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Funniest Computer Book?

The other day Eric Eide noticed The UNIX Hater’s Handbook on my desk and remarked that there aren’t enough funny computer books. This is undeniably true. So now I’m trying to find the funniest computer book and I’d appreciate some help. Here are a few guidelines:

So what’s left? Not that much, it seems. Here are a few ideas:

  • Mr. Bunny’s Guide to ActiveX — What even happened to ActiveX? Anyway, back in the day this was a pretty great parody of the kind of books you find in the programming section at Barnes and Noble.

  • The Computer Contradictionary — it’s The Devil’s Dictionary for computers (in fact the first edition was called The Devil’s DP Dictionary)

  • Dating Design Patterns — I haven’t read it but Eric says it’s funny

Thoughts? If you don’t have a suggestion, please just vote for something that I, or someone else, suggested.

{ 30 } Comments

  1. comex | June 1, 2013 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    Not sure if it counts, but
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/1929462174

  2. regehr | June 1, 2013 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    comex, excellent, I’ve heard of this but not read it. BTW I hate it when Amazon can’t find a used book for a reasonable price!

  3. Christopher | June 1, 2013 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    I can’t vouch for its humor content, not having read it, but this…
    http://www.amazon.com/Extreme-Programming-Refactored-Case-Against/dp/1590590961
    …apparently “takes a satirical look at the increasingly-hyped extreme programming methodology.”

  4. Eric Eide | June 1, 2013 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    There is also Mr.Bunny’s Big Cup o’ Java, http://www.amazon.com/Mr-Bunnys-Big-Cup-Java/dp/0201615630

  5. Eric Eide | June 1, 2013 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    Also, in the “humorous but not satirical” category, Why’s (poignant) Guide to Ruby
    http://mislav.uniqpath.com/poignant-guide/

  6. Lex Spoon | June 1, 2013 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed the Unix Hater’s Handbook. I liked that it took time to really critique a system that is often religiously believed in. I will say that even at the time it came out, it was already kinda old, so nowadays it should be even more of a relic.

    I read some Bastard Operator from Hell online. Assuming that the linked book is the same as the old online series, then it certainly comes off as a “bitter IT guy you try to avoid at the bar”. I enjoyed a few of them for the impressively well-considered ways that an IT guy can completely ruin the life of a user. Excuse me, a luser. After a few of them, though, the protagonist just seemed mean.

    I’m not even sure what I’d recommend nowadays for a funny computer book. Head First Design Patterns is really cute… but not exactly hilarious. I haven’t read any of the others you link. They sound great but they are old. They don’t even have Kindle editions!

  7. Suresh | June 1, 2013 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    I remember spending a few glorious nights reading all the BOfH archives when in grad school . Good times.

  8. Peter De Wachter | June 2, 2013 at 12:49 am | Permalink

    Peter van der Linden’s “Expert C Programming: Deep C Secrets” is great.

  9. Adrien | June 2, 2013 at 1:09 am | Permalink

    Not a proper submission since there’s no paper copy (AFAIK), but the INTERCAL manual is a hilarious read:
    http://catb.org/esr/intercal/ick.htm

  10. LarsBerg | June 2, 2013 at 4:52 am | Permalink

    I vote for Mr. Bunny’s Guide to ActiveX. I was at Microsoft at the time that it came out and had also spent a lot of time doing pro-bono reviews for various Microsoft Dev Tools-related books. Almost every developer I knew owned a copy, and we all thought it was hilarious – it was even moreso if you worked deeply with some of the related technologies.

    And to answer where it went, ActiveX was just a rebranding of a set of interfaces within the world of COM objects that allowed them to be hosted in container applications — primarily IE, Excel, etc. It’s still alive and used (mainly in the office suite), but is wrapped in .NET wrappers to make it easier. Slow transition out, but naturally many enterprises are a decade behind in Office/IE rollouts, so it’ll still be a slow, painful, lingering death.

  11. Mans | June 2, 2013 at 4:54 am | Permalink

    Someone made a parody cover for a book titled “Teach yourself to write a Java book in 21 days.” Unfortunately, the book itself does not exist.

  12. Tony Finch | June 2, 2013 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    The Daily WTF (http://thedailywtf.com) is funny in the kind of way that makes you become a drunk, bitter IT guy. Also not (yet?) a book.

  13. Sajith | June 2, 2013 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    The margin graffiti on Concrete Mathematics had me in splits.

