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I've made a pretty good living as a self-taught programmer, but when I find that I discuss some low-level fundamental topics with my peers who have a CS degree, holes appear in my knowledge. I'm a big picture (architecture) guy, so for a long time this hasn't bothered me, but lately I've wondered if there is an approach I can take that will help me learn these fundamentals without going back to school? Are there books, websites or videos that you can recommend that would give me a ground-up perspective as opposed to a learn it as you need it mentality?

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This is an excellent question. I've had the same issues. –  Rob Jan 17 '11 at 15:36

5 Answers 5

up vote 29 down vote accepted

This ought to keep you busy for a couple of weeks:

Electrical Engineering and Computer Science | MIT OpenCourseWare | Free Online Course Materials

Course #    Course Title
6.00SC  Introduction to Computer Science and Programming (Spring 2011)  Undergraduate
6.00    Introduction to Computer Science and Programming (Fall 2008) 
6.01SC  Introduction to Electrical Engineering and Computer Science I 
6.001   Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs 
6.002   Circuits and Electronics 
6.003   Signals and Systems 
6.004   Computation Structures 
6.005   Elements of Software Construction (Fall 2011) 
6.005   Elements of Software Construction (Fall 2008) 
6.006   Introduction to Algorithms (Fall 2011) 
6.006   Introduction to Algorithms (Spring 2008) 
6.007   Electromagnetic Energy: From Motors to Lasers 
6.011   Introduction to Communication, Control, and Signal Processing (Spring 2010) 
6.011   Introduction to Communication, Control, and Signal Processing (Spring 2004) 
6.012   Microelectronic Devices and Circuits (Spring 2009) 
6.012   Microelectronic Devices and Circuits (Fall 2009) 
6.012   Microelectronic Devices and Circuits (Fall 2005) 
6.013   Electromagnetics and Applications (Spring 2009) 
6.013   Electromagnetics and Applications (Fall 2005) 
6.021J  Quantitative Physiology: Cells and Tissues (Fall 2004) 
6.022J  Quantitative Physiology: Organ Transport Systems 
6.023J  Fields, Forces and Flows in Biological Systems 
6.024J  Molecular, Cellular, and Tissue Biomechanics 
6.025J  Introduction to Bioengineering (BE.010J) 
6.033   Computer System Engineering 
6.034   Artificial Intelligence (Fall 2010) 
6.034   Artificial Intelligence (Spring 2005) 
6.035   Computer Language Engineering 
6.035   Computer Language Engineering (SMA 5502) 
6.041   Probabilistic Systems Analysis and Applied Probability (Fall 2010) 
6.041   Probabilistic Systems Analysis and Applied Probability (Spring 2006) 
6.042J  Mathematics for Computer Science (Spring 2010) 
6.042J  Mathematics for Computer Science (Fall 2010) 
6.042J  Mathematics for Computer Science (Spring 2005) 
6.042J  Mathematics for Computer Science (Fall 2005) 
6.045J  Automata, Computability, and Complexity 
6.046J  Introduction to Algorithms (SMA 5503) 
6.047   Computational Biology: Genomes, Networks, Evolution (Fall 2008) 
6.050J  Information and Entropy 
6.055J  The Art of Approximation in Science and Engineering 
6.061   Introduction to Electric Power Systems (Spring 2011) 
6.071J  Introduction to Electronics, Signals, and Measurement 
6.079   Introduction to Convex Optimization (Fall 2009) 
6.07J   Projects in Microscale Engineering for the Life Sciences 
6.080   Great Ideas in Theoretical Computer Science (Spring 2008) 
6.087   Practical Programming in C 
6.088   Introduction to C Memory Management and C++ Object-Oriented Programming 
6.089   Great Ideas in Theoretical Computer Science (Spring 2008) 
6.090   Building Programming Experience: A Lead-In to 6.001 
6.091   Hands-On Introduction to Electrical Engineering Lab Skills 
6.092   Introduction to Programming in Java 
6.092   Java Preparation for 6.170 
6.092   Bioinformatics and Proteomics 
6.094   Introduction to MATLAB 
6.096   Introduction to C++ 
6.096   Algorithms for Computational Biology 
6.097   Fundamentals of Photonics: Quantum Electronics (Spring 2006) 
6.099   Street-Fighting Mathematics 
6.101   Introductory Analog Electronics Laboratory 
6.111   Introductory Digital Systems Laboratory (Spring 2006) 
