The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

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"Utility ought to be the principal intention of every publication. Wherever this intention does not plainly appear, neither the books nor their authors have the smallest claim to the approbation of mankind."

So wrote William Smellie in the preface of the first edition (1768-1771) of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Now, after 244 years, "the 32-volume Encyclopaedia Britannica print set will be discontinued," according to an announcement on Britannica's web site. The 2010 set (which costs US$ 1 395) will be the final print edition before the Britannica goes completely digital.

According to a story at the Washington Post,

"The top year for the printed encyclopedia was 1990, when 120,000 sets were sold ... That number fell to 40,000 just six years later in 1996... The company started exploring digital publishing in the 1970s. The first CD-ROM edition was published in 1989 and a version went online in 1994."

Over 100 million people use the online version of the Britannica, according to a company spokesperson.

Starting Tuesday, the Post says, "the company plans to mark the end of the print version by making the contents of its web site available free for one week."

I bought my copy of the 15th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica as a young engineer in 1980 for about $750 or so. While I don't use it much anymore, I still get an inexplicable feeling of reassurance whenever I glance over at my bookcase and see it there. That feeling hasn't happened yet with any of the digital devices I have ever owned (although I must admit I still have fond feelings when thinking of my old Mac Plus and Motorola V300, which are stashed away in a closet).

Photo: Encyclopaedia Britannica

The Conversation (0)

Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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