Programming knowledge is not mandatory for LessWrong but computer science and programming is a popular topic among LessWrong members and it is also instrumentally useful to understand how computers work and how to program them.
Even if you are not interested to learn to program, you might want to be able to at least interpret the most basic pseudo code as you might come across various snippets of code in discussions and top-level posts outside of the main sequences.
Below you will find a list of links to books and other resources. Most categories are sorted by their difficulty in ascending order.
- 1 How Computers Work
- 2 An Overview of Computer Programming
- 3 Computer Science and Computation
- 4 Supplementary Resources: Mathematics and Algorithms
- 5 Practice
- 6 Programming Languages
- 7 Help sites
- 8 Competitions
- 9 LessWrong Programming Related Posts
How Computers Work
The book intends to show a layman the basic mechanical principles of how computers work, instead of merely summarizing how the different parts relate. He starts with basic principles of language and logic and then demonstrates how they can be embodied by electrical circuits, and these principles give him an opening to describe in principle how computers work mechanically without requiring very much technical knowledge. Although it is not possible in a medium sized book for layman to describe the entire technical summary of a computer, he describes how and why it is possible that elaborate electronics can act in the ways computers do. In the introduction, he contrasts his own work with those books which "include pictures of trains full of 1s and 0s."
Indeed, the best way to understand how computers work is to build one from scratch, and this textbook leads students through twelve chapters and projects that gradually build a basic hardware platform and a modern software hierarchy from the ground up. In the process, the students gain hands-on knowledge of hardware architecture, operating systems, programming languages, compilers, data structures, algorithms, and software engineering. Using this constructive approach, the book exposes a significant body of computer science knowledge and demonstrates how theoretical and applied techniques taught in other courses fit into the overall picture.
Write Great Code Volume I: Understanding the Machine
This, the first of four volumes, teaches important concepts of machine organization in a language-independent fashion, giving programmers what they need to know to write great code in any language, without the usual overhead of learning assembly language to master this topic. The Write Great Code series will help programmers make wiser choices with respect to programming statements and data types when writing software.
Write Great Code Volume II: Thinking Low-Level, Writing High-Level
...a good question to ask might be "Is there some way to write high-level language code to help the compiler produce high-quality machine code?" The answer to this question is "yes" and Write Great Code, Volume II, will teach you how to write such high-level code. This volume in the Write Great Code series describes how compilers translate statements into machine code so that you can choose appropriate high-level programming language statements to produce executable code that is almost as good as hand-optimized assembly code.
Assembly is a low-level programming language that's one step above a computer's native machine language. Although assembly language is commonly used for writing device drivers, emulators, and video games, many programmers find its somewhat unfriendly syntax intimidating to learn and use. Since 1996, Randall Hyde's The Art of Assembly Language has provided a comprehensive, plain-English, and patient introduction to assembly for non-assembly programmers. Hyde's primary teaching tool, High Level Assembler (or HLA), incorporates many of the features found in high-level languages (like C, C++, and Java) to help you quickly grasp basic assembly concepts. HLA lets you write true low-level code while enjoying the benefits of high-level language programming.
This work is not about computer programming in the narrow sense, but about the algorithms and methods which lie at the heart of most computer systems. At the end of 1999, these books were named among the best twelve physical-science monographs of the century by American Scientist, along with: Dirac on quantum mechanics, Einstein on relativity, Mandelbrot on fractals, Pauling on the chemical bond, Russell and Whitehead on foundations of mathematics, von Neumann and Morgenstern on game theory, Wiener on cybernetics, Woodward and Hoffmann on orbital symmetry, Feynman on quantum electrodynamics, Smith on the search for structure, and Einstein's collected papers.
