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Language Oriented Design and SICP with Hal Abelson

Adam talks to Hal Abelson about the textbook he coauthored in 1985, The Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs and why it is still popular and influential today.

“If you pick up almost any computing book it starts out ‘here are these datatypes, these operations that you do’ and somewhere around 20 or 30% through the book, they show you how to define a function or a procedure. Whereas we really take the opposite approach. We say the key thing is abstraction. So we kind of start there.”

“The axe [the book] is grinding is that people write programs to do one particular thing. And then the price of that is that a whole lot of software engineering ends up being trying to get out of the hole you dug yourself into because you made a program that was too specific.”

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  1. I just want to point out that Brian Harvey wrote a book that covers a big part of the material in SICP, but targeted at high school students: Computer Science Logo Style

  2. […] at Corecursive, Adam Gordon Bell has a really interesting podcast interview with Hal Abelson. In addition to being an MIT Professor and one of the authors of SICP, Abelson also cofounded the […]

  3. crushing so hard on this podcast with Hal!

    I am passing this one along to get people to read the book

  4. How to fix it?

    See Larry Lessig’s talks on YT… and the Freedom Box stuff in particular.

    Also, why didn’t you ask him about Aaron, JSTOR and his response/handling of it at MIT?

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Language Oriented Design and SICP with Hal Abelson