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Computer Algorithms

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Computer Algorithms, 9780716783169 (0716783169), W. H. Freeman, 1997

If wo try to identify those contributions of computer science which will be long lasting, surely one of these will be the refinement of the concept called algorithm. Ever since man invented the idea of a machine which could per form basic mathematical operations, the study of what can be computed and how it can be done well was launched. This study, inspired by the computer, has led to the discovery of many important algorithms and design methods. The discipline called computer science has embraced the study of algorithms as its own. It is the purpose of this book to organize what is known about them in a coherent fashion so that students and practitioners can learn to devise and analyze new algorithms for themselves.

A book which contains every algorithm ever invented would be exceed ingly large. Traditionally, algorithms books proceeded by examining only a small number of problem areas in depth. For each specific problem the most efficient algorithm for its solution is usually presented and analyzed. This approach has one major Haw. Though the student sees many fast algorithms and may master the tools of analysis, she/he remains unconfident about how to devise good algorithms in the first place.

The missing ingredient is a lack of emphasis on design techniques. A knowledge of design will certainly help one to create good algorithms, yet without the tools of analysis there is no way to determine the quality of the result. This observation that design should be taught on a par with analysis led us to a more promising line of approach: namely to organize this book around some fundmental strategies of algorithm design. The number of ba sic design strategies is reasonably small. Moreover all of the algorithms one would typically wish to study can easily be fit into these categories; for exam ple, mergesort and quicksort are perfect examples of the divide-and-conqucr strategy while KruskaPs minimum spanning tree algorithm and Dijkstra's single source shortest path algorithm are straight forward examples of the greedy strategy. An understanding of these strategies is an essential first step towards acquiring the skills of design.

Though we strongly feel that the emphasis on design as well as analysis is the appropriate way to organize the study of algorithms, a cautionary remark is in order. First, we have not included every known design principle.

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