An Overview of Computer Programming
Ruby, Io, Prolog, Scala, Erlang, Clojure, Haskell. With Seven Languages in Seven Weeks, by Bruce A. Tate, you'll go beyond the syntax-and beyond the 20-minute tutorial you'll find someplace online. This book has an audacious goal: to present a meaningful exploration of seven languages within a single book. Rather than serve as a complete reference or installation guide, Seven Languages hits what's essential and unique about each language. Moreover, this approach will help teach you how to grok new languages. For each language, you'll solve a nontrivial problem, using techniques that show off the language's most important features. As the book proceeds, you'll discover the strengths and weaknesses of the languages, while dissecting the process of learning languages quickly--for example, finding the typing and programming models, decision structures, and how you interact with them.
The ubiquity of computers in everyday life in the 21st century justifies the centrality of programming languages to computer science education. Programming languages is the area that connects the theoretical foundations of computer science, the source of problem-solving algorithms, to modern computer architectures on which the corresponding programs produce solutions. Given the speed with which computing technology advances in this post-Internet era, a computing textbook must present a structure for organizing information about a subject, not just the facts of the subject itself. In this book, Michael Scott broadly and comprehensively presents the key concepts of programming languages and their implementation, in a manner appropriate for computer science majors.
This well-respected text offers an accessible introduction to functional programming concepts and techniques for students of mathematics and computer science. The treatment is as nontechnical as possible, assuming no prior knowledge of mathematics or functional programming. Numerous exercises appear throughout the text, and all problems feature complete solutions.
4. How to Design Programs (An Introduction to Computing and Programming)
This introduction to programming places computer science in the core of a liberal arts education. Unlike other introductory books, it focuses on the program design process. This approach fosters a variety of skills--critical reading, analytical thinking, creative synthesis, and attention to detail--that are important for everyone, not just future computer programmers.The book exposes readers to two fundamentally new ideas. First, it presents program design guidelines that show the reader how to analyze a problem statement; how to formulate concise goals; how to make up examples; how to develop an outline of the solution, based on the analysis; how to finish the program; and how to test. Each step produces a well-defined intermediate product. Second, the book comes with a novel programming environment, the first one explicitly designed for beginners.
Using a dialect of the Lisp programming language known as Scheme, the book explains core computer science concepts, including abstraction, recursion, interpreters and metalinguistic abstraction, and teaches modular programming. The program also introduces a practical implementation of the register machine concept, defining and developing an assembler for such a construct, which is used as a virtual machine for the implementation of interpreters and compilers in the book, and as a testbed for illustrating the implementation and effect of modifications to the evaluation mechanism. Working Scheme systems based on the design described in this book are quite common student projects.
Computer Science and Computation
One of the fundamental premises on LessWrong is that a universal computing device can simulate every physical process and that we therefore should be able to artificial general intelligence and reverse engineer the human brain as it is fundamentally computable. That is, intelligence and consciousness are substrate-neutral.
Mathematician Alan Turing invented an imaginary computer known as the Turing Machine; in an age before computers, he explored the concept of what it meant to be computable, creating the field of computability theory in the process, a foundation of present-day computer programming. The book expands Turing’s original 36-page paper with additional background chapters and extensive annotations; the author elaborates on and clarifies many of Turing’s statements, making the original difficult-to-read document accessible to present day programmers, computer science majors, math geeks, and others.
2. New Turing Omnibus (New Turning Omnibus : 66 Excursions in Computer Science)
This text provides a broad introduction to the realm of computers. Updated and expanded, "The New Turing Omnibus" offers 66 concise articles on the major points of interest in computer science theory, technology and applications. New for this edition are: updated information on algorithms, detecting primes, noncomputable functions, and self-replicating computers - plus completely new sections on the Mandelbrot set, genetic algorithms, the Newton-Raphson Method, neural networks that learn, DOS systems for personal computers, and computer viruses.
Udacity is a private educational organization founded by Sebastian Thrun, David Stavens, and Mike Sokolsky, with the stated goal of democratizing education It is the outgrowth of free computer science classes offered in 2011 through Stanford University. As of May 2012 Udacity has six active courses. The first two courses ever launched on Udacity both started on 20th February, 2012, entitled "CS 101: Building a Search Engine", taught by Dave Evans, from the University of Virginia, and "CS 373: Programming a Robotic Car" taught by Thrun. Both courses use Python.
