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The Pattern On The Stone: The Simple Ideas That Make Computers Work (Science Masters)
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To fit so much information into such a small book, Hillis has minimised his explanations, to the point that I think a true newcomer to these concepts would have difficulty in following a lot of the details. The text has been designed so that not understanding parts of it will not greatly affect the understanding of the rest, however I believe the reader would have much less appreciation for how all of the ideas mesh together in this case.
Hillis has crafted a beautiful book, one that provides excellent insight into the workings of computer technology, and a slightly different approach to that taken by standard textbooks. While I don't think this book would serve as a substitute to a standard text, it makes an excellent companion book for anyone who is already partly familiar with the concepts covered.
Now, to the good stuff... this book is a GREAT intro for someone who has some fundamentals in CS, but would like to explore it a bit more.. or get interesting ideas--especially in the department of Artificial Intelligence.
Remmember one thing... althought it's meant to be a book for "newbies"... it really isn't... some of the concepts/terminology is complex... but as a whole it's a simple short book. To me it seems VERY simple because I already read a lot of books dealing with all this stuff beforehand... but I would imagine someone who hasn't had a lot of exposure may want to at the very least read CODE (as I've already stated). You will learn a lot from CODE! (BTW, I just read this book in about two days, after finishing CODE... so that can attest to it's simplicity... not too much depth.. but a nice intro to CS with a concentration on AI).
The idea of the last chapter, Beyond Engineering, is one of the most exciting ones I've ever heard: let me summarize it briefly to entice you. Hillis thinks that we may not be able to design a true artificial intelligence because we may not ever be able to understand how our own decentralized brains work. (An artificial intelligence is a computer with a consciousness like a person's, like HAL in "2001".) Yet he thinks we can still create an artificial intelligence by simulating evolution--by imitating the same process that created us! We may be able to "breed" computers as smart as human beings without ever having to understand how we, or they, achieve the miracle of consciousness.
In the computer world, that's the kind of idea they call "sexy".
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Surprisingly clearly written and understandable. It reads like a conversation with your nerdiest friend who is super excited about building brains similar but more powerful than... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Ethan
Excellent classic text by Dan Hillis, a contemporary pioneer in computer science theory. He set out to write the introductory book he wished he would have read as a younger... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Vladimir Zuzukin
If you are looking for a text that describes the basic principles of how a computer works in simple conceptual terms -- this is it. Read morePublished on February 7, 2014 by JJ
I recently have taken a great interested in computer science and was looking for an introduction to the basic concepts. And this book provided that and so much more. Read morePublished on October 19, 2013 by Edewede
Author Hillis is a genius, and I love his books. Contents are awesome, Kindle edition will be better for this. The book print and size are too small for me. Read morePublished on February 16, 2012 by rpv
This is a must read for anyone interested in getting started to understand computation theory. Its well-written in plain english by a well-respected computer science guy. Read morePublished on December 5, 2011 by Arun Kannan
I first read this book around 10 years back. It helped me understand computers in a way that is hard to experience from any other book. Read morePublished on August 14, 2011 by Subramanian Krishnaswamy
I got this for my Minds and Machines Philosophy course for school, and I really enjoyed it. The book is a very easy read and you can get throughout in a few hours if you focus. Read morePublished on June 16, 2011 by MichaelS
This book is good for a really basic introduction, but the author chooses not to delve into any detail. Read morePublished on January 5, 2010 by J. Katz