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Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software Paperback – October 21, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Microsoft Press; 1 edition (October 21, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0735611319
  • ISBN-13: 978-0735611313
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (198 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Charles Petzold has been writing about Windows programming for 25 years. A Windows Pioneer Award winner, Petzold is author of the classic Programming Windows, the widely acclaimed Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software, Programming Windows Phone 7, and more than a dozen other books.


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Customer Reviews

This book is required reading for all computer geeks or anyone who wants to know how computers really work.
Kelly Collins
I honestly had given up on ever finding a book like this- and i'm so glad to know there ARE people out there who want to know how the amazing things around them work!
Coffee Bird
Most of the explanations are very clear and, since the book starts from the very basic and builds up, it's very easy to understand.
Robert P. Seaton

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

278 of 283 people found the following review helpful By James B. Delong on November 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I think that this is the best book that I have read all year. In some sense this is the book that I have been looking for for twenty-five years--the book that will enable me to understand how a computer does what it does. And--given the centrality of computers in our age--it has been a long wait. But now it is over. Charles Petzold (1999), Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software does a much better job than anything else I have ever seen in explaining computers--what they really are, and how they really work.
Have you ever wondered just how your computers really work? I mean, really, really work. Not as in "an electrical signal from memory tells the processor the number to be added," but what the electrical signal is, and how it accomplishes the magic of switching on the circuits that add while switching off the other circuits that would do other things with the number. I have. I have wondered this a lot over the past decades.
Yet somehow over the past several decades my hunger for an explanation has never been properly met. I have listened to people explain how two switches wired in series are an "AND"--only if both switches are closed will the lightbulb light. I have listened to people explain how IP is a packet-based communications protocol and TCP is a connection-based protocol yet the connection-based protocal can ride on top of the packet-based protocol. Somehow these explanations did not satisfy. One seemed like answering "how does a car work?" by telling how in the presence of oxygen carbon-hydrogen bonds are broken and carbon dioxide and water are created. The other seemed like anwering "how does a car work" by telling how if you step on the accelerator the car moves forward.
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107 of 110 people found the following review helpful By Robert Leder on November 20, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The average person who uses a computer to surf the web or type letters has so little knowledge of the underlying technology he or she is using that it may as well be magic. Even programmers, who typically spend their days solving problems with the high-end abstractedness of object-orientation, may be more than a little unclear about what's actually going on inside the box when their compiled code is running.
Petzold attempts, and largely succeeds at, writing a book that leaves the reasonably intelligent layperson with a thorough comprehension of each layer that comprises a modern electronic computer (binary coding -> electronic representation -> transistors -> logic gates -> integrated circuits -> microprocessors -> opcodes -> assembly language -> high-level language -> applications). At times, the reader must follow along carefully, but Petzold tries to avoid needless complication.
Code is a well written and very entertaining explanation of the digital electronic technology that has become an integral part of our daily lives. Short of getting a degree in electrical engineering, this book is your best bet to understand how it works.
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Doug Pappas on May 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Charles Petzold a does an outstanding job of explaining the basic workings of a computer. His story begins with a description of various ways of coding information including Braille, Morse code, and binary code. He then describes the development of hardware beginning with a description of the development of telegraph and relays. This leads into the development of transistors and logic gates and switches. Boolean logic is described and numerous electrical circuits are diagramed showing the electrical implementation of Boolean logic. The book describes circuits to add and subtract binary numbers. The development of hexadecimal code is described. Memory circuits are assembled by stringing logic gates together. Two basic microprocessors are described - the Intel 8080 and the Motorola 6800. Machine language, assembly language, and some higher level software languages are covered. There is a chapter on operating systems. This book provides a very nice historical perspective on the development of computers. It is entertaining and only rarely bogs down in technical detail.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By john on August 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
Yes, that's right! CODE is the greatest book on the face of the earth!
Why? Here's my story, and go judge for yourself.
I'm using computers for around four years. My question was always "How is this thing doing it's stuff?". Although I have no idea how other electronic stuff work, the computer did bothered me more then anything else because the computer seems to do some kind of THINKING, that's why it triggered my THINKING. This question kept on staying in my head until two weeks ago. It really bothered me. All along this four years I was looking for an answer to my question. I bought books, went to the library a thousand times, but nothing helped me. I learned a few programming languages along my journey, but it did not clarify how it really works. So I decided to learn Assembly Language because I taught that that's where I'm going to find the answer to my question. I must admit that it did helped me out quite a bit, but not to the extent I expected. I used a great book called "Assembly Language Step-by-Step" by Jeff Duntemann, which is a great book, but since the subject of the book is not to teach you how computers work, it didn't helped me enough to satisfy my desire for the answer to my question. I contacted Jeff Duntemann, the author of the book and I told him my problem. He referred me to this book CODE. So I rushed and bought this book. The rest of the story is self-understood, the book made my day and my life. And that's why I'm restating "This is the greatest book on the face of the earth".
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