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Chapter 7. Sorting, Finding, and Filteri... > In the Real World—Computer-Based Sor...

In the Real World—Computer-Based Sorting and Searching

Donald E. Knuth's Sorting and Searching, volume 3 of his The Art of Computer Programming series, is the seminal work on computer algorithms (programs) to perform sorts and searches. Dr. Knuth is Professor Emeritus of The Art of Computer Programming at Stanford University. Addison-Wesley published the first edition of Sorting and Searching in 1973. There's a good probability that every student who was granted a computer science degree during and after the mid-1970s has a well-worn copy of Knuth's classic text. Knuth updated Sorting and Searching with a second edition in mid-1998; the book remains required reading for assembly-language programmers, but you need a good foundation in combinatorial mathematics and set theory to fully understand the contents.

The Influence of Computer Power on Knuth's Approach

As Knuth points out in the first page of the chapter on sorting, a better term to describe the process is “ordering.” (The 724-page book has only two chapters: Chapter 6, “Sorting,” and Chapter 7, “Searching.”.) Structured Query Language (SQL) takes Knuth's advice and uses ORDER BY clauses to define sort sequences. One of the dictionary definitions of the verb “to sort” is “to arrange according to characteristics,” and the definition of “order” includes “arrange” as a synonym.


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