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Foreword

Foreword

The fundamental problem with most technical books is that the authors are just too smart for their readers' good. By the time one becomes an expert at a highly technical field, such as C++ programming, one has usually lost the knack of identifying with the poor struggling newbie. Also—it has to be said—most techies are not very good writers.

Fortunately, the most able 10% of programmers also tend to be rather good writers—and my old friend Steve Heller is well up in both categories. He's also clever enough to know that he's not really very good at thinking like a programming newbie, and to go find help from people who are.

But the book you're holding in your hands isn't just clever; it has a special, serendipitous magic that makes it one of the most remarkable technical books I've ever seen. Because Steve found a writing partner whose intelligence matched his own, and whose eager, questioning ignorance was the perfect complement of his seasoned expertise.

This book, besides being an omnibus of the books Steve and Susan have written together, is also the story of the meeting of two very remarkable minds. Their continuing dialogue gives it a human texture that is sadly absent from most technical tutorials. They bring out the best in each other; Steve continually challenges Susan to think and learn and grow, and Susan draws Steve out of the high fastnesses of abstraction into generating examples and analogies that are grounded in everyday experience.

The result is a lovely fugue in two voices that weaves together many themes. Steve's unfolding of the mysteries of C++ intertwines with Susan's developing understanding of the language. Their growing affection and respect for each other complements the tale of bytes and silicon as they explore the inner world of the computer together. Susan discovers what she did not know, and Steve re-discovers what he does. Both processes are a pleasure to behold.

How many introductions to programming are there that are also love stories? This may well be the only one. I won't spoil the ending for you -- but I will say that if nothing else, Steve and Susan's relationship has produced work that is not merely top-caliber technical instruction but arguably art of a high and subtle order.

It is an honor to know these two human beings, and a privilege to introduce their book. I hope you find that their journey of discovery guides you on one of your own.

Eric S. Raymond

August, 2000

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