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Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software Paperback – October 21, 2000
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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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Top Customer Reviews
But this book... I wish this was a 20-book series, like some sort of vampire series....
I have a master's in computer science, but I learned so much from this book. I couldn't put it down.
I lent it to my dad, who knows very little about digital electronics. He enjoyed it a lot too.
I just bought a copy for an intern this summer.
I have plenty of books in my collection, but they're all dull reads.. like K&R's C book, Bjarne's C++ book. We need more books like this one!
The author frequently jumps into very important history of technology and people who pioneered the technology, which is not only interesting, but also gives a great angle on the reasons for the way technology has progressed.
I believe this book should be a fun read for someone with very limited experience with computer software and hardware, and perhaps that this should be required reading for anyone interested in Computer Science or Computer Engineering.
Then came this book... This book is EXACTLY what I was looking for. Petzold builds gradually on each of his previous chapters, so all of the content is very understandable and accessible. He is very clear in his language and explanations, and I found it remarkably easy to follow. There were a few chapters (most toward the beginning) where I had trouble seeing the relevance of why he was explaining something like Morse Code, but was very pleasantly surprised when he tied it flawlessly into his larger narrative.
If you studied electrical engineering or computer engineering, you'll probably already have a solid grasp of what he's explaining in this book. (Though it's still a wonderful whole-spectrum explanation of what's going on under the hood!) And if you did not study anything of the sort, there's a great chance you'll learn a whole lot from Petzold.
If you're on the fence about this book, I absolutely recommend it, and in fact will be recommending it to my friends and colleagues who are in the same boat.
Code assumes you know absolutely nothing about computers, nothing about electronics (other than that they exist) and nothing about "code."
Charles Petzold takes you on a time-travel exploration of some of the most significant scientific discoveries from the Medieval, a spattering of ancient Greek and Arabic discoveries, the Renaissance, and ends with Technologies of the mid to late 1980s. You take this journey using nothing but the technology available at the time, with the exception of one futuristic bit of technology: Edison's 1879 invention, the lightbulb.
Equipped with this "Advanced Technology" Petzold guides you, step by step and piece by piece through the process of how a computer works. And you fully understand how a computer "works" with nothing more than wire, buttons and lightbulbs in your technological arsenal. He won't even mention the word "transistor" until half-way through the book (and only in passing), let alone talk about transistors in any detail for the first 247 pages of the book.
Everyone has something to gain from this book. Even software engineers like me. I was a hobbyist electronics enthusiast when I was a kid, and I read all the books on electronics I could get my hands on. I knew what all the components were. I knew how to read schematics. I even knew how transistors worked and what digital logic gates were. But I struggled with making the connection from AND, OR, NAND, NOR and XOR gates (nobody bothered to mention INVERTERS to me) to being useful, functional digital circuits.
Charles Petzold single-handedly erased a 25 year gap in my understanding of how computers really work on a fundamental level. And I love that he did it in a way that is so accessible my mother can understand this technology, and that we can now have a shared experience around it.