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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
The latter sections are considerably more dense, and required going back a few times, tracing the circuit diagrams with my finger, and Googling the finer points of electrical circuitry, how to do math in binary, octal, and hexadecimal, and other assorted topics covered in this wide-ranging work.
I had classes a LONG time ago in electrical engineering, as well as a good amount of experience with binary, hex(adecimal), and programming, so given that background I could follow along fairly easily & connect the concepts to my existing knowledge. If you don't have any background at all in EE, Comp Sci, or programming, be prepared to re-read & re-re-read the chapters on logic gates, circuits, and how these bits of hardware physically compute & store basic arithmetic values in order to perform complex tasks. Those sections were the most challenging, but ultimately for me provided the most valuable information because it helped fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle in my prior knowledge.
For anyone who wants to "learn to code," but you find yourself confused by or not really bothering to understand concepts like pointers, memory addresses, Boolean logic, or esoteric & ancient magic spells like "XOR" or Assembly Language, this book does an excellent job of explaining in real, physical hardware terms exactly what those mean and how they work.
My only critique is that after ALL that fine-grained detail & historical backstory for most of the book, the final chapter crams roughly the last 40 years of computing into a few short pages, covering everything from Graphical User Interfaces & image compression to the internet & (rather outdated) descriptions of web browsers. It felt rushed & tacked on.
I'd really like to see an update, or a companion book, that covers newer topics in such detail as the first half of this book.
Overall though, this was a fantastic, educational if at-times-dense read. I had to work at it a bit, but that was the point.
If you hate to read, don't want to learn, and are too lazy to work at it - buy it anyway to give him another $15 and then write a review explaining why it's the book/author's fault :P
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.
The build-up from basic relays to a working computer concept is excellent. It really gave me some fresh insight into the connection between logic and hardware.
The latter parts get very heavy into assembly language, and the final couple chapters are dated. The final chapter seems a little hurried, but to the authors credit it's impossible to keep up with the technological advancements in computing and the internet with a print book.
Overall a great book that takes the reader on a great journey of the evolution of electronics and computers.
This is EXACTLY the book I had wanted.
We've all had moments of sublime understanding, when a concept that had long eluded you suddenly and satisfyingly comes into perfect focus.
I had that feeling maybe once every page.
About 100 pages in you'll know how to build a computer (binary adding machine) from nothing but wires and a battery (and some switches). Pretty amazing.
It is interesting to see how the author explains every concept by real life examples and then improve every design of component incrementally, which is also exciting along the way.
Most recent customer reviews
The demonstration of of required circuitry is absolutely painful.
But, it speeds up at the end.