REVIEW - Compression Algorithms for Real Programmers


Compression Algorithms for Real Programmers


Peter Wayner



Morgan Kaufmann (2000)




Graham Kendall


April 2000



I have mixed feelings about this book. As a book about algorithm techniques it does its job, although I feel it lacks a little in detail. The book itself runs to 240 pages, although only 177 pages discuss compression algorithms (the other pages are given over to compression patents and a bibliography). In previous reviews for this column I have reviewed two other compression books (Public- Key Cryptography by Arto Salomaa, reviewed Jan 1998 and Decrypted Secrets by F L Bauer, reviewed Jan 1998). Both these books contain a lot more detail but do have a more mathematical approach, which is not to everybody's taste.

Another problem I have with this book is that it is described as a book for real programmers, yet there is no code of any description. That is not necessarily a bad thing as any competent programmer can implement algorithms from a description but some may prefer actual lines of code.

The final problem I have is that the book contains a bibliography, but does not contain any exercises for the reader. Whilst the references may be useful for 'real programmers', the absence of exercises means that its usefulness in the academic world could be limited.

However, there are many good points to the book. It certainly takes a practical approach rather than a mathematical one. It also discusses algorithms that you come across on a day to day basis (e.g. JPEG, MPEG, LZ, Huffman, etc.), which is certainly not the case with some other books on the subject.

As an introduction to compression I would have no hesitation in recommending this book, but I would hesitate to recommend it as a book that allows you to implement the algorithms discussed (although it is possible). Personally, I would prefer something a bit more substantial, bearing in mind the thirty-pound price tag.

Book cover image courtesy of Open Library.

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