That is, when we evaluate the expression “x and y” we first evaluate x. If x evaluates to FALSE, then the entire expression cannot evaluate to TRUE, and so we do not evaluate y. If, on the other hand, x evaluates to TRUE, we must evaluate y to determine the value of the entire expression. Similarly, in the expression “x or y” we eval- uate the expression y only if x evaluates to FALSE. Short-circuiting operators allow us to write boolean expressions such as “x ¤ NIL and x: f D y” without worrying about what happens when we try to evaluate x: f when x is NIL.

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Computational steps that we specify in English are often variants of a procedure that requires more than just a constant amount of time. For example, later in this book we might say “sort the points by x-coordinate,” which, as we shall see, takes more than a constant amount of time. Also, note that a statement that calls a subroutine takes constant time, though the subroutine, once invoked, may take more.