A bold experiment in distributed education, "Introduction to Artificial Intelligence" will be offered free and online to students worldwide from October 10th to December 18th 2011. The course will include feedback on progress and a statement of accomplishment. Taught by Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig, the curriculum draws from that used in Stanford's introductory Artificial Intelligence course. The instructors will offer similar materials, assignments, and exams. Artificial Intelligence is the science of making computer software that reasons about the world around it. Humanoid robots, Google Goggles, self-driving cars, even software that suggests music you might like to hear are all examples of AI. In this class, you will learn how to create this software from two of the leaders in the field. Class begins October 10.
Computability and Logic has become a classic because of its accessibility to students without a mathematical background and because it covers not simply the staple topics of an intermediate logic course, such as Godel's incompleteness theorems, but also a large number of optional topics, from Turing's theory of computability to Ramsey's theorem. Including a selection of exercises, adjusted for this edition, at the end of each chapter, it offers a new and simpler treatment of the representability of recursive functions, a traditional stumbling block for students on the way to the Godel incompleteness theorems.
Supplementary Resources: Mathematics and Algorithms
This book introduces the mathematics that supports advanced computer programming and the analysis of algorithms. The primary aim of its well-known authors is to provide a solid and relevant base of mathematical skills - the skills needed to solve complex problems, to evaluate horrendous sums, and to discover subtle patterns in data. It is an indispensable text and reference not only for computer scientists - the authors themselves rely heavily on it! - but for serious users of mathematics in virtually every discipline.
The textbook Algorithms, 4th Edition by Robert Sedgewick and Kevin Wayne surveys the most important algorithms and data structures in use today.
Some books on algorithms are rigorous but incomplete; others cover masses of material but lack rigor. Introduction to Algorithms uniquely combines rigor and comprehensiveness. The book covers a broad range of algorithms in depth, yet makes their design and analysis accessible to all levels of readers. Each chapter is relatively self-contained and can be used as a unit of study. The algorithms are described in English and in a pseudocode designed to be readable by anyone who has done a little programming. The explanations have been kept elementary without sacrificing depth of coverage or mathematical rigor.
Project Euler is a series of challenging mathematical/computer programming problems that will require more than just mathematical insights to solve. Although mathematics will help you arrive at elegant and efficient methods, the use of a computer and programming skills will be required to solve most problems.
Python Challenge is a game in which each level can be solved by a bit of (Python) programming.
CodeChef is a global programming community. We host contests, trainings and events for programmers around the world. Our goal is to provide a platform for programmers everywhere to meet, compete, and have fun.
Now in the 5th edition, Cracking the Coding Interview gives you the interview preparation you need to get the top software developer jobs. This is a deeply technical book and focuses on the software engineering skills to ace your interview. The book is over 500 pages and includes 150 programming interview questions and answers, as well as other advice.
5. Write your own programs.
Some important programming languages are the high-level scripting language Python that incorporates various programming paradigms such as iterative and functional programming. The purely functional programming language Haskell, based on lambda calculus. The highly efficient low-level programming language C. The very expressive LISP family of languages, including Scheme. And the specialized R language for statistical computing and graphics.
pyscripter is an open-source Python Integrated Development Environment (IDE)
Khan Academy Introduction to programming and computer science (using Python)
“Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python” is a free book (as in, open source) and a free eBook (as in, no cost to download) that teaches you how to program in the Python programming language. Each chapter gives you the complete source code for a new game, and then teaches the programming concepts from the example. “Invent with Python” was written to be understandable by kids as young as 10 to 12 years old, although it is great for anyone of any age who has never programmed before.
Have you always wanted to learn how to code but never thought you could? Are you looking to build a foundation for more complex coding? Do you want to challenge your brain in a new way? Then Learn Python the Hard Way is the book for you.
