Monday, November 24, 2008

Dr. Dobb's Journal CD, for the really nerdy "Old School" Dot Netters

I remember way back when I was just starting my computer science education. I would get the latest edition of Dr. Dobb's Journal, first at the news stand then later in the mail, and I would read it from cover to cover. Not that I understood a lot of what I was reading, but I realized that this was information that I would someday need to know.

My freshman level language was Pascal and I had not gotten to learning about pointers yet. Even though the published source code was in C, just reading the descriptions of the various algorithms that Dr. Dobb's Journal published helped my understanding of how complex data structures were built.

As I went from Computer Science class to Computer Science class I kept using my back issues as reference material. In a way, Dr. Dobb's Journal was, for me, the equivalent of Computer Science version of Scientific American. Well, like they say, three moves is the same as a fire, and I've moved may more times than three, so I have no idea where all my old DDJ's are or if I even still own them.

One day though, I got a letter asking me to re-subscribe, with the offer of all the issues from January 1988 through December 2000 on CD. Well that was just too good to pass up! I re-subscribed, got my CD and stashed it away.

Well, when Dot Net came out it had all those nifty System.Collection classes. Without any work I had a Stack, a Queue, a Hashtable and an ArrayList that was kinda like a cross between a linked list and an array. What need did I have for any of those "roll your own" abstract data types?

Live and learn I guess, but not all Stacks, etc, are built alike. The Dot Net version is array based. Now, I'm not saying that that is bad, just that it is not pointer (or Object Reference) based so it has different characteristics. Plus, where is my binary tree or red-black tree or skip list? How about a nice graph?

Well, out comes the CD. A quick search and I've got a nice bit of source code to start a C# version of a skip list.

Truth be told, for a complete toolbox for Dot Net and C# specifically, the System.Collection namespace should contain abstract data types based on (When Possible):

  • An Object based Array Implementation
  • A Generic Array Implementation
  • A Object based Object Reference Implementation
  • A Generic Object Reference Implementation
  • A Object based Pointer (unsafe) Implementation
  • A Generic Pointer (unsafe) Implementation

    Since they all have different performance, security and memory concerns.

    Maybe, someday, with the help of my trusty DDJ CD I'll even get around to coding all those ADT's!
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