You have probably all heard the following story about Jobs meeting Knuth for the first time in 1983.

Steve had managed to get Don Knuth, the legendary Stanford professor of computer science, to give a lunchtime lecture to the Mac team. Knuth is the author of at least a dozen books, including the massive and somewhat impenetrable trilogy "The Art of Computer Programming."

I was sitting in Steve's office when Lynn Takahashi, Steve's assistant, announced Knuth's arrival. Steve bounced out of his chair, bounded over to the door and extended a welcoming hand.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Professor Knuth," Steve said. "I've read all of your books."

"You're full of shit," Knuth responded.

This story is actually not true.

I was watching Randall Munroe's (from xkcd) talk at Google when suddenly Knuth appeared out of nowhere. Randall used the opportunity and asked him to verify this story. Knuth said he gets asked this all the time and that it was not true. I cut that part of the video and put it on YouTube:

So there we have it. The story is fun but not true.


June 08, 2011, 20:04

I wish you'd have asked first:

Could have saved you a bunch of time ;)


p.s., great blog post anyways!

June 08, 2011, 21:06

your full of shit

Don Knuth Permalink
June 08, 2011, 21:18

Your *WHAT* is full of shit, Steve? O_o

stevey jobs Permalink
June 09, 2011, 01:57

you're face is

June 08, 2011, 22:43


anonymouse Permalink
June 09, 2011, 09:59

Mr. Jobs is a busy man. He doesn't have time for your peasant grammar.

Anon Permalink
June 08, 2011, 23:32

A comment on says that someone who was there says he didn't say anything as aggressive as that:

"from mikeboich on Thu Feb 12 17:05:32 2004:
I was actually present for this. My recollection was that Don Knuth's response was more along the lines of "I seriously doubt that". (It was still quite amusing though!)"

bryantsmith Permalink
June 08, 2011, 23:57

Ha.. cool, nice to have Knuth clear that up.

TerraHertz Permalink
June 09, 2011, 02:28

Actually Knuth's reply is a kind of ultra-polite avoidance of the question. Far from a clear yes or no. You can see Randall in a bit a dither about the non-answer, then he decides to just drop it.
So because I think Jobs *IS* full of shit, I'd like to think Knuth really did say that to Job's face.
Also, I hate Jobs for how he treated Wozniac. And what he made Apple become.

desy verawatti Permalink
June 09, 2011, 03:20

The story is true; I was there.

kangu Permalink
June 10, 2011, 10:11

Knuth is a respectable professor, Jobs is a genius!

ppm Permalink
February 15, 2013, 10:08

>Jobs is a genius!
He was, but, cruel.

Aliena Permalink
February 25, 2014, 19:40

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