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solid; padding:0px 3px 0px 0px; margin:0px 10px 0px 0px;">Q

You're famous for rewarding readers who find errors in your work. How much have you paid out over the years?

A

About $30,000, but most people don't cash the checks; they save them for souvenirs. I pay a hexadecimal dollar—that's 100 in base 16, or $2.56—for a mistake in my books, and I give even more to those who find bugs in my software. I sent one guy in Germany $3,000, which helped him with his college tuition. He found plenty of mistakes.

Q

You stopped using email more than 20 years ago. Isn't that ironic considering computers are your life?

A

It's one of the reasons I've been able to write over 30 books. I have standards. I have to check over my writing. I couldn't do email efficiently; I couldn't just dash it off. It got to the point where everybody under the sun wanted to ask me questions via email, so I had to draw a line.

Q

Is your interest in music a natural extension of your talents for computer science?

A

My favorite definition of mathematics is that it's the science of patterns, and music has patterns. So there's a lot of overlap between people who have a special love of music and those who are especially good at programming.

Q

Why did you install a two-story pipe organ in your house? Couldn't you have settled for a more practical Hammond B-3?

A

It's the difference between butter and margarine, I guess, speaking as someone from Wisconsin. The pipe organ is the real thing. Sometimes I'll play it for several hours at a time. I'm not too bad, but I'm not in the big leagues.

Q

What do remember most from your college days?

A

My work with the basketball team when I was its manager. I developed a way of taking more statistics than had been done before. I plugged all the numbers into a massive formula that was supposed to tell each player his true contribution to the game.

Q

What's the story behind the candy bar contest you entered as an eighth-grader?

A

A radio station in Milwaukee, where I grew up, sponsored a contest in which you had to see how many words you could make from the letters of "Ziegler's Giant Bar." I realized there was a systematic way for me to go through the dictionary and find all these words. So I pretended I had a stomach ache and stayed home from school—for two weeks! I went through the dictionary and found 4,500 words. The judges only had 2,500 on their master list. That was an early indication of my geek streak.

Q

Do you remember what you won?

A

Yes. The prizes were two candy bars for each of my classmates, a black-and-white TV set for the school and a toboggan for me. My kids used that toboggan years later. We got a lot of snow miles out of it.

Q

At age 72, is there anything on your "bucket list" that you'd like to accomplish?

A

I would love to try to write a piece of music, a meditation, based on the book of Revelation in the Bible. Revelation is dreamlike, sort of mystical—not scientific. I doubt I could pull it off, but if I live long enough, I'd like to try.