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: #3471 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

25 of 26 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.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful.
5Brilliant concise explanations. A great read regardless of your experience level.
I have over ten years field experience as a programmer, but it wasn't until recently that I read this book and actually understood what I was making the hardware do. This book absolutely demystifies digital logic, RAM and microprocessors. Charles Petzold does a brilliant job explaining how hardware works and how software progressed over the decades. He explains these things with such clarity and astonishingly few words.

The author frequently jumps into very important history of technology and people who pioneered the technology, which is not only interesting, but also gives a great angle on the reasons for the way technology has progressed.

I believe this book should be a fun read for someone with very limited experience with computer software and hardware, and perhaps that this should be required reading for anyone interested in Computer Science or Computer Engineering.

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful.
5GREAT book!
By Amanda
I've been programming for years now, but have never had a great understanding of what's really going on in a computer to make it work. Sure, I had the vague idea that there were lots of transistors, and components like RAM, ROM, operating systems, etc... but I had no understanding of how these components actually worked, or how they all tied in together. I've been meaning to really sit down and learn what's going on, but was overwhelmed by the magnitude of terms to look up.

Then came this book... This book is EXACTLY what I was looking for. Petzold builds gradually on each of his previous chapters, so all of the content is very understandable and accessible. He is very clear in his language and explanations, and I found it remarkably easy to follow. There were a few chapters (most toward the beginning) where I had trouble seeing the relevance of why he was explaining something like Morse Code, but was very pleasantly surprised when he tied it flawlessly into his larger narrative.

If you studied electrical engineering or computer engineering, you'll probably already have a solid grasp of what he's explaining in this book. (Though it's still a wonderful whole-spectrum explanation of what's going on under the hood!) And if you did not study anything of the sort, there's a great chance you'll learn a whole lot from Petzold.

If you're on the fence about this book, I absolutely recommend it, and in fact will be recommending it to my friends and colleagues who are in the same boat.

See all 368 customer reviews...

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