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Code [Hardcover]

Charles Petzold
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 23 1999 DV-MPS General
From the dots and dashes of Morse code to the 0s and 1s of computer programming, ""Code"" describes the ingenious ways humans have adapted language systems -- code -- to invent the machinery of the modern age. By examining the dialogues we developed for and through the communication tools of the industrial revolution, readers discover they have a context for comprehending today's world of computers, bar code scanners, and fiber optics. The work of legendary computer book author Charles Petzold has influenced an entire generation of programmers -- and with ""Code"", Microsoft Press is proud to bring this extraordinary writer's compelling narrative style and wit to a general audience.

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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.

About the Author

Charles Petzold wrote the classic Programming Windows®, which is currently in its fifth edition and one of the best-known and widely used programming books of all time. He was honored in 1994 with the Windows Pioneer Award, presented by Microsoft® founder Bill Gates and Windows Magazine. He has been programming with Windows since first obtaining a beta Windows 1.0 SDK in the spring of 1985, and he wrote the very first magazine article on Windows programming in 1986. Charles is an MVP for Client Application Development and the author of several other books including Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book of this Type Dec 12 2003
By M. R.
As a hobbyist programmer, I had wondered for years how a computer worked at its most internal level. I had even had a couple of unsuccessful encounters with other "How Computers Work"-type books that left me mainly with the dissatisfied impression that the machine was an impenetrable black box.
Petzold's book was not like this. While other books started with flashy graphics of internal designs all flowcharts with little in the way of explanation, Code starts off simply, with two flashlights and the goal of communicating at night. This problem, of course, would be easy solved by anyone who knows of Morse code. Yet, from Petzold's pen it becomes an illuminating and amusing journey with attempts to deal with similar scenarios of every increasing complexity until I realized two-thirds of the way through that given a sufficient time and space, I could, at least in theory, build a computer. This is the greatest success of Code, in my opinion. Rather than attempting to peel away the mysteries of the system a layer at a time like an onion, it delves directly to the core and builds upon its ideas in a fashion like that of the original computer designers, until everything forms into a cohesive whole. Petzold does an excellent job of capturing his excitement for the material, making the progressive developments a joy to read about.
With my uneven background knowledge, there were a few sections that I felt that I could skim through, but also many a passage that I had to carefully scrutinize. Overall, I'd recommend this book for anyone interested in computers, from beginner to expert: Petzold provides enough explanation for a determined newcomer to understand all of the concepts, but enough breadth to still entertain and educate those with more experience in the area.
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By john
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Great, but it's not ALL for a "Novice" July 25 2002
By Boris S
The book starts out very solid, describing all the building blocks of a computer. The beginning is the best book I've seen so far describings everything from the binary system to electrical circuits, to gates to simple calculators, to memory, to a complete machine with a "control panel". But after that, the book started getting a LOT more broad (not necessarily a bad thing). It seems almost as if Petzold wanted to tell you everything about the world of computers, but couldn't fit it in a book such as this; so he dabbed a little here and there of a few terms, history, etc... (allowing you the option to look up anything you wanted if you had the interest).
My oppinion is that the book is _great_ up to about the middle of the book, after which he just condenced all the rest of the information which would otherwise takes thousands of pages to describe in as much details as he described how to build a physical logic machine... I think that if someone isn't a "techie" or isn't in the computer field, they may have some hard time understanding a few minor points... but overall, this is a GREAT book.. one of a kind.
Greatly recommended for everyone's library... I can honestly say, I always told people "a computer is nothing more than zero's and one's"... but until I read this book, I couldn't BUILD one... now I can (given time! :).
P.S. This book is perfect for those who didn't necessarily go to college and learned everything on their own... it covers some CS, CE, and EE. Those who went to college with either of those majors probably learned the greatest part of this book... but it's a great review.
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The critical thing to remember about "Code" is audience. This is a book targeted at a smart person who knows little about computers, and really wants to get a fundamental understanding. Those who are willing to dedicate time and some heavy brain power to it will get a lot out of it. Although well written, the tone is dry, and the concepts covered here are not lightweight. Essentially, Petzold covers a college-level course on computer logic and design, starting at ground level, and taking you through a lot of territory. For computer people, this a great book to give to someone else.
If you're a computer person, don't read this book. You won't be happy, because it's not meant for you, you've heard it all before, and you'll soon grow tired of it. If you've always wanted to explain the details of computers to some other person, then give them this book.
It's a little uneven at times, and the tone is dry. It may not hold the interest of any but the most dedicated reader. Occasionally, it seems like there was stuff that was neat, and Petzold really wanted it in the book, even though it doesn't really help make his point. I found the material on Morse code, Braille, UPC codes, and film cartridges interesting, but any one of these would have made his point. Similarly, his sudden dive into the history of computing is distracting - he hasn't really focused on the characters of computing in the 250 pages before this, and quickly sticking this in the middle doesn't help elucidate the concepts presented in "Code."
For someone who is interested in the details of computers, and willing to invest the time to learn them, this is an excellent book. Be prepared - there's a lot of detailed information here, but, if you get through it, you'll be rewarded with an in-depth understanding of computers and "Code."
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars It's a good book
There really isn't too much to say about this book other than it's easy to read and it contains good information.
Published 4 months ago by Steph
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
For someone who knew pieces of the picture, but not the history nor the foundation, this was a great read. Read more
Published 11 months ago by MARK STEVEN DEVRIES
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read!
This book is very good and a great read for anyone who wants to learn about the inner workings of their computers. Read more
Published on March 28 2011 by Stranger_In_The_Night
5.0 out of 5 stars Intro to EE
That is what the title should have been. I feel like I've taken a course in Electrical Engineering. Not exactly what I was expecting but really fun and educational. Read more
Published on Aug. 11 2010 by Marc
4.0 out of 5 stars pretty good
The books starts off great, but later drowns in tedious details about the construction of complex circuits. Read more
Published on Jan. 25 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Want to know exactly what a computer does?
It's not often I willingly give money to Microsoft, but I bought this book in hardcover. I don't care if Petzold is a hardcore Windows guy or not; this book is as deserving of... Read more
Published on Nov. 2 2003 by Brian Connors
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
As a merchant marine officer for many years I always enjoyed using a sextant and calculating some formulas to determine my position on the face of the earth to within a half mile. Read more
Published on Sept. 18 2003 by J. Perez
5.0 out of 5 stars Excelent
The book is super new and the delivery was too fast
Published on Aug. 6 2003 by Sameer Alzouby
3.0 out of 5 stars Got bored 1/3 of the way through.
This book comes at computers from a very low level approach, much as an electrical engineer or an ASM programmer would look at a computer. Read more
Published on Feb. 9 2003 by Sickness23
5.0 out of 5 stars Great for filling in knowledge gaps
This is a great read for anyone who, like myself, is involved with computers, but never took computer science classes. Read more
Published on Feb. 4 2003 by AK
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