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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(365 customer reviews)

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: #4750 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

16 of 16 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.

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful.
4Changes pretty dramatically after a few chapters.
By Ryan McNamara
Let me revise my previous review with a few brief things to say about this.

First, this book has a lot of pictures and diagrams and you'll want to frequently go back to them and take your time. For this reason, it's probably a pretty bad idea to buy the kindle version.

Second, this books starts out as super-light reading (for me anyway) and then starts getting much harder and denser. For that reason I can't give it 5-stars. The preview you get for your kindle might be misleading for that reason. The pacing, in my opinion, was too slow in the beginning and too fast in the middle.

You'll want to take your time with this book. This is very close to a Malcolm Gladwell or Freakonomics style book, but it's not quite.

But, on the other hand, this really is a good book if you want to learn about this sort of thing. Unlike Gladwell or Freakonomics, you really are learning stuff. I see no reason why this couldn't be used in a college course, but it won't feel like you're reading a textbook. For what it is, it's extremely accessible. And I don't think there's another book quite like this, certainly not of this quality. It is extremely well written. I did wind up taking a few flashcards, though, since it is harder than other books that follow the template of: "one-syllable-word: the amazing hidden side of superlative everythingness." But it's still done in a style that is very close to that. And you'll actually learn things that are true, and not figure out a later after you read the book that studies were misrepresented and facts distorted to fit the narrative of the book.

So that's why I revised this review. I know a bit more than I did when I first wrote it and my expectations of what the book is has changed, too. I'm going to buy whatever this guy puts out next. Four stars only because the pacing was a little off and it might not be exactly what you expect it is from the first couple of chapters. If you want to actually learn about how computers work, there has never been a book this well-written. But you do have to actually want to know how computers work.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful.
5when a concept that had long eluded you suddenly and satisfyingly comes into perfect focus. I had that feeling maybe once every
By Amazon Customer
I had been searching for a book that perfectly explains the inner workings of computers, starting from scratch.

This is EXACTLY the book I had wanted.

We've all had moments of sublime understanding, when a concept that had long eluded you suddenly and satisfyingly comes into perfect focus.

I had that feeling maybe once every page.

About 100 pages in you'll know how to build a computer (binary adding machine) from nothing but wires and a battery (and some switches). Pretty amazing.

See all 365 customer reviews...

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