Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs

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Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (SICP) is a textbook published in 1985 about general computer programming concepts from MIT Press written by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professors Harold Abelson and Gerald Jay Sussman, with Julie Sussman. It was used as the textbook of MIT's old introductory programming class 6.001 (this class has been replaced by 6.01, which uses Python.[1]), and at other schools. The second edition (ISBN 0-262-51087-1) appeared in 1996. Widely considered a classic text in computer science, it is also known as the Wizard Book (there is a wizard on the cover), and less commonly, the Purple Book.

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.

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.


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SICP has been influential in computer science education, and a number of later books have been inspired by its style.

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  1. ^ "I talked to Professor Sussman on the phone ... He said that he'd actually been trying to have 6.001 replaced for the last ten years (and I read somewhere that Professor Abelson was behind the move too). Understanding the principles is not essential for an introduction to the subject matter anymore. He sees 6.001 as obsolete." From MIT Admissions Blog, 'The End of an Era', retrieved 2008-08-05

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