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Taking graduate classes at Case


Extra-curricular activities at Case
Donald Knuth Scientist
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I was on lots of sports teams, the cross country team, baseball. We would have a chance to… we would have a chance to travel to lots of other places then, with the team. That was… that was fun as well. I worked on… I… I was the founding editor of this magazine, The Engineering and Science Review, and… and then, active in various other things, the… for example I was Vice President of my fraternity. There was one story about the newspaper and my fraternity I might as well mention. That we… I was… I would go to… to downtown Cleveland where the newspaper was being typeset, and that's where I first got the experience with linotype machines, and… and the way real printing was done. And I would be the… at first I was the copy editor, so I would… I would check for errors in the… in the text, before they did the final print run.  And I… and I noticed that there was a story about one of our Theta Chi fraternity parties, before Christmas, and it said that we had served hot buttered rum, and, well, [it] dawned on me that we actually weren't supposed to serve rum at a fraternity party, and… and still with the linotype machine you had to pay for every correction that you made, and you had to keep your corrections to one… to one line, if they had to reset several lines. So I changed it to hot buttered popcorn. And that worked out okay for the… for the story.
Now… so I got more experience in writing, publishing, during that period, and… and we had the Chair of the English Department as my teacher, as a freshmen, and we had very good teachers also, you know, in my Western Civilization class, sophomore, junior years, so all the time I was… I was writing. I was writing stories for… I was writing, you know, term papers, but I was… but I was also writing for… for campus publications. And I came to believe that really my education boiled down to 50% mathematics, 50% English; 50%, you know, writing skills, and somehow combining those two things through the rest of my life is… is what everything else was somehow a mixture of those two… of those two things. I was in so many extra-curricular activities in fact, that Case has something called the Honor Key, which is based on points. You get so many points for… for being in the band, so many points for being in a fraternity, not very many for that, but certainly for the newspaper and… and for singing in the choir, chorus, and participating in other campus things, and if you get a certain number of points then… then you win the Honor Key, and at, you know, at Graduation Day they'll mention the four or five students who have… who have won the Case Honor Key. Well, it turned out I had enough points to win the Honor Key, but after 3 years, and, you know, so I think I had more points, more Honor points than anybody else had had in the history of Case, so again I was… I was, you know, a machine, saying, oh? There are points for this? Okay, I'd better do this. And I… and I signed up for these things. So I was involved with lots of extra… extra-curricular stuff. I also had a chance to do a little bit of writing music. I… I wrote a 5-minute musical comedy for our fraternity to perform at the… at the, whatever they call it, the… the, oh, I forget what it was; it was an annual thing, where… where each fraternity would put on some kind of a skit. Varsity Day, or something, I can't remember what we called it. And we would go to a theater…theater in downtown Cleveland and… and perform for whoever wanted to listen in. I wrote this 5-minute musical comedy called Nebbish Land, based on nebbishes, you know, these were popular in the Greeting Card Industry at the time. And that I still have the score for, so maybe I'll… maybe I'll put some of the music for that in my book on fun and games.

Born in 1938, American computing pioneer Donald Knuth is known for his greatly influential multi-volume work, 'The Art of Computer Programming', his novel 'Surreal Numbers', his invention of TeX and METAFONT electronic publishing tools and his quirky sense of humor.

Listeners: Dikran Karagueuzian

Trained as a journalist, Dikran Karagueuzian is the director of CSLI Publications, publisher of seven books by Donald Knuth. He has known Knuth since the late seventies when Knuth was developing TeX and Metafont, the typesetting and type designing computer programs, respectively.

Tags: Case Institute of Technology, The Engineering and Science Review, Cleveland, Theta Chi fraternity, Case Honor Key, Varsity Day, Nebbish Land

Duration: 5 minutes, 21 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2006

Date story went live: 24 January 2008