Think Python is an introduction to Python programming for beginners. It starts with basic concepts of programming, and is carefully designed to define all terms when they are first used and to develop each new concept in a logical progression. Larger pieces, like recursion and object-oriented programming are divided into a sequence of smaller steps and introduced over the course of several chapters.
This book is suitable for use in a university-level first course in computing (CS1), as well as the increasingly popular course known as CS0. It is difficult for many students to master basic concepts in computer science and programming. A large portion of the confusion can be blamed on the complexity of the tools and materials that are traditionally used to teach CS1 and CS2. This textbook was written with a single overarching goal: to present the core concepts of computer science as simply as possible without being simplistic.
Computers are used in every part of science from ecology to particle physics. This introduction to computer science continually reinforces those ties by using real-world science problems as examples. Anyone who has taken a high school science class will be able to follow along as the book introduces the basics of programming, then goes on to show readers how to work with databases, download data from the web automatically, build graphical interfaces, and most importantly, how to think like a professional programmer.
The Quick Python Book, Second Edition, is a clear, concise introduction to Python 3, aimed at programmers new to Python. This updated edition includes all the changes in Python 3, itself a significant shift from earlier versions of Python. The book begins with basic but useful programs that teach the core features of syntax, control flow, and data structures. It then moves to larger applications involving code management, object-oriented programming, web development, and converting code from earlier versions of Python.
The book serves as a first introduction to computer programming of scientific applications, using the high-level Python language. The exposition is example- and problem-oriented, where the applications are taken from mathematics, numerical calculus, statistics, physics, biology, and finance. The book teaches "Matlab-style" and procedural programming as well as object-oriented programming. High school mathematics is a required background, and it is advantageous to study classical and numerical one-variable calculus in parallel with reading this book. Besides learning how to program computers, the reader will also learn how to solve mathematical problems, arising in various branches of science and engineering, with the aid of numerical methods and programming. By blending programming, mathematics and scientific applications, the book lays a solid foundation for practicing computational science.
The goal of this book is to teach computational scientists how to develop tailored, flexible, and human-efficient working environments built from small programs written in the easy-to-learn, high-level language Python. The focus is on examples and applications of relevance to computational scientists.
The full details of an industrial-strength spell corrector are quite complex. What I wanted to do here is to develop, in less than a page of code, a toy spelling corrector that achieves 80 or 90% accuracy at a processing speed of at least 10 words per second.
The Haskell Platform is the easiest way to get started with programming Haskell. It comes with all you need to get up and running. Think of it as "Haskell: batteries included".
This page will help you get started as quickly as possible.
Haskell is one of the leading languages for teaching functional programming, enabling students to write simpler and cleaner code, and to learn how to structure and reason about programs. This introduction is ideal for beginners: it requires no previous programming experience and all concepts are explained from first principles via carefully chosen examples. Each chapter includes exercises that range from the straightforward to extended projects, plus suggestions for further reading on more advanced topics. The author is a leading Haskell researcher and instructor, well-known for his teaching skills. The presentation is clear and simple, and benefits from having been refined and class-tested over several years. The result is a text that can be used with courses, or for self-learning. Features include freely accessible Powerpoint slides for each chapter, solutions to exercises and examination questions (with solutions) available to instructors, and a downloadable code that's fully compliant with the latest Haskell release.
Learn You a Haskell, the funkiest way to learn Haskell, which is the best functional programming language around. You may have heard of it. This guide is meant for people who have programmed already, but have yet to try functional programming.
This easy-to-use, fast-moving tutorial introduces you to functional programming with Haskell. You'll learn how to use Haskell in a variety of practical ways, from short scripts to large and demanding applications. Real World Haskell takes you through the basics of functional programming at a brisk pace, and then helps you increase your understanding of Haskell in real-world issues like I/O, performance, dealing with data, concurrency, and more as you move through each chapter.
