Monday, March 22, 2010

Books I didn't buy

Before there were big book stores like Borders or Barnes & Noble there was The New England Mobile book fair in Newton. This could hardly be considered walking distance from my home growing up in Needham, but I had made the trip on foot a couple of times as a kid with my brother Ernie. Now I made the trip more frequently since I had a car.

This store was really just a big warehouse, poorly lit, and not very well organized. However this was the largest collection of books for sale to be had for miles.

I remember clearly two books that I browsed there that I didn't buy but which left an impression on me.

One was called A Small C Compiler, by James Hendrix. Not the famous musician, of course. ;-) I read just enough of the book to appreciate its biggest idea. Once you write enough of a C compiler in assembly language, you can use that C compiler to write itself! Like I said I didn't buy the book, but I learned important ideas from just browsing through it.

Another book was call Smalltalk-80: The Language and Its Implementation. This was a tan and blue hardcover. I can't say I really understood at that time what I was looking at, but it was interesting enough that I didn't forget it. In more recent years I did find a copy of it used and now am a proud owner. Smalltalk is a terrific language this book explains in wonderful detail how it works. Nowadays the entire contents of this book can be read for free online.

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