Bruce Shields for copy editing early drafts, Sarah Hegge, Steven Cherry, Sarah Kathleen Barbarow, Andrea Parker, Radaphat Chongthammakun, Megan Hixon, Kirby Urner, Sarah Kathleen Barbrow, Katie Kujala, Noah Botimer, Emily Alinder, Mark Thompson-Kular, James Perry, Eric Hofer, Eytan Adar, Peter Robinson, Deborah J. Nelson, Jonathan C. Anthony, Eden Rassette, Jeannette Schroeder, Justin Feezell, Chuanqi Li, Gerald Gordinier, Gavin Thomas Strassel, Ryan Clement, Alissa Talley, Caitlin Holman, Yong-Mi Kim, Karen Stover, Cherie Edmonds, Maria Seiferle, Romer Kristi D. Aranas (RK), Grant Boyer, Hedemarrie Dussan,
(Allen B. Downey)
In January 1999 I was preparing to teach an introductory programming class in Java. I had taught it three times and I was getting frustrated. The failure rate in the class was too high and, even for students who succeeded, the overall level of achievement was too low.
One of the problems I saw was the books. They were too big, with too much unnecessary detail about Java, and not enough high-level guidance about how to program. And they all suffered from the trap door effect: they would start out easy, proceed gradually, and then somewhere around Chapter 5 the bottom would fall out. The students would get too much new material, too fast, and I would spend the rest of the semester picking up the pieces.
Two weeks before the first day of classes, I decided to write my own book. My goals were:
I needed a title, so on a whim I chose How to Think Like a Computer Scientist.
My first version was rough, but it worked. Students did the reading, and they understood enough that I could spend class time on the hard topics, the interesting topics and (most important) letting the students practice.
I released the book under the GNU Free Documentation License, which allows users to copy, modify, and distribute the book.
What happened next is the cool part. Jeff Elkner, a high school teacher in Virginia, adopted my book and translated it into Python. He sent me a copy of his translation, and I had the unusual experience of learning Python by reading my own book.
Jeff and I revised the book, incorporated a case study by Chris Meyers, and in 2001 we released How to Think Like a Computer Scientist: Learning with Python, also under the GNU Free Documentation License. As Green Tea Press, I published the book and started selling hard copies through Amazon.com and college book stores. Other books from Green Tea Press are available at greenteapress.com.
In 2003 I started teaching at Olin College and I got to teach Python for the first time. The contrast with Java was striking. Students struggled less, learned more, worked on more interesting projects, and generally had a lot more fun.
Over the last five years I have continued to develop the book, correcting errors, improving some of the examples and adding material, especially exercises. In 2008 I started work on a major revision—at the same time, I was contacted by an editor at Cambridge University Press who was interested in publishing the next edition. Good timing!
I hope you enjoy working with this book, and that it helps you learn to program and think, at least a little bit, like a computer scientist.
(Allen B. Downey)
First and most importantly, I thank Jeff Elkner, who translated my Java book into Python, which got this project started and introduced me to what has turned out to be my favorite language.
I also thank Chris Meyers, who contributed several sections to How to Think Like a Computer Scientist.
And I thank the Free Software Foundation for developing the GNU Free Documentation License, which helped make my collaboration with Jeff and Chris possible.
I also thank the editors at Lulu who worked on How to Think Like a Computer Scientist.
I thank all the students who worked with earlier versions of this book and all the contributors (listed in an Appendix) who sent in corrections and suggestions.
And I thank my wife, Lisa, for her work on this book, and Green Tea Press, and everything else, too.
Allen B. Downey
Allen Downey is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering.
(Allen B. Downey)
More than 100 sharp-eyed and thoughtful readers have sent in suggestions and corrections over the past few years. Their contributions, and enthusiasm for this project, have been a huge help.
For the detail on the nature of each of the contributions from these individuals, see the “Think Python” text.
Lloyd Hugh Allen, Yvon Boulianne, Fred Bremmer, Jonah Cohen, Michael Conlon, Benoit Girard, Courtney Gleason and Katherine Smith, Lee Harr, James Kaylin, David Kershaw, Eddie Lam, Man-Yong Lee, David Mayo, Chris McAloon, Matthew J. Moelter, Simon Dicon Montford, John Ouzts, Kevin Parks, David Pool, Michael Schmitt, Robin Shaw, Paul Sleigh, Craig T. Snydal, Ian Thomas, Keith Verheyden, Peter Winstanley, Chris Wrobel, Moshe Zadka, Christoph Zwerschke, James Mayer, Hayden McAfee, Angel Arnal, Tauhidul Hoque and Lex Berezhny, Dr. Michele Alzetta, Andy Mitchell, Kalin Harvey, Christopher P. Smith, David Hutchins, Gregor Lingl, Julie Peters, Florin Oprina, D. J. Webre, Ken, Ivo Wever, Curtis Yanko, Ben Logan, Jason Armstrong, Louis Cordier, Brian Cain, Rob Black, Jean-Philippe Rey at Ecole Centrale Paris, Jason Mader at George Washington University made a number Jan Gundtofte-Bruun, Abel David and Alexis Dinno, Charles Thayer, Roger Sperberg, Sam Bull, Andrew Cheung, C. Corey Capel, Alessandra, Wim Champagne, Douglas Wright, Jared Spindor, Lin Peiheng, Ray Hagtvedt, Torsten Hübsch, Inga Petuhhov, Arne Babenhauserheide, Mark E. Casida, Scott Tyler, Gordon Shephard, Andrew Turner, Adam Hobart, Daryl Hammond and Sarah Zimmerman, George Sass, Brian Bingham, Leah Engelbert-Fenton, Joe Funke, Chao-chao Chen, Jeff Paine, Lubos Pintes, Gregg Lind and Abigail Heithoff, Max Hailperin, Chotipat Pornavalai, Stanislaw Antol, Eric Pashman, Miguel Azevedo, Jianhua Liu, Nick King, Martin Zuther, Adam Zimmerman, Ratnakar Tiwari, Anurag Goel, Kelli Kratzer, Mark Griffiths, Roydan Ongie, Patryk Wolowiec, Mark Chonofsky, Russell Coleman, Wei Huang, Karen Barber, Nam Nguyen, Stéphane Morin, and Paul Stoop.