a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Designing the house in Stanford


Moving to Stanford and wondering whether I'd made the right choice
Donald Knuth Scientist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

People would ask me… I'm in Princeton, and people would say, ‘Well Don, where are you from?’ What should I say? I'm… I’m on leave from Stanford – my… my appointment at Stanford had officially started, although I was… I was in Princeton. The reason was I could… I… it gives me legal ability to… to acquire the…the lot, where this house is, before somebody else snatched the lot, so that I have, you know… otherwise I don't get a desirable lot.  So I'm… so I’m officially a Stanford Professor, but not… but not getting any salary, because I'm… I’m away at Princeton. And so they asked me where am I from? So I say, ‘I'm from Stanford’. And they say, ‘Oh, isn't that where the students just burned down the such-and-such a building?’ And… and I say, ‘Well, that might be true, but I actually have never lived in Stanford’, you know.  So… so I spent… I spent the year in Princeton, being away from Stanford, then I finally came back here and… and oh, it's scary, because, you know, I knew that I didn't… that I only wanted to move once in my life, and I thought I had picked the best place to move, because, you know, good library, good climate, good… good…you know, I could live on campus, and you know, good students, you know, close to San Francisco. Sounds… sounds great, but here I am, and I actually, you know, wonder, now I've put all my eggs in one basket.  So I… I remember you know, driving… the first day I'm here, and… and we stop at a stop light over on Stanford Avenue, and… and I said, ‘Oh my goodness, how many times in my life am I going to have to wait for this stoplight?’ And I'm realizing now, I don't have any choices anymore. When you have options… when you have many different places you could go, you can always say, ‘Oh, how great that's going to be’. But then… then you make a choice, and you've given up all the other choices, and then you… then you say, now, anything… anything that goes wrong can be an aggravation from this point on. And there were other things about Stanford that I didn't know the answer to, but fortunately, you know, all the answers that I really did learn, turned out to be nice, so… so I've been very happy here. I came to Stanford then in the summer or the late part of 1969, although officially I… I started… started in 1968… and I… I think California made me pay taxes for that year, even though I was in New Jersey.

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: Princeton University, Stanford University, San Francisco, California, New Jersey

Duration: 2 minutes, 39 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2006

Date story went live: 24 January 2008