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This geek won’t use e-mail

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in Leaders & Managers

Don Knuth, known as the Father of Computer Science, just completed the fourth volume of his definitive work, The Art of Computer Programming, which includes “The Chemical Caper,” a short story in which every word is a chemical formula.

Knuth won’t admit to writing the bible of the computer world, but he does convey his thoughts on success:

1. Communicate plainly. “I try to boil down things that are the most important without dumbing them down.”

2. Don’t merely admit to being wrong—pay for it. Knuth is famous for rewarding people who find errors in his work. Over the years, he has paid out about $300,000. He offers a hexadecimal dollar—100 in base 16, or $2.56—for a mistake in his books, and more for bugs in his software. He paid $3,000 to a German who found lots of errors.

3. Eliminate distractions. Knuth stopped using e-mail more than 20 years ago. He says it’s partly why he’s had time to write 30 books.

— Adapted from “The Father of Geekdom,” Dave Wieczorek, Think,

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