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Surgery for Dummies Next?

This can't be the same species.

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Joel Brunerd writes to say on a lark he followed up on one of the links from The Fourth Rule in Developers Workshop - to The C Programming Language at Amazon. The fun in that is going to the one star and two star ratings.

The copy is 'cleaned up' to the extent the formatting makes things readable but the content's otherwise left pristine for your enjoyment.

Answer this question: are these people part of the same human race?


No offense intended - but this is for the old version of ANSI C (known after the name of this book!) and does not cover the new 1999 ISO standard and there have been significant changes to this language. Go with something newer.
 - CSGeekNYC

Concise, but too complicated for learning C
If you already know C, read this book. The examples are so challenging, it will be a test of your skill to comprehend them. If you want to learned the language, try another text. At least read a 'Dummies' first.
 - David_B_Alexander@MSN.com

The So Called 'ANSI C'
After I observed Appendix A in the reference section, I could only dissolve this information with a grain of salt. The authors only convey definitions and refinements to the language, which is not the standard. Some of the glaring errors in the book come as a shock. These are the two fellows that co-founded the language at Bell Laborites back in the late 60's. The main concern that surrounds me about ANSI C is that the institute only contributes to the development of an operating system, and any further implementation which falls outside the limited scope of system development is deemed void. For this reason, I still rely on Old Testament of 'Microsoft C' which allows the user to enable or disable the ANSI C support. Other oberservations I discovered from the book, tell me that K&R had a hard time keeping up with all revisions the institute made back in 1983. I would only recommend this book to advanced users of C, because some the code examples are hard to follow, and many have syntax errors.
 - Neil W Fisk

☆☆ — Special Treat

This one deserves a chapter all its own. A delicious and baffling cocktail of feigned erudition and transparent incompetence that deserves its own section.

Learning C the hard way
I originally bought 'The C Programming Language' because I quickly needed to acquire skills in C programming.

After working with this book off and on over a period of 4-5 years I have mixed feelings about its usefuleness either as a tutorial or as a work of reference.

The book lacks structure and organization. After reading it cover to cover the general impression is more of a compendium of individual papers on various aspects of the C language and its context rather than a real 'book'. At a different level this is also reflected in the authors' tendency to alternate the trite and obscure with the fundamental, making it unnecessarily difficult for the reader to recognize at a glance what is really important.

'One of the problems with C is the confusing syntax of its declarations.'
The samples of code are generally interesting and they usually exemplify sound programming techniques but they are commented in such a cryptic manner, that a gentleman called Steve Summit who teaches the C language professionally using K&R's the C Language as a framework has published his personal notes online in order to complement the book and clarify its numerous obscurities.

One of the problems with C is the confusing syntax of its declarations. I expected the book to provide a clear and thorough discussion of one of the major hurdles on your way to acquiring C- read/write fluency. With the exception of a few lines on using typedef's the book altogether avoids the subject.

Perhaps another reason why this book can be confusing at times is that it cannot quite decide whether it is about the C language or about C programming, continually mixing the two approaches and thus making it difficult to use - both as a tutorial and as a reference.

Some fifty pages near the end of the book are taken up by a 'Reference Manual' presenting what amounts to a formal grammar of the language. This standalone document is mostly unrelated to the rest of the book. My guess is that not one programmer in a million would ever refer to this text. So what's it for? Add a little bulk to this very slim volume, maybe?

'A bit strange that solutions to the exercises are not provided.'
Arguably the fact that K&R 'invented' C guarantees the quality of the book.. Maybe, although a gift for language design does not automatically make you a great writer or teacher.. And, since no one is ever likely to incriminate themselves the book has a marked tendency to gloss over the weaknesses and traps of the language rather than clearly warn the student about them.

A bit strange that solutions to the exercises are not provided. Obviously K&R had more important things to do than waste more time on this project.

If I had to start over & learn C programming I would probably look for a good online tutorial to quickly learn basic C syntax and spend my money on W. Richard Stevens's 'Advanced Programming in the UNIX Environment'. I'm pretty sure this would get me up to speed a lot faster than working with this book.

Once you realize that working with a programming language is also about integrating a culture you will come to think that you need this book after all.. Generations of C programmers have learned from it and as a result it has pretty much shaped the face of C programming.. This may be one reason why you will eventually want to buy 'The C Programming Language'.
 - cga 'cga'

Saving the best for last.

High Price + Poor Quality Reproduction = Bad Value
I looked at this book in the store, and I have to say that I was very turned off by the poor quality of reproduction. Considering the outrageous price tag, you'd think they could spend some money on decent typesetting. It looks like someone took the first edition and slapped it on an old, fuzzy photocopier. It may be a classic, but that's no excuse for shoddy workmanship. I would get a headache trying to read this whole book, so I will vote with my dollars and find some other way to learn C. If I'm going to put up with strained eyeballs, there are plenty of tutorials I can look at online for free.
 - R Smith

Out of date
I'm disappointed that so many people recommend K&R. This text is both difficult to read and out-of-date. Rather, I recommend 'C: A Reference Manual' Fifth Edition (Harbison & Steele). It's up-to-date and does a much better job of explaining all aspects of the C language. Still not a learning text, but a very solid reference.
 - Paul T Stone

this book is useless anyway! you can not understand this book unless you are already an expert. but, then why do you need a C book!? except maybe as a reference. don't buy it.
 - A Customer

Not that good pre-schooler could do better
this book is nothing but regurge from other c book
 - A Customer

This book was horrible...
This book was really bad! There were no examples at all! I couldn't understand a single page form author. It is obvious that Kenighan has no idea what he's talking about. The book should be titled C The Hardway... I prefer and recommend C For Dummies. That book was easier to read and I was able to start programming really quickly. Do not get this awful book... there were no examples, and the explanations were really terse. I wasted my money on this book, I hope nobody else does...
 - A Customer

Return of 'A Customer'

But really the show is all A Customer's. This character is a true classic. A Customer has the following to say about Al Aho's legendary dragon book.

Trivial, non-constructive, hard-to-follow, terrible
The worst textbook I've ever read. For Many times I've been confused by the author's explanation for some very simple ideas.

It doesn't get better than that.

See Also
Developers Workshop: The Fourth Rule

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