Donald Knut: “Our elders played tennis, we were balls. They beat us, it hurt. "(11,12 / 97)

Original author: Donald Knuth
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We continue to publish a translation of a series of autobiographical stories by Donald Knut.

11. Management of a basketball team

As I recall, that year I tried this for the first time, and I don’t remember exactly how long the experiment was going on, but they called it the Section of Honor, and this meant that 20 of us would just go to class together, while other students would attend classes apart. I doubt that other students spent Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday just like us. In addition, I think that maybe we were a little more strained than all the other students. Nevertheless, I had time to work on the school newspaper and to join the fraternity, which at that time was one of the important moments connected with entering the University of Keys. Most of the fun on campus was centered around fraternity, and so, as a freshman, I also joined the fraternity. So, in the first year, in the spring my article appeared in Mad Magazine. Later, I became the editor of a journal that we founded at the university under the title “Reviews of Engineering and Science”, in which we wrote on various scientific topics. I wrote an article about the Potrzebie system for this magazine.

I was the leader of the basketball team at the University of Keys, and I’ll tell you a little about this, because later, after I got into the field of computers, I used the experience of managing a basketball team. Therefore, I developed a strange formula in which I no longer believe, but, anyway, I used it to calculate the real contribution of each basketball player to the game. Not only the points he earned, but really any contribution. For example, if during a basketball game you had a ball in your hands, it costs something.

In fact, if while watching a basketball game you add one point to the score of the team that has the ball, this will give a more accurate idea of ​​what the real score of the game is. So possession of the ball is maybe one point. You can count it after the game; ask yourself a question, but really, how many times when you held the ball, did you make passes or let go of the ball, and how many points did you actually get during this time?

And so you can understand that your game was worth only seven-tenths of a point or something like that. But in any case, possession of the ball is worth something. Therefore, if you release the ball from your hands, then you have deprived your team of one point or, possibly, seven-tenths points. So this is a minus for you. If you intercepted the ball, if you returned the ball after you lost, you add points; your team takes possession of the ball, so you get approval for intercepting the ball.

If you throw the ball into the basket (then you could only get two points, in those days there were no three-point shots), then you get two points. But because of this, your team transfers the ball to the other team, so in fact you did not win two points for your team when you threw the ball. You have earned two points, but you have to take into account that your team now has to try again to take possession of the ball.

As a result, according to my formula, the total deposits of all players will be equal to the account with which our team will win or lose. But it will be evaluated if someone makes a punch and misses or ricoche the ball, so I deducted a little for the misses. So I collected a huge amount of statistics for each player. I had an observer who watched the game and shouted to me when something important happened, and I wrote it down, every little thing. After the game, I went and punched the cards that wrote down all these statistics and loaded them into a small computer program that calculated the formula and compiled a list for each player, in which their real contribution to the game was recorded, not just their goals and all of them. traditional statistics.

Keysovsky's coach, Nip Heim, liked this system, and he published these statistics, and the News Service of the University of Keysov always succeeded in trying to print interesting stories in a local newspaper. So the journalists were told about this formula, and IBM heard about it. Therefore, IBM sent an operator - a film crew - to make a film about how I estimate the game, and our case team plays basketball, of course, and so on. And then I punched the cards and put them in the IBM computer. Before taking a snapshot of the IBM computer, they put a large, huge IBM sign on the device so that no one could not miss it.

Then I press the buttons on the console, and the numbers are displayed, they are printed on the IBM printer, and then the trainer looks at it and publishes it. So it was a small film in which I starred, about two or three minutes. IBM sent the film to CBS, and they showed it on Sunday Night's News with Walter Cronkite, and all of my relatives in Florida saw me on TV. It was very exciting.

Also in the US News and World Report magazine they published a story about this, and this became my connection between computers and sports when I was studying at the University of Case. It was also a smart way for IBM to advertise, rather intrusive, but fun. It was then that I realized for the first time how hard it was to be a movie star, because I had to participate in the same scenes six times, perforate these cards again and again. I do not understand how Audrey Hepburn managed to look so good after the sixth take.

12. Brotherhood

At the University of Keys, I was in the fraternity. Before that, I spoke with several graduates (or students) at the University of Case at Milwaukee, and they said, “Oh, Don, fraternity is very important. You should take this very seriously when you go there. ”

In general, the customs of fraternity were then slightly different than they are now. This, of course, had its pluses and minuses, but it was precisely around the brotherhood that my life revolved around Keys. Probably, because after the end of the first year I lived with my comrades from the brotherhood in the house where the brotherhood was located.

Although first of all I went through what we called Hell Week - through the “test”. Within 7 days all of us, in order to earn the right to become full members of the fraternity, submitted to all the other members of the fraternity. They punished us, prevented us from sleeping, forced us to clean up the house of the brotherhood. It was then that I learned about ammonia and how to paint, clean the walls, how to repair the roof, and similar things. In addition, our senior comrades played tennis (we were balls): they beat us, it was painful - they thought out different ways in order to hammer into us the understanding that they had power, and we were nobody.

