80-Bus News


July–August 1983, Volume 2, Issue 4

Page 41 of 55


by R. O’Farrell

S. Monger’s report in 80-BUS News Vol.2 Iss.2 that I had been sighted in Amersham etc. for some reason reminds me of Moby Dick (cries of ‘Thar she blows’ and suitable whale music in the background).

Wonder was expressed that I did not appear to be carrying any books. Obviously Mr. Monger did not look inside the boot of my Volvo. Therein he would have found much that might surprise him, as this trip my bookbuying was conducted for the most part in the bookshops of the V&A and the BM, with digressions through bookshops in Canterbury and Winchester. There were few books of computer interest that took my attention.

In these notes, it is not my intention to produce the detailed, scholarly and exhaustive review proper to a learned Journal – nor could I do so anyway! Equally, I do not wish to adopt the cheap journalistic approach and seize on some small error or trivial slip, which is blown up out of all proportion, for the agrandisement of the reviewers reputation. My notes – and I do not claim them to be more than that – are personal and subjective comments, which I hope will be of use to others in drawing their attention to a particular publication. In the last analysis, you are the person who puts your hand in your pocket to buy the book, so the final decision must be yours. It is regretable that books are now so expensive. At a certain stage in any field, one reaches the situation where most books are going over and over the same ground. Sometimes a book will take a new and interesting path through this ground, reflecting keen insights on the part of author. More usually, a book will only contribute one new idea. If that idea or piece of information debugs a program or gives one the clue to how to approach a problem, is it not worth it?

Cogniscant of the feeling among some 80-BUS readers that there is too much written in the 80-BUS News about a certain operating system, I will start with some other books. Recently in a bookshop in Dublin, I espied a book on the “These books are slightly shopsoiled and need a good home” table. This was:

Computer methods for Science and Engineering, by Robert LaFara, published 1973 by Hayden, (U.S.A.) distrib. John Wiley.

This book is priced about £10, I think, but as I was giving it a good home, I didn’t pay that for it!. It is a work using FOR­TRAN and flow charts to discuss the problems of numerical methods in computing. It deals with Interpolation, Taylor’s Series, finding roots of an equation by a number of methods, solution of simultaneous equations by matrix methods, curve fitting, differentiation and integration, and smoothing methods. He suggests that readers would need mathematics through calculus. I agree – after a lapse of nearly twenty years I had forgotten how calculus makes one’s head ACHE! In small quantities, it is a useful book to dip into for reference, the FOR­TRAN examples translating very readily into BASIC or Pascal. It is dated in that one would nowadays expect such a work to deal with the Fast Fourier Transform, but this doesn’t get a look in, as it probably hadn’t come into fashion at the time this book was written.

In Archaeology, the use of computers seems largely to hinge around a technique called ‘Cluster Analysis’. This is a method whereby collections of disparate elements, as it might be bronze Axeheads, can be analysed into groups. Other applications for this method of analysis include pattern matching – as for example matching sections of tree-rings to the master Dendrochronological database for dating timber samples. The technique is described in:

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