Wednesday, July 22, 2009

(Text)book Review : Signals & Systems (2nd Ed)

I've been looking forward to taking Systems & Signals for a while now, so when the official textbook for this year was announced (surprise! it's the same as last year's again), I went and picked one up.

And yes, I know it's a bit weird to get textbooks over a month before the term starts. And I realize that I probably won't get all that far before the term starts. And I realize that the promised 'review' in the post title will be weakened slightly by the fact that I haven't yet read the book.

But I think there's some value in giving my impressions of the textbook now, before the long and presumably difficult term that is to come goes and spoils my appreciation of it. Or maybe this will help someone deciding whether or not to buy this book at all. Or maybe I'm just crazy. Regardless, I've stalled enough, so on to the review...

The first thing you'll notice with this textbook is that it's remarkably plain. Gone is the translucent periodic table inserted into the chemistry text, gone is the lovely layout design of Linear Algebra and Applications, gone is the marketing spiel, the learning aids and the motivational pictures of Fundamentals of Physics.

It is, in short, not a first year textbook. There is nothing about it really that makes you want to buy it, or feel good about having bought it, or waste your little attention on it. By this point, the makers of this textbook know, you're damn well going to buy the textbook. The alternative, after all, is to flirt with failure and the chance to buy the textbook the second time around.

I'll admit to not being overly impressed with my initial glance through the book, but first impressions aren't everything and, as much as I like textbooks that will compete for my attention, it's really more important that they cover interesting material.

So what material does S&S cover? From the table of contents...
  1. Signals and Systems (duh)
  2. Linear Time-Invariant Systems
  3. Fourier Series Representation of Periodic Signals
  4. The Continuous-Time Fourier Transform
  5. The Discrete-Time Fourier Transform
  6. Time and Frequency Characterization of Signals and Systems
  7. Sampling
  8. Communication Systems
  9. The Laplace Transform
  10. The Z-Transform
  11. Linear Feedback Systems
Now, I realize that list might not strike everyone as fascinating reading; but honestly, Fourier transforms are pretty awesome. Especially reverse ones.

Recommendation : If you're not particularly interested by signals or systems you'll probably be slaughtered by this course anyway, but I would suggest getting the book. It's an old edition so you can pick it up second hand and it could be handy if you ever need to brush up on fancy signal transformation stuff before a job interview.

If you do like systems and signals, then this should be a pretty easy decision. Unless of course, you're really into them, in which case maybe you have a shelf full of signal processing books already.

1 comment:

  1. This is one of those things I'd look at and think was fascinating... and then I'd realize in order to spend any appreciable time on it, some sci-fi means of simultaneous multi-processing would have to be accessible to me... So, I'll unfortunately have to go with my original plan... I don't suppose there is a Jack of All trades anymore-- just a Jack of Several trades with a nice contact list for experts in neighboring fields.