  14. Ed | June 2, 2013 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    You need “The Best of Verity Stob” at http://www.amazon.com/dp/1590594428

  15. Jason Bucata | June 2, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    You neglected to mention whether you’re talking about *intentionally* funny books (Mr. Bunny) vs. accidentally funny (UML in a Nutshell, evidently).

    The first category can also be broken down further into outright humor (again, Mr. Bunny) vs. a humorous presentation of actual material (e.g. Larry Wall had plenty of witticisms in the Camel books).

    In other news, if you’re looking for something like The Daily WTF, rachelbythebay.com is full of such anecdotes–and she’s just published her second book compilation of her blog posts.

  16. regehr | June 2, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Jason, sorry, the reference to the XML books was intended to be a small joke of my own. I’m mainly interested in intentionally funny books!

  17. regehr | June 2, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Ed, thanks, I’d never heard of this book.

    Mans, too bad, that genre has been ripe for some time.

    Lars, thanks. In fact I think I first saw a copy of Mr Bunny while interning at MSR.

    Adrien, thanks, I hadn’t seen that. Brainfuck gets the press these days and it’s easy to forget that Intercal was the orignal parody language (unless there was an earlier one?). Piet is my personal favorite (unless we’re counting Perl as a parody).

    Lex, I also noticed that most of these books are pretty old. Maybe once the Internet hit the big time in the 90s, things got less funny. I mean, read the comments on HN for a while if you want to see how not-funny things have gotten.

  18. regehr | June 2, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Peter, that’s not my cup of tea.

  19. Robert Ricci | June 2, 2013 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    I second Eric’s vote for why’s poignant guide. It even has it’s own original soundtrack.

  20. Zev | June 2, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    In the “humorous presentation of actual material” category, “Learn You a Haskell for Great Good”? (http://learnyouahaskell.com/)

    (I just about fell off my chair giggling in a few places.)

  21. Magnus | June 2, 2013 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    What’s wrong with Knuth’s Art of Computer Programming? Is it too self-important, or just too ambitious, or has it not dated very well? I remember flicking through it in the uni library when I was a student, I don’t really remember it being worthy of derision.

    Cringely’s Accidental Empires is a rollicking good read, but that’s also pretty old now like the other books mentioned.

    There’s a web based review of Herbert Schild’s C: The Complete Reference at http://www.seebs.net/c/c_tcn4e.html which is a serious takedown of what seems to be a dangerous book, but I found it entertaining.

    Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash is a pretty funny (satirical) novel in parts.

  22. regehr | June 3, 2013 at 12:43 am | Permalink

    Hi Magnus, of course TAOCP is impeccable, just joking. Except for that MMIX crap. I certainly enjoyed all of the early Stephenson books, and even tracked down a copy of _The Big U_ back in the 90s when it was really hard to find.

  23. Morten Ofstad | June 3, 2013 at 3:33 am | Permalink

    These are presentations, not books, but they’re still pretty funny:
    The Dark Side of C++ (Felix von Leitner): http://www.fefe.de/c++/c++-talk.pdf
    WAT (Gary Bernhardt): https://www.destroyallsoftware.com/talks/wat

  24. Chris | June 3, 2013 at 5:30 am | Permalink

    Please have a look at the Land of Lisp at http://landoflisp.com.

  25. Scotty | June 3, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Morten, WAT is brilliant

  26. sara mcmains | June 4, 2013 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    my nomination is for Funniest STEM Book: Pat Schrodinger’s Kitty.

    http://www.nerdybaby.net/pat-schrodingers-kitty/

    (I laughed hardest at the cs joke when i got my copy.)

  27. regehr | June 5, 2013 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    Scotty, I loved WAT also.

    Sara and Chris, thanks, hadn’t seen those!

  28. regehr | June 5, 2013 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    Everyone, thanks for the links/titles. My goal — finding some new books — has been accomplished. Hope others found out about some good stuff also.

  29. David Billinghurst | June 9, 2013 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    The Story about Ping

    http://www.amazon.com/review/R2VDKZ4X1F992Q

  30. Mark Kriegsman | June 13, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    “A FORTRAN Coloring Book”!
    http://www.seas.gwu.edu/~kaufman1/FortranColoringBook/ColoringBkCover.html

    I learned to code from this in 1979; my biggest complaint was that it didn’t come with crayons.