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Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software (1999)

de Charles Petzold

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1,5941711,223 (4.21)3
Computers are everywhere, most obviously in our laptops and smartphones, but also our cars, televisions, microwave ovens, alarm clocks, robot vacuum cleaners, and other smart appliances. Have you ever wondered what goes on inside these devices to make our lives easier but occasionally more infuriating? For more than 20 years, readers have delighted in Charles Petzold's illuminating story of the secret inner life of computers, and now he has revised it for this new age of computing. Cleverly illustrated and easy to understand, this is the book that cracks the mystery. You'll discover what flashlights, black cats, seesaws, and the ride of Paul Revere can teach you about computing, and how human ingenuity and our compulsion to communicate have shaped every electronic device we use. This new expanded edition explores more deeply the bit-by-bit and gate-by-gate construction of the heart of every smart device, the central processing unit that combines the simplest of basic operations to perform the most complex of feats. Along with new chapters, Petzold created a new website, CodeHiddenLanguage.com, that uses animated interactive graphics to make computers even easier to comprehend. From the simple ticking of clocks to the worldwide hum of the internet, Code reveals the essence of the digital revolution. -- Provided by publisher.… (més)
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Es mostren 1-5 de 17 (següent | mostra-les totes)
I really wanted to like this book more than I did. The difficultly of chapters varied so widely that I went from feeling talked down to, to where I thought "Wow! I always wondered how that worked", to "Whu? This doesn't make any sense-- this is so over my head". The harder parts should have been more like a text book and less like a pop-science book (or omitted for being more than can be absorbed while reading a armchair pop-science book). ( )
  matthwdeanmartin | Jul 9, 2023 |
That was a lot of fun to read, for me at least. I already knew most of what was in the book, from several college classes (digital circuits, digital devices, etc) and from a career in computers, but it was nice to see it all laid out together. Of course a little dated, but the fundamentals are all there. ( )
  steve02476 | Jan 3, 2023 |
This is a great book for anyone wanting to learn how computers work. It starts with turning a light on and off as a code, and ends with multimedia computer systems. Even electrical engineers will enjoy this review of the basics of computer science and architecture, as it includes historical facts they might not have known. ( )
  lpg3d | Nov 12, 2022 |
I am always interested in learning new ways to teach my students the fundamentals of digital logic, not to mention I also teach a follow-up class on microcontrollers, and sometimes teaching students how they go from the digital logic they learned last semester to something that computes can be challenging. So I'll always happily grab a book aimed for laypeople to see if I can grab a few nuggets from it.

There were things I liked about this book, and things I didn't like about this book. I enjoyed the chapters on different types of code (Morse and Braille really), and, although dated, I did appreciate the discussion on microprocessors, (4004 and 8080, 68000), etc. Some discussions of memory I thought were good (although I teach and work with Harvard architecture microcontrollers).

I skipped over the chapters about flip-flops (which, non-clocked, are actually latches, which the author took a couple chapters to state in the book) and computing hardware as that's all review for me. I agree with other commenters in that learning about every single opCode of a non-RISC-architecture microprocessor was just way too much, so I skimmed that part.

Personally, if I were going to write a book like this, I probably would have used a RISC-architecture instruction set to explain assembly. I only know RISC-type instructions, being that I do not program or write assembly for computers, only 8-bit micocontrollers, and reading a thousand different memory addressing mode instructions for AND just made my eyes water. If it was inaccessible to me, who writes assembly for fun, then I can't imagine an average Joe reading this at the airport (not that people go to airports and travel lately, but I digress) is going to have a fun time with these instructions either. The author brings up the concept of RISC very briefly. I'm just guessing the author spends more time with complex architectures and that's probably just what he's more familiar and comfortable with.

I guess I didn't not like the chapters I skipped, I just thought they were either way TMI, or not super interesting because I already knew the content. I suppose I appreciated how the author went from modulating a flash light beam to digital logic. But I know it's not exactly that easy to teach students binary and Boolean algebra, regardless of the analogies you use. Being that I literally teach this stuff and already have a very firm grasp on the concepts, I have no idea how understandable and relatable it is with people who are not already familiar with the concepts.

Another thing to note, is that this book suffers somewhat from being 20 years old, but not a lot. When the author talks about memory and storage and clock speeds (and also how things like CD-ROMS are in "nearly every computer"), the book seriously betrays its age. I mean, back in 1999 I never thought I'd need much more than a floppy disk to store things, CDs were for playing Sim Tower and listening to the Foo Fighter's first album on my dad's really expensive portable CD player that I always "borrowed", and we finally had a 56K modem, although in the middle of rural CDNY, we couldn't actually achieve such blazingly fast speeds in practice. I never would have guessed that 20 years later, everybody would stream music, store files on "the Cloud", spend more time on phones and tablets than computers (which certainly don't have CRT monitors anymore), and all of the other things we take for granted now. I would say the worst anachronism was the focus on single processor computers, but again, back in 1999 we just figured processors would always get faster, smaller, and more powerful, and didn't really know that the future (which is only true writing this in 2020, who knows what another 20 years will bring) was more on parallelizing operations and creating multi-core processors.

But really, other than the anachronism here and there, this book does not suffer from age. Boolean logic is all still relevant, learning how you jump from a "dumb" finite state machine to a stored program computer kind of requires that you learn about the first stored program computers, regardless of how outdated they are.

Usually the end of my reviews is where I recommend the book and to whom. I have a hard time deciding whom I'd recommend this to. See, anybody who has no idea about digital logic may enjoy the chapters on how logic gates are built but might not appreciate the later chapters in the book. Anybody who already has a grasp on Boolean logic and the basics of computer hardware is going to want to skip over almost the entire first half of the book. I guess, read this book if you're interested in how computers went from taking up an entire room to merely fitting onto a large desk, and don't be the type of person who has to read every page, open yourself up to the possibility that you'll want to skim or skip some parts. ( )
  lemontwist | Apr 28, 2020 |
Brilliant. Starts slowly, but the more you already know, the faster you can whiz through the early chapters, and there can't be too many people who won't eventually hit on material that is new to them. Or, at least, explained more clearly and put into context more thoroughly than when previously encountered. Petzold somehow strikes the perfect balance between rigour, clarity and fun -- the book is occasionally an effort but never a chore or a slog. ( )
  matt_ar | Dec 6, 2019 |
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Wikipedia en anglès (1)

Computers are everywhere, most obviously in our laptops and smartphones, but also our cars, televisions, microwave ovens, alarm clocks, robot vacuum cleaners, and other smart appliances. Have you ever wondered what goes on inside these devices to make our lives easier but occasionally more infuriating? For more than 20 years, readers have delighted in Charles Petzold's illuminating story of the secret inner life of computers, and now he has revised it for this new age of computing. Cleverly illustrated and easy to understand, this is the book that cracks the mystery. You'll discover what flashlights, black cats, seesaws, and the ride of Paul Revere can teach you about computing, and how human ingenuity and our compulsion to communicate have shaped every electronic device we use. This new expanded edition explores more deeply the bit-by-bit and gate-by-gate construction of the heart of every smart device, the central processing unit that combines the simplest of basic operations to perform the most complex of feats. Along with new chapters, Petzold created a new website, CodeHiddenLanguage.com, that uses animated interactive graphics to make computers even easier to comprehend. From the simple ticking of clocks to the worldwide hum of the internet, Code reveals the essence of the digital revolution. -- Provided by publisher.

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