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Code: The Hidden Language of Computer…

Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software (1999)

by Charles Petzold

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3.5 stars.

I really liked the first part of the book where the author gradually constructs a conceptual von Neumann computer from basic building blocks (telegraph relays essentially).

The second part of the book I was not particularly impressed with. The transistor, arguably the most significant development in computer history so far, is touched upon but only briefly. The terms NPN- and PNP-transistors are mentioned but not further explained, leaving the curious reader wondering how these transistors work from a physical point of view and what the distinction between the two is.

The last chapter does not add anything to the book in my opinion. It consists of a seemingly random collection of computer related concepts (from DVDs to OCR) discussed in a single paragraph. Although an easy and amusing read, I feel it does not fit in very well with the rest of the book. ( )
  Boekuuh | Nov 21, 2017 |
Awesome introduction to the basics of computer science, architecture, and design.
Used to build two adding/subtracting machines (one in Minecraft and one in real life). ( )
  THC-NYC | Nov 25, 2016 |
I *think* this is a wonderful explanation of how computer hardware and software work, but I could be wrong. I'm not certain that it's really understandable for someone who, unlike me, doesn't already have a strong grounding in a lot of the material.

The book has held up remarkably well over the years. I feel like 95% of the content is still relevant. This is all of the fundamentals of how the hardware and software work. Only a little bit of the detail of how computers are used, (and, of course, what 'typical' sizes and speeds are) has become dated.

When I first read it, eight years ago, I was disappointed by chapter 17, Automation, because he glossed over the CPU control signals. This time around I discovered that he has a "technical addendum" on his website that goes into more detail on the control signals. Also, this time, I see that perhaps it's not such a great leap to think that, based on what has come before, readers can fill in the blanks for themselves.
1 vote Foretopman | Aug 1, 2016 |
Currently re-reading this wonderful book.
An excellent explanation of so many basic ideas behind the code that lies at the heart of modern day computing.
Written in 1999, but still extraordinarily relevant to today's computer science students, whether at A Level or higher.
  johninBurnham | Feb 3, 2016 |
Just plain excellent. ( )
  danrk | Jun 23, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0735611319, Paperback)

Charles Petzold's latest book, Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software, crosses over into general-interest nonfiction from his usual programming genre. It's a carefully written, carefully researched gem that will appeal to anyone who wants to understand computer technology at its essence. Readers learn about number systems (decimal, octal, binary, and all that) through Petzold's patient (and frequently entertaining) prose and then discover the logical systems that are used to process them. There's loads of historical information too. From Louis Braille's development of his eponymous raised-dot code to Intel Corporation's release of its early microprocessors, Petzold presents stories of people trying to communicate with (and by means of) mechanical and electrical devices. It's a fascinating progression of technologies, and Petzold presents a clear statement of how they fit together.

The real value of Code is in its explanation of technologies that have been obscured for years behind fancy user interfaces and programming environments, which, in the name of rapid application development, insulate the programmer from the machine. In a section on machine language, Petzold dissects the instruction sets of the genre-defining Intel 8080 and Motorola 6800 processors. He walks the reader through the process of performing various operations with each chip, explaining which opcodes poke which values into which registers along the way. Petzold knows that the hidden language of computers exhibits real beauty. In Code, he helps readers appreciate it. --David Wall

Topics covered: Mechanical and electrical representations of words and numbers, number systems, logic gates, performing mathematical operations with logic gates, microprocessors, machine code, memory and programming languages.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:02 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"What do flashlights, the British invasion, black cats, and seesaws have to do with computers? In CODE, they show us the ingenious ways we manipulate language and invent new ways to communicate with each other. And through CODE, we see how this ingenuity - and our very human compulsion to communicate - have driven the technological innovations of the past two centuries." "Using everyday objects and familiar language systems such as Braille and Morse code, author Charles Petzold weaves an illuminating narrative for anyone who's ever wondered about the secret inner life of computers and other smart machines."--Jacket.… (more)

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