Donald Knuth must Pay / the 7 missing checks
Donald Knuth, known for creating the text compiler TeX and writing the programming bibles `The Art of Computer Programming` is also legendary for writing reward checks to readers who found errors in his books. Seven of them are still untraceable although he has checks ready for them. Weblogger Jelle starts a web 2.0 initiative to find them.
Edward de Leau
I received an e-mail from weblogger Jelle, who was a former class-mate during my university years. He had an interesting idea. We all know Donald Knuth as one of the living legends in the IT world. He not only created the text language and compiler that is required at many universities and publishers to deliver books and papers but he also wrote “The Art of Computer Programming“, a series of books which pretty much summarizes all essential information for programmers to know.
One of the legends surrounding these books is the reward Donald Knuth offers for finding each and every mistake in one of this books. He has send out many checks but unfortunately 7 checks could not be delivered because all snail mail information was lost. The seven persons who “are lost” are the following, according to this website:
- Du Xiao Wei, wrote from Shanghai on June 10, 1982
- Dag Mellgrin, wrote on International Herald Tribune stationery in 1984
- “Mustafa” (once was email@example.com) found an error in the METAFONTbook
- Ralf Roth (once was rroth@Informatik-Uni-Bremen.de), found two real bugs in TeX
- Shlomo Varsano, wrote from Los Angeles in 1984 (see comments)
- Janet K. Webb, wrote from TVOntario in 1983
- Midori ***, wrote from Severn, Maryland, in 1984
Jelle makes an interesting observation: now that the web 2.0 era has started and many many people are online in all kinds of social networks it must be much easier to actually tracks these people down and forward Donald Knuth their addresses (note that he does not read e-mail!). I thought this was a superb idea and I also thought this can only work if it is somehow viral.
So Jelle (and me) would like to call upon anyone reading this to make your own blogpostings about the 7 missing checks and/or forward this message in your own social networks so we can track these 7 persons down. For all I know this should be a simple thing to achieve in this social web era. Let me know if you find someone and you will become a web 2.0 hero!
update: one person found !!!! 1 down 6 to go!!!
update 2: midori found (see comments), 5 to go!
update 3: I noticed Knuth removed Mustafa and Ralf Roth so I assume that they have been found since posting this, I hope because of this viral Internet effort, 3 to go!
update 4: Janet was crossed off the list
update 5: Schlomo comments that he has contacted Knuth, he is still on the website of Knuth so I will wait until he is crossed from that spot but as far as I can see…….. only 1 to go!!!!