6.111   Introductory Digital Systems Laboratory (Fall 2002) 
6.152J  Micro/Nano Processing Technology 
6.161   Modern Optics Project Laboratory (Fall 2005) 
6.163   Strobe Project Laboratory 
6.170   Laboratory in Software Engineering 
6.171   Software Engineering for Web Applications 
6.172   Performance Engineering of Software Systems 
6.186   Mobile Autonomous Systems Laboratory 
6.189   A Gentle Introduction to Programming Using Python (January IAP 2011) 
6.189   A Gentle Introduction to Programming Using Python (January IAP 2008) 
6.189   Multicore Programming Primer 
6.207J  Networks 
6.270   Autonomous Robot Design Competition 
6.338J  Parallel Computing 
6.370   Robocraft Programming Competition 
6.431   Probabilistic Systems Analysis and Applied Probability (Fall 2010) 
6.521J  Quantitative Physiology: Cells and Tissues (Fall 2004) 
6.637   Modern Optics Project Laboratory (Fall 2005) 
6.701   Introduction to Nanoelectronics (Spring 2010) 
6.801   Machine Vision (Fall 2004) 
6.803   The Human Intelligence Enterprise (Spring 2006) 
6.803   The Human Intelligence Enterprise (Spring 2002) 
6.804J  Computational Cognitive Science 
6.805   Ethics and the Law on the Electronic Frontier (Fall 2005) 
6.806   Ethics and the Law on the Electronic Frontier (Fall 2005) 
6.813   User Interface Design and Implementation (Spring 2011) 
6.814   Database Systems (Fall 2010) 
6.830   Database Systems (Fall 2010) 
6.831   User Interface Design and Implementation (Spring 2011) 
6.837   Computer Graphics 
6.857   Network and Computer Security 
6.901   Inventions and Patents 
6.911   Transcribing Prosodic Structure of Spoken Utterances with ToBI 
6.912   Introduction to Copyright Law 
6.930   Management in Engineering 
6.974   Fundamentals of Photonics: Quantum Electronics (Spring 2006) 
6.976   NextLab I: Designing Mobile Technologies for the Next Billion Users 
6.S096  Introduction to C and C++ 
6.231   Dynamic Programming and Stochastic Control 
6.241J  Dynamic Systems and Control 
6.243J  Dynamics of Nonlinear Systems 
6.245   Multivariable Control Systems 
6.251J  Introduction to Mathematical Programming 
6.252J  Nonlinear Programming (Spring 2004) 
6.252J  Nonlinear Programming (Spring 2003) 
6.253   Convex Analysis and Optimization 
6.254   Game Theory with Engineering Applications 
6.255J  Optimization Methods 
6.262   Discrete Stochastic Processes 
6.263J  Data Communication Networks 
6.264J  Queues: Theory and Applications 
6.281J  Logistical and Transportation Planning Methods (Fall 2006) 
6.281J  Logistical and Transportation Planning Methods (Fall 2004) 
6.301   Solid-State Circuits 
6.302   Feedback Systems 
6.331   Advanced Circuit Techniques 
6.334   Power Electronics 
6.336J  Introduction to Numerical Simulation (SMA 5211) 
6.337J  Introduction to Numerical Methods 
6.339J  Numerical Methods for Partial Differential Equations (SMA 5212) 
6.341   Discrete-Time Signal Processing 
6.345   Automatic Speech Recognition 
6.374   Analysis and Design of Digital Integrated Circuits 
6.431   Probabilistic Systems Analysis and Applied Probability (Spring 2006) 
6.432   Stochastic Processes, Detection, and Estimation 
6.435   System Identification 
6.436J  Fundamentals of Probability 
6.441   Information Theory 
6.443J  Quantum Information Science 
6.450   Principles of Digital Communication I 
6.450   Principles of Digital Communications I 
6.451   Principles of Digital Communication II 
6.452   Principles of Wireless Communications 
6.453   Quantum Optical Communication 
6.524J  Molecular, Cellular and Tissue Biomechanics (BE.410J) 
6.541J  Speech Communication 
6.542J  Laboratory on the Physiology, Acoustics, and Perception of Speech 
6.543J  The Lexicon and Its Features 
6.551J  Acoustics of Speech and Hearing 
6.555J  Biomedical Signal and Image Processing 
6.561J  Fields, Forces, and Flows in Biological Systems (BE.430J) 
6.581J  Foundations of Algorithms and Computational Techniques in Systems Biology 
6.630   Electromagnetics 
6.632   Electromagnetic Wave Theory 
6.635   Advanced Electromagnetism 
6.637   Optical Signals, Devices, and Systems 
6.641   Electromagnetic Fields, Forces, and Motion (Spring 2009) 
6.641   Electromagnetic Fields, Forces, and Motion (Spring 2005) 
6.642   Continuum Electromechanics 
