my title), Martin Gardner describes the contribution I have in mind: “A problem that seems difficult may have a simple, unexpected solution.” Unlike the advanced methods, the aha! insights of ...

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