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Alan W. Biermann

Alan W. Biermann is Professor of Computer Science at Duke University. He is also the author of the first two editions of Great Ideas in Computer Science (MIT Press, 1990, 1997).

Titles by This Author

This book presents the "great ideas" of computer science, condensing a large amount of complex material into a manageable, accessible form; it does so using the Java programming language. The book is based on the problem-oriented approach that has been so successful in traditional quantitative sciences. For example, the reader learns about database systems by coding one in Java, about system architecture by reading and writing programs in assembly language, about compilation by hand-compiling Java statements into assembly language, and about noncomputability by studying a proof of noncomputability and learning to classify problems as either computable or noncomputable. The book covers an unusually broad range of material at a surprisingly deep level. It also includes chapters on networking and security. Even the reader who pursues computer science no further will acquire an understanding of the conceptual structure of computing and information technology that every well-informed citizen should have.

A Gentle Introduction

In Great Ideas in Computer Science: A Gentle Introduction, Alan Biermann presents the "great ideas" of computer science that together comprise the heart of the field. He condenses a great deal of complex material into a manageable, accessible form. His treatment of programming, for example, presents only a few features of Pascal and restricts all programs to those constructions. Yet most of the important lessons in programming can be taught within these limitations. The student's knowledge of programming then provides the basis for understanding ideas in compilation, operating systems, complexity theory, noncomputability, and other topics. Whenever possible, the author uses common words instead of the specialized vocabulary that might confuse readers.

Readers of the book will learn to write a variety of programs in Pascal, design switching circuits, study a variety of Von Neumann and parallel architectures, hand simulate a computer, examine the mechanisms of an operating system, classify various computations as tractable or intractable, learn about noncomputability, and explore many of the important issues in artificial intelligence.

This second edition has new chapters on simulation, operating systems, and networks. In addition, the author has upgraded many of the original chapters based on student and instructor comments, with a view toward greater simplicity and readability.