Code Hardcover – Oct 23 1999
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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".
As a Perl programmer - and one could say any high level programming language - I am abstracted from the hardware so have no real idea of what goes on 'in the engine' compartment. True, a lot of the information is now historic and is utterly unnecessary to know in these days of virtualised cloud computing on demand with pay-per use billing....but for those interested it is an insight to that now passing (passed?) era of 'the Before Time'.
This book has a very smooth, swallow learning curve - more a 'learning line' - and goes from a simple on-off telegraph relay used as a transmission device all the way through how n-bit adders and '1s complement' is used to to interact with memory blocks to do subtraction through to their implications and use in assembly language with registers of modern processors.
The section on coding of language (Braille is used as an example) is also enlightening.
From the discussions I've had with others who have done formal Computer Science degrees (I haven't - yet) this book covers a sizable chunk of the fundamental computing topics.
After reading this book I will never look at a division operation in one of my programs in the same way again!
The author is just wonderful. He does seem to repeat himself a bit, and I did find myself skimming a couple pages after I understood something enough for my tastes, but that could be just me. His use of illustrations is just the best. Most authors get lazy and try to put everything in writing. This author tries to convey as much information in the diagrams as possible, but while still keeping them so clear. Extremely useful! Sometimes you can just look at the diagram and understand without even needing to read the text! An illiterate could almost come out knowing how a computer works.
The book is long and thorough. Be prepared to learn it all. But if you're the type that wants that understanding, you will get it. Everything is built on first principles so you will have a solid understanding. Every computer programmer should know this stuff.
Most recent customer reviews
Best review of *how* computer's work I have seen, Highly recommended for anyone interested in computer science. I'm surprised this book isn't more popular.Published 4 months ago by Ryan L
Excellent book if you wish to learn about how computers work at the lowest level.
Explains everything very well and is a must buy for people wanting to learn about computers
I wish I had known about this book 15 years ago when it was first published. It would have increased my understanding of all the other computer books I've read. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Brennan
Code clearly and simply explains the fundamental operations of digital electronics and microprocessors in such a way that a layperson could understand, and yet it is thorough... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Mike
Engaging and accessible while simultaneously being technically challenging. I have never encountered a book that so readily made such advanced and fundamental engineering concepts... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Daniel
Though a bit long-winded and you may need to read carefully, this book explains digital logic and computers a lot better than my professor and my textbook did.Published 19 months ago by Choong Jin Ng
There really isn't too much to say about this book other than it's easy to read and it contains good information.Published on April 29 2014 by Steph
For someone who knew pieces of the picture, but not the history nor the foundation, this was a great read. Read morePublished on Sept. 24 2013 by MARK S DEVRIES
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