The textbook by Doets and van Eijck puts the Haskell programming language systematically to work for presenting a major piece of logic and mathematics. The reader is taken through chapters on basic logic, proof recipes, sets and lists, relations and functions, recursion and co-recursion, the number systems, polynomials and power series, ending with Cantor's infinities. The book uses Haskell for the executable and strongly typed manifestation of various mathematical notions at the level of declarative programming. The book adopts a systematic but relaxed mathematical style (definition, example, exercise, ...); the text is very pleasant to read due to a small amount of anecdotal information, and due to the fact that definitions are fluently integrated in the running text. An important goal of the book is to get the reader acquainted with reasoning about programs.
GNU CLISP (compiler, runtime) is an implementation of the programming language Common Lisp. CLISP is extremely portable, running on almost all Unix-based operating systems as well as on Microsoft Windows.
Lisp has been hailed as the world's most powerful programming language, but its cryptic syntax and academic reputation can be enough to scare off even experienced programmers. Those dark days are finally over—Land of Lisp brings the power of functional programming to the people! With his brilliantly quirky comics and out-of-this-world games, longtime Lisper Conrad Barski teaches you the mysteries of Common Lisp. You'll start with the basics, like list manipulation, I/O, and recursion, then move on to more complex topics like macros, higher order programming, and domain-specific languages. Then, when your brain overheats, you can kick back with an action-packed comic book interlude!
Practical Common Lisp presents a thorough introduction to Common Lisp, providing you with an overall understanding of the language features and how they work. Over a third of the book is devoted to practical examples such as the core of a spam filter and a web application for browsing MP3s and streaming them via the Shoutcast protocol to any standard MP3 client software (e.g., iTunes, XMMS, or WinAmp). In other "practical" chapters, author Peter Seibel demonstrates how to build a simple but flexible in-memory database, how to parse binary files, and how to build a unit test framework in 26 lines of code.
Teaching users new and more powerful ways of thinking about programs, this two-in-one text contains a tutorial—full of examples—that explains all the essential concepts of Lisp programming, plus an up-to-date summary of ANSI Common Lisp, listing every operator in the language. Informative and fun, it gives users everything they need to start writing programs in Lisp both efficiently and effectively, and highlights such innovative Lisp features as automatic memory management, manifest typing, closures, and more. Dividing material into two parts, the tutorial half of the book covers subject-by-subject the essential core of Common Lisp, and sums up lessons of preceding chapters in two examples of real applications: a backward-chainer, and an embedded language for object-oriented programming. Consisting of three appendices, the summary half of the book gives source code for a selection of widely used Common Lisp operators, with definitions that offer a comprehensive explanation of the language and provide a rich source of real examples; summarizes some differences between ANSI Common Lisp and Common Lisp as it was originally defined in 1984; and contains a concise description of every function, macro, and special operator in ANSI Common Lisp. The book concludes with a section of notes containing clarifications, references, and additional code.
Paradigms of AI Programming is the first text to teach advanced Common Lisp techniques in the context of building major AI systems. By reconstructing authentic, complex AI programs using state-of-the-art Common Lisp, the book teaches students and professionals how to build and debug robust practical programs, while demonstrating superior programming style and important AI concepts. The author strongly emphasizes the practical performance issues involved in writing real working programs of significant size. Chapters on troubleshooting and efficiency are included, along with a discussion of the fundamentals of object-oriented programming and a description of the main CLOS functions. This volume is an excellent text for a course on AI programming, a useful supplement for general AI courses and an indispensable reference for the professional programmer.
Let Over Lambda is one of the most hardcore computer programming books out there. Starting with the fundamentals, it describes the most advanced features of the most advanced language: COMMON LISP. The point of this book is to expose you to ideas that you might otherwise never be exposed to.
