Recurse Center

Paper of the Week: Error Detecting and Error Correcting Codes

David Albert

This is part of our “Paper of the Week” series. For more info, check out our introductory blog post.

This week’s paper is Error Detecting and Error Correcting Codes by Richard Hamming. It was published in the April 1950 issue of the Bell System Technical Journal. Hamming worked at Bell Labs from 1946 to 1976. During those years, the transistor, information theory, modern cryptography, the solar cell, the laser, UNIX, C, and the error correcting codes described in this paper were all invented at Bell Labs.

Hacker School alum Dan Luu submitted this paper and said the following:

Despite being more than six decades old, Hamming codes are probably the most commonly used error-correcting codes (ECC) today, and I’ve probably used/implemented them more often than all other types of ECC combined. They’re one of the first things you should consider if you’re sending/storing data in a lossy medium and you need ECC that’s simple/fast, or if you’re operating on small chunks of data.

Also, I believe this is the second paper written on error correcting codes, and that it’s often considered to be the seminal work in the field. Because the field was so young at the time, the paper assumes no background, which makes it eminently readable.

Read Along

Read Along is a way for you to participate in Paper of the Week. If you want to take part, all you have to do is read the paper, make something small in response (code or prose), email us a link of what you make by noon Eastern Time next Monday, and we’ll link to it from our blog.

Nobody submitted a Read Along this week, so there’s nothing to post here. If you are reading along with us, please don’t be shy! Even a one paragraph Gist with your unedited thoughts would be fun for other people to read.

Happy reading!