6.651J  Introduction to Plasma Physics I (Fall 2006) 
6.651J  Introduction to Plasma Physics I (Fall 2003) 
6.661   Receivers, Antennas, and Signals 
6.685   Electric Machines 
6.690   Introduction to Electric Power Systems (Spring 2011) 
6.691   Seminar in Electric Power Systems 
6.695   Engineering, Economics and Regulation of the Electric Power Sector (Spring 2010) 
6.719   Introduction to Nanoelectronics (Spring 2010) 
6.720J  Integrated Microelectronic Devices 
6.728   Applied Quantum and Statistical Physics 
6.730   Physics for Solid-State Applications 
6.763   Applied Superconductivity 
6.772   Compound Semiconductor Devices 
6.774   Physics of Microfabrication: Front End Processing 
6.776   High Speed Communication Circuits 
6.777J  Design and Fabrication of Microelectromechanical Devices 
6.780   Semiconductor Manufacturing 
6.780J  Control of Manufacturing Processes (SMA 6303) 
6.781J  Submicrometer and Nanometer Technology 
6.821   Programming Languages 
6.823   Computer System Architecture 
6.824   Distributed Computer Systems Engineering 
6.825   Techniques in Artificial Intelligence (SMA 5504) 
6.826   Principles of Computer Systems 
6.827   Multithreaded Parallelism: Languages and Compilers 
6.828   Operating System Engineering 
6.829   Computer Networks 
6.832   Underactuated Robotics 
6.833   The Human Intelligence Enterprise (Spring 2006) 
6.833   The Human Intelligence Enterprise (Spring 2002) 
6.834J  Cognitive Robotics 
6.838   Algorithms for Computer Animation 
6.840J  Theory of Computation 
6.841J  Advanced Complexity Theory 
6.844   Computability Theory of and with Scheme 
6.845   Quantum Complexity Theory 
6.851   Advanced Data Structures 
6.852J  Distributed Algorithms 
6.854J  Advanced Algorithms (Fall 2008) 
6.854J  Advanced Algorithms (Fall 2005) 
6.855J  Network Optimization 
6.856J  Randomized Algorithms 
6.859J  Integer Programming and Combinatorial Optimization 
6.863J  Natural Language and the Computer Representation of Knowledge 
6.864   Advanced Natural Language Processing 
6.866   Machine Vision (Fall 2004) 
6.867   Machine Learning 
6.868J  The Society of Mind 
6.871   Knowledge-Based Applications Systems 
6.872   Biomedical Computing 
6.872J  Medical Computing 
6.873J  Medical Decision Support (Fall 2005) 
6.873J  Medical Decision Support (Spring 2003) 
6.874J  Computational Functional Genomics 
6.875   Cryptography and Cryptanalysis 
6.876J  Advanced Topics in Cryptography 
6.877J  Computational Evolutionary Biology (Fall 2005) 
6.878   Computational Biology: Genomes, Networks, Evolution (Fall 2008) 
6.881   Representation and Modeling for Image Analysis 
6.883   Pervasive Human Centric Computing (SMA 5508) 
6.883   Program Analysis 
6.884   Complex Digital Systems 
6.891   Computational Evolutionary Biology (Fall 2004) 
6.892   Computational Models of Discourse 
6.895   Essential Coding Theory 
6.895   Theory of Parallel Systems (SMA 5509) 
6.896   Theory of Parallel Hardware (SMA 5511) 
6.897   Selected Topics in Cryptography 
6.931   Development of Inventions and Creative Ideas 
6.933J  The Structure of Engineering Revolutions 
6.938   Engineering Risk-Benefit Analysis 
6.945   Adventures in Advanced Symbolic Programming 
6.946J  Classical Mechanics: A Computational Approach 
6.971   Biomedical Devices Design Laboratory 
6.972   Algebraic Techniques and Semidefinite Optimization 
6.973   Communication System Design 
6.973   Organic Optoelectronics 
6.974   Engineering, Economics and Regulation of the Electric Power Sector (Spring 2010) 
6.975   Introduction to Convex Optimization (Fall 2009) 
6.976   High Speed Communication Circuits and Systems 
6.977   Ultrafast Optics 
6.977   Semiconductor Optoelectronics: Theory and Design 
6.978J  Communications and Information Policy 
6.982J  Teaching College-Level Science and Engineering (Fall 2012) 
6.982J  Teaching College-Level Science and Engineering (Spring 2009) 
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@hal - Look at the lecture notes attached to the courses. These will help point you in the right direction. –  jmort253 Jan 17 '11 at 0:23
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I'm on the second video... I can't wait to go through the entire series and start watching more of these... thanks! –  Brian Reindel Jan 21 '11 at 3:42

