One the aspect I like the most about this man is how approachable and down to earth he still is after all these years. I'll give one example. Late on night, my friends were in the basement of the Gates building at Stanford working on their CS107 Heap Allocator project. Lo and behold, Donald Knuth walks by and sees them drawing all sorts of things on the white board in the hallway. "What's that?" he asks, to which my friend responds about the heap allocator project. "Oh, I know a thing or two about heap allocators; let me guide you" :)
btw, "Lo and Behold (Reveries of the Connected World)" is the name of a documentary by Werner Herzog about the history of the Internet. "LO" was the first text sent on UCLA's Internet test. They probably intended to enter "LOGIN" but the network crashed. :)
>> was Steve Jobs known for fabrications? ... known to say outrageous falsehoods?
Just off the top of my head... He lied to Woz about being paid to develop break out and stole money from him to go to India; He presented essentially a block of wood as the finished, functioning iPhone in 2008-ish; oh, and he denied paternity of his daughter Lisa as in "I am not the father" even after a paternity test. The last one seems pretty outrageous.
I'm not convinced he viewed himself as outright lying; He probably had seen Knuth's books and in his brain that meant he had read and understood them in their entirety.
So maybe don't be so quick to dismiss this as junk. It's a pretty innocuous example but completely inline with his behavior.
I first met Prof. Knuth at a conference in 1995 where James Gosling and I gave a talk about Java, and at the same conference I told folks that I was leaving Sun and joining a startup.
Three years later, while talking to Don at a picnic, he said, "When I first met you I couldn't tell if you were really smart or really stupid." :-) He thought that being part of the original Java team would be the most exiting place to be. Then a couple of years later (2001, post dot com crash) he told me he had decided I had made a pretty smart choice, all things considered. That was a good day.
There are many more important things about Knuth and his work, but one of my favorite stories about him is that he showed up at Randall Munroe's Google tech talk , and, during Q&A, asked Munroe "Have you thought about animated cartoons?" and "What is your n log n algorithm for searching?"
I have a special respect for people who are both brilliant and humble, and Knuth is my poster person for that.
I have two (weak) connections to folks connected to Knuth. The first is in the bibliography for a paper he wrote in High School--check out Fibonacci Nim. I got to work with the author of the paper for a number of years. Exceedingly bright.
The other was a key part of the MWC story. Bob called up Knuth asking if he knew of any bright programmers and Steve had been a masters student of Knuth's.
I have read parts of TAOCP vol 2 and the TeXBook. His attention to detail inspires me. I have found that whenever I pay close attention and immerse myself in details of a paper, shutting off my computer, it is very relaxing.
I remember working in an Internet cafe and in the evenings out of boredom would read Knuth. I used to visit uni libraries and hunker down with TAOCP for a few hours until cramp, physical and mental, became too painful. Oh my golly what a privilege.
These are the tablets of our age. You'll note these tomes are granted the only definite article in English.
But mainly the thoroughness. Every path is an avenue of thought in this vast mapping of computation. It's always graceful, terse, and full of pleasure. The guy can carve candyfloss with a jackhammer and weave a mountain out spider's web.
Gates famously said anyone who'd read the books would get an interview. Yeah! "So what about ..., pretty lovely eh?"
And he's still going strong. A true hero.
I wonder what he thinks about HOTT... any clues? A quick ddg didn't show anything :(