Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software

Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software
By Charles Petzold

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Product Description

What do flashlights, the British invasion, black cats, and seesaws have to do with computers? In CODE, they show us the ingenious ways we manipulate language and invent new means of communicating with each other. And through CODE, we see how this ingenuity and our very human compulsion to communicate have driven the technological innovations of the past two centuries.
Using everyday objects and familiar language systems such as Braille and Morse code, author Charles Petzold weaves an illuminating narrative for anyone who’s ever wondered about the secret inner life of computers and other smart machines.
It’s a cleverly illustrated and eminently comprehensible story—and along the way, you’ll discover you’ve gained a real context for understanding today’s world of PCs, digital media, and the Internet. No matter what your level of technical savvy, CODE will charm you—and perhaps even awaken the technophile within.

Product Details

  • Amazon Sales Rank: #6276 in Books
  • Brand: imusti
  • Published on: 2000-10-21
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Dimensions: 8.90" h x 1.10" w x 6.00" l, 1.15 pounds
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 400 pages


  • Microsoft Press

Editorial Reviews Review
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 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.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews

54 of 56 people found the following review helpful.
5Buy it, love it, share it.
By Mike H.
Seriously, if you are the kind of person who needs to understand where things came from to really understand them, this is a great book. It is truly a book on code, and not just "how to code" or "what to do with code" but "what on earth is code" and where did it come from. It explains computers and computing in more usable terms than more technical books on the same subject because it focuses on history and scope rather than technical depth. For a reader like me, who asked every teacher from elementary school through college "why do we count to 10" and clung to the best answer of "it's arbitrary - it's just how it's always been done" until reading this book (and who struggled to convert binary to base ten), this book was gold. Pure gold.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful.
5Insanely great
By Dmitry
I want to start off by saying that this book is an absolute joy to read, although there is very little chance that it will give you any practical knowledge that you will be able to apply in your day-to-day endeavors. You will have a lot of fun though if you just want a good technical read that doesn't make your head explode because of all the complexity it imposes on you.

The book is basically about how computers work and it's written in a very logical way. The author starts out with the most basic electrical circuit composed of a battery, a switch and a lightbulb and explains how it works. Next, he adds an electro magnet to it thus introducing us to relays. After that, he proceeds to combine those elements in such ways that we get an adding machine, a counter, selectors etc. Next, we build a processor and memory for it, and this is basically a computer. Of course there's plenty of supporting material. You'll very rarely have a moment of "Wait, I don't get that", and this is a big plus. The book does unfortunately get a little messy in its final chapters, the author kinda skims through some advanced subjects pretty quickly (like sound, images, etc). All in all, this book reads as an interesting story, not as your standard dry and boring textbook.

Don't pick this book up if you're strongly inclined towards humanitarian sciences and absolutely hate math, physics and logic, you'll drop it as soon the author introduces numerical systems other than decimal, and this is what the book uses a lot in subsequent pages. For all others, get this book and satisfy that geek inside you.

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful.
5Extremely well motivated introduction to how computer harware works
By A. Menon
Code is a fantastic casual introduction to computer science. The author takes the interested reader through concepts like number systems, information encoding, electricity, computer hardware, computer architecture, software including operating systems, computer languages from Assembly to high level languages and some input output device analysis. It is a remarkable accomplishment in a relatively short number of pages.

The author starts by asking the reader how they would go about communicating with a friend at some distance with only a flashlight. From such a basic problem starting point the author introduces ways in which people have encoded information and how efficiently that information is encoded. The reader learns about morse code and braille. Then bits are introduced and the author shows the reader how the base of a number system is quite arbitrary and then introduces ideas in binary. The reader is introduced to basic Boolean logic and how information can be encoded in binary very naturally. The author then goes to show how one can build adding machines from basic logic devices and then introduces complement arithmetic to show how subtraction can be done using a binary adding machine. The author then moves on to some basic circuit elements and shows how latches can be made to store bits. From latches the author moves on to flip flops and discusses how a clock can be used to sequence logic. The author then gets into registers and basic computer architecture. The reader is shown some early chip designs and what functions they included. In the process of learning Von Neumann architecture we learn about memory, the bus, the program counter and eventually move in to operating systems. After aspects of that are introduced the reader learns about fixed and floating point numbers as well as computer languages and compilers. Eventually the author introduces how graphical interfaces were developed such that computers became interactive devices for the users rather than pure computational devices.

I read this book while taking a course on basic computer architecture so I had the fortune of having two sources for instruction. In reading this alongside/after a more formal course I feel like the material of the course is slightly more easily absorbed as this book brings life to what can sometimes be a terse subject. Definitely think it can be read on its own or as a intro to what can become a very difficult subject very quickly.

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