Since I learned a lot from books, I tend to think in terms of books.

There are a number of good books for learning about the basics of the craft of programming. At the top of the list, I'd put:

  • Code Complete, 2nd Edn

It is largely language-agnostic, and it explains the why's and wherefore's very approachably, and covers a lot of ground in its pages.

I like a few other general books - my background gives me a strong Unix bias:

  • The Practice of Programming
  • The Art of UNIX Programming

Although Knuth's "The Art of Computer Programming" is in many ways excellent, it is also a daunting set of books to read.

You could usefully look at some of the books about algorithms - there are many.

After that, it depends on where your main areas of interest and professional duties lie. What is appropriate depends on where you need to specialize. You might want to look at "An Introduction to Database Systems" by C J Date, as a general background on relational databases.

Other possible contenders:

  • Design Patterns
  • Refactoring
  • Clean Code

In a somewhat different vein, "Software Fundamentals: The Collected Papers by David L Parnas" is an interesting read - but probably not at the top of your priority list.

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+1 Have to agree. There's a great reference thread on SO that contains pretty much all of the above tomes: stackoverflow.com/questions/1711/… –  middaparka Jan 17 '11 at 11:45

If you just went through the Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs book, and did the exercises, you'd have a pretty solid foundation.

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1  
Although a great book it does not treat computer architecture or operating systems or ... –  m3th0dman Jun 16 '13 at 16:09

There are several books & topics I consider to be very good. There are a ton of others, but these will get you a long way towards a solid CS education. I've seen other books on these topics, and these - IMO - provide the depth needed for a thoughtful consideration of the matter, at a professional level.

Corman's Algorithms

Russel & Norvig's AI: A Modern Approach

Money & Harris's Digital Design.

Hopcroft & Ullman's Introduction to Automata Theory

Aho, Ullman, Sethi's Compilers, aka "The Dragon Book"

None of these books are nice friendly quick-digesting Apress or O'Reilly books. That is not their purpose. They don't really come with lots of code (exception is Digital Design, which is for sophmores, not seniors), but usually come with a fair amount of math. Difficulty of understanding goes up exponentially when moving into the deeper things.

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Here is a list of the most famous online academic level learning portals (check computer science category) :

please note that courses there are thought by top world universities like MIT,Stanford,... and you can have a certificate for passing courses after entering real mid-term, final exams and for sure submit homeworks ;)

it might keep you busy for couple of years :)

For MIT OpenCourseWare edx might be the successor as MIT has many classes there !

In General there is a trend now from universities on giving high quality academic courses online for free or very low cost. check this wikipedia entry.

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