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Reading Computer Programs:
Instructor’s Guide and Exercises
by Lionel E. Deimel and
J. Fernando Naveda

I began thinking about the nature of programs and about how we should approach understanding programs as soon as I developed some facility with FORTRAN, around 1967. Program comprehension became a serious research interest of mine while I was on the Computer Science faculty of North Carolina State University. Although I have maintained an interest in program comprehension over many years, I have had limited opportunities for doing empirical research into the topic, something I regret. I did, however, expend a good deal of effort exploring possible roles for program reading within the computer science curriculum and in theProgram reader software development environment. While at the Software Engineering Institute, J. Fernando Naveda and I had the opportunity to produce an “educational materials package” on this topic called “Reading Computer Programs: Instructor’s Guide and Exercises” (citation). The SEI distributed the printed report, as well as a diskette containing a program, described below, and exercises from the report.

“Reading Computer Programs” should be of interest to programming instructors, software developers, and anyone interested in improving the process of software development. Although written some time ago, it still, I think, retains relevance. Like many of the products of the SEI’s Education Program, “Reading Computer Programs” contains an annotated bibliography, an updated version of which is available here. The report also includes an Ada program offered as an object of study. I began writing this program to learn Ada, and the program was intended to use some of the distinctive features of this programming language. David A. Wheeler organized the program into a collection of Web pages as a resource for Ada users. Programmers unfamiliar with Ada will find reading this program a double challenge. (This reminds me that the first maintenance task I was ever given involved fixing a program in an obscure language I had never even heard of!) The program searches for perfect digital invariants, by the way, which are discussed under Recreational Math.



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— LED, 5/30/2007

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