These are Maxwell’s equations. Just four compact equations. With a little work it’s easy to understand the basic elements of the equations – what all the symbols mean, how we can compute all the relevant quantities, and so on. But while it’s easy to understand the elements of the equations, understanding all their consequences is another matter. Inside these equations is all of electromagnetism – everything from antennas to motors to circuits. If you think you understand the consequences of these four equations, then you may leave the room now, and you can come back and ace the exam at the end of semester
I won’t stop with just showing you how to write some Lisp. Once we’ve done that we’re going to write an interpreter for Lisp code. In particular, we’ll create a interpreter based on a beautiful Lisp interpreter written by Peter Norvig, which contains just 90 lines of Python code. Our interpreter will be a little more complex, due mostly to the addition of a few conveniences absent from Norvig’s interpreter. The code is still simple and easy to understand, provided you’re comfortable reading Python code. As we’ll see, the benefit of writing the interpreter is not just that it gives us a running interpreter (although that’s no small thing). It’s that writing an interpreter also deepens our understanding of Lisp. It does that by taking what would otherwise be some rather abstract concepts in our description of Lisp, and giving them concrete, tangible representations in terms of Python code and data structures. By making concrete what was formerly abstract, the code for our Lisp interpreter gives us a new way of understanding how Lisp works.
To get started coding Scheme install Racket and select R5RS and R6RS (the standard dialects of Scheme).
The Little Schemer introduces computing as an extension of arithmetic and algebra ;things that everyone studies in grade school and high school. It introduces programs as recursive functions and briefly discusses the limits of what computers can do. The authors use the programming language Scheme, and interesting foods to illustrate these abstract ideas.
Scheme is a general-purpose programming language, descended from Algol and Lisp, widely used in computing education and research and a broad range of industrial applications. This thoroughly updated edition of The Scheme Programming Language provides an introduction to Scheme and a definitive reference for standard Scheme, presented in a clear and concise manner. Written for professionals and students with some prior programming experience, it begins by leading the programmer gently through the basics of Scheme and continues with an introduction to some of the more advanced features of the language.
RStudio is a free and open source integrated development environment (IDE) for R. You can run it on your desktop (Windows, Mac, or Linux) or even over the web using RStudio Server.
Here is a list of FREE R tutorials hosted in official website of universities around the world.
Here you will find daily news and tutorials about R, contributed by over 300 bloggers.
R is the world's most popular language for developing statistical software: Archaeologists use it to track the spread of ancient civilizations, drug companies use it to discover which medications are safe and effective, and actuaries use it to assess financial risks and keep economies running smoothly. The Art of R Programming takes you on a guided tour of software development with R, from basic types and data structures to advanced topics like closures, recursion, and anonymous functions. No statistical knowledge is required, and your programming skills can range from hobbyist to pro. Along the way, you'll learn about functional and object-oriented programming, running mathematical simulations, and rearranging complex data into simpler, more useful formats.
The target audience for this book is college students who are required to learn statistics, students with little background in mathematics and often no motivation to learn more.
There is an explosion of interest in Bayesian statistics, primarily because recently created computational methods have finally made Bayesian analysis obtainable to a wide audience. Doing Bayesian Data Analysis, A Tutorial Introduction with R and BUGS provides an accessible approach to Bayesian data analysis, as material is explained clearly with concrete examples. The book begins with the basics, including essential concepts of probability and random sampling, and gradually progresses to advanced hierarchical modeling methods for realistic data. The text delivers comprehensive coverage of all scenarios addressed by non-Bayesian textbooks--t-tests, analysis of variance (ANOVA) and comparisons in ANOVA, multiple regression, and chi-square (contingency table analysis). This book is intended for first year graduate students or advanced undergraduates. It provides a bridge between undergraduate training and modern Bayesian methods for data analysis, which is becoming the accepted research standard. Prerequisite is knowledge of algebra and basic calculus. Free software now includes programs in JAGS, which runs on Macintosh, Linux, and Windows.
Code::Blocks, a free C/C++ IDE (Integrated development environment) bundled with a MinGW compiler to produce Windows programs.
1. Head First C
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