A means to uncover hidden talent

Donald Knuth is a towering giant in the field of computer programming.

His multi-volume book, the Art of Computer Programming, outlines the foundational constructs for writing computer programs. It won him the Turing Award – the highest distinction in computer science for his contribution to the field.

There is an interesting backstory to how he became a computer scientist. In the mid 1950s, when Knuth was a first-year undergraduate student in Physics, he started working on the IBM 650 – the world’s first mass produced computer. However, he found the user manual for the machine so badly written, that he was appalled. He thought how, even as a first-year student, he could do a better job of writing a user manual for computers.

The manuals we got from IBM would show examples of programs and I knew I could do a heck of a lot better than that. So I thought I might have some talent.

To this day, Knuth states that if IBM had better user manuals, he might not have turned into a computer scientist.

The world is filled with promising fields that have badly written user manuals. If you can do a better job than those shoddy manuals, you might have just discovered some hidden talent.

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