Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs

Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (SICP) is a computer science textbook by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professors Harold Abelson and Gerald Jay Sussman with Julie Sussman. It is known as the Wizard Book[1] in hacker culture.[2] It teaches fundamental principles of computer programming, including recursion, abstraction, modularity, and programming language design and implementation.

Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs
Cover of the second edition
AuthorHarold Abelson, Gerald Jay Sussman, Julie Sussman
SubjectComputer science
PublisherMIT Press
Publication date
1985 (1st ed.), 1996 (2nd ed.)
ISBN0-262-51087-1 (2nd ed.)
LC ClassQA76.6 .A255 1996

The MIT Press published the first edition in 1985, and the second edition in 1996. It was formerly used as the textbook for MIT's introductory course in electrical engineering and computer science. SICP focuses on discovering general patterns for solving specific problems, and building software systems that make use of those patterns.[3]


The book describes computer science concepts using Scheme, a dialect of Lisp. It also uses a virtual register machine and assembler to implement Lisp interpreters and compilers.


Several fictional characters appear in the book:

  • Alyssa P. Hacker, a Lisp hacker
  • Ben Bitdiddle, a hardware expert
  • Cy D. Fect, a "reformed C programmer"
  • Eva Lu Ator, an evaluator
  • Lem E. Tweakit, an irate user
  • Louis Reasoner, a loose reasoner


The book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0 License.[4]


The book was used as the textbook for MIT's former introductory programming course, 6.001.[5] That course was replaced by 6.0001,[6] which uses Python.[7] Other schools also made use of the book as a course textbook.[8] It is used as the textbook for MIT's Large Scale Symbolic Systems class, 6.945.[9]


Byte recommended SICP "for professional programmers who are really interested in their profession". The magazine said that the book was not easy to read, but that it would expose experienced programmers to both old and new topics.[10]


SICP has been influential in computer science education, and several later books have been inspired by its style.


  1. "Wizard Book", The New Hacker's Dictionary (2nd ed.), 1993.
  2. "The Top 912 Books in a Hacker's Bookshelf", Grok code, retrieved 2010-10-23
  3. Harvey, B (2011), "Why SICP matters?", The 150th anniversary of MIT, Boston Globe.
  4. "SICP". MIT Press..
  5. "Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; 6.001 Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs". OpenCourseWare. MIT. Spring 2005. Retrieved 2011-06-28.
  6. "6.0001", Catalog, MIT.
  7. Guy, Donald, "The End of an Era", MIT Admissions (blog comment), retrieved 2008-08-05, I talked to Professor Sussman on the phone... He said that he'd actually been trying to have 6.001 replaced for the last ten years (and I read somewhere that Professor Abelson was behind the move too). Understanding the principles is not essential for an introduction to the subject matter anymore. He sees 6.001 as obsolete..
  8. Martin, Edward C. (2009-07-20). "Schools". Schemers. Retrieved 2011-06-28.
  9. "Large Scale Symbolic Systems class, 6.945". MIT Touchstone. Retrieved 2019-06-16.
  10. Kilov, Haim (November 1986). "Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs". Byte. p. 70.
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