Now it is illegal, but I can say that for me it was something of a young fighter’s course, and I, as you know, never served. And you know what? I really matured this week. After that week I became so sure of myself as never before, so I can’t say that I don’t want my son to go through the same thing. I don’t think he ever went through this, and it seems surprising to me.

Anyway, it was part of the ritual of entering into fraternity. I have a picture of myself that the seniors took at the end of that week. I am unshaven and look as if I had been beaten, but still I understood that I had passed through a test that was serious. I wonder how you can pass on this experience to people in such a way that it is legal and people do not sue as they are doing now.

The post was written with the support of the EDISON Software company, which fights for the honor of Russian programmers and shares in detail their experience in developing complex software products .

Still

List of 97 videos with stories of Donald Knuth

1. Family history
2. Learning to read and school
3. My mother
4. My parents' finances
5. Interests in high school
6. Being a nerd of nerds at high school
7. My sense of humor
8. The Potrzebie System of Weights and Measures
9. Feeling the need to prove myself
10. Почему я выбрал Технологический Институт Кейс
11. University life: my basketball management system
12. University life: the fraternity system
13. Meeting my wife Jill
14. Bible study at university and a time of personal challenge
15. Extra-curricular activities at Case
16. Taking graduate classes at Case
17. Physics, welding, astronomy and mathematics
18. My maths teacher at Case and a difficult problem
19. My interest in graphs and my first experience of a computer
20. How I got interested in programming
21. Learning how to program on the IBM 650
22. Writing a tic-tac-toe program
23. Learning about Symbolic Optimum Assembly programs
24. The Internal Translator
25. Adding more features to RUNCIBLE
26. Wanting to be a teacher and why I chose to go to Caltech
27. Writing a compiler for the Burroughs Corporation
28. Working for the Burroughs Corporation
29. Burroughs Corporation
30. My interest in context-free languages
31. Getting my PhD and the problem of symmetric block designs with…
32. Finding a solution to an open problem about projective planes
33. Inception of The Art of Computer Programming
34. 1967: a turbulent year
35. Work on attribute grammars and the Knuth-Bendix Algorithm
36. Being creative in the forest
37. A new field: analysis of algorithms
38. The Art of Computer Programming: underestimating the size of the...
39. The successful first release of The Art of Computer Programming
40. Inspiration to write Surreal Numbers
41. Writing Surreal Numbers in a hotel room in Oslo
42. Finishing the Surreal Numbers
43. The emergence of computer science as an academic subject
44. I want to do computer science instead of arguing for it
45. A year doing National Service in Princeton
46. Moving to Stanford and wondering whether I'd made the right choice
47. Designing the house in Stanford
48. Volume Three of The Art of Computer Programming
49. Working on Volume Four of The Art of Computer Programming
50. Poor quality typesetting on the second edition of my book
51. Deciding to make my own typesetting program
52. Working on my typesetting program
53. Mathematical formula for letter shapes
54. Research into the history of typography
55. Working on my letters and problems with the S
56. Figuring out how to typeset and the problem with specifications
57. Working on TeX
58. Why the designer and the implementer of a program should be the…
59. Converting Volume Two to TeX
60. Writing a users' manual for TeX
61. Giving the Gibbs lecture on my typography work
62. Developing Metafont and TeX
63. Why I chose not to retain any rights to TeX and transcribed it to…
64. Tuning up my fonts and getting funding for TeX
65. Problems with Volume Two
66. Literate programming
67. Re-writing TeX using the feedback I received
68. The importance of stability for TeX
69. LaTeX and ConTeXt
70. A summary of the TeX project
71. A year in Boston
72. Writing a book about the Bible
73. The most beautiful 3:16 in the world
74. Chess master playing at Adobe Systems
75. Giving a lecture series on science and religion at MIT
76. Back to work at Stanford and taking early retirement
77. Taking up swimming to help me cope with stress
78. My graduate students and my 64th birthday
79. My class on Concrete Mathematics
80. Writing a book on my Concrete Mathematics class
81. Updating Volumes One to Three of The Art of Computer Programming
82. Getting started on Volume Four of «The Art of Computer...
83. Two final major research projects
84. My love of writing and a lucky life
85. Coping with cancer
86. Honorary doctorates
87. The importance of awards and the Kyoto Prize
88. Pipe organ music is one of the great pleasures of life
89. The pipe organ in my living room
90. Playing the organs
91. An international symposium on algorithms in the Soviet Union
92. The Knuth-Morris-Pratt algorithm
93. My advice to young people
94. My children: John
95. My children: Jenny
96. Working on a series of books of my collected papers
97. Why I chose analysis of algorithms as a subject