Sunday, November 06, 2005


CACM Algorithms (Wegstein)

I'm an avid read of the column The Business of Software that appears in the Communications of the ACM, and was searching the ACM digital library for further articles written by Phil Armour. Whilst doing this, I stumbled across the Algorithms editorial department in early volumes of the Communications of the ACM. Each column contains 'procedures and programs in the ALGOL language', and was edited by J. H. Wegstein of the Computation Laboratory in the National Bureau of Standards.

The first column appeared in Volume 3, Issue 2, and discussed:

  1. Quad1 by R. J. Herbold
  2. Rootfinder by J. Wegstein
  3. Solution of polynomial equation by Bairstow-Hitchcock by A. A. Grau

The column that I first stumbled across was in Volume 6, Issue 3, and contained a collection of algorithms contributed by Charles J. Mifsud, of the Armour (...ain't keyword matching great!) Research Foundation:

  1. Algorithm 154: Combination in lexicographical order
  2. Algorithm 155: Combination in any order
  3. Algorithm 156: Algebra of sets
  4. Algorithm 157: Fourier Series Approximation

The same column contained a revision of Algorithm 134 (exponentiation of series) by Henry Fettis, Algorithm 159 (determinant) by David Digby, a certification of Algorithm 79 (difference expression coefficients) by Eva Clark, etc... As you can see, the column discussed a wide range of algorithms, and at times, seems to have triggered spirited debate over correctness and the best implementation. Computing really hasn't changed that much in the last 40 years, but now rather than debating the finer points of code, we debate the finer points of software process!

It would be rather fun to dig up all of the columns, and rewrite the algorithms in Python (or some other modern language that is easily accessible). Maybe once I've retired :-)

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