Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software

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.

Users Comments:

  • 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.
  • I’m an electronics engineer so basically I was not expecting to find much new stuff of this book when I first browsed the table of contents, however after some reading I’ve got to love it very quickly. Yeah, chances are that most of the devices described along the pages are familiar to many people, specially for those with education in engineering, but the way this book takes you from one to the next is as natural that new relationships start to be apparent right away and then, you finally got it !!. This book is a very nice mix of technical and historical, it will use your interest in electronics to tell you the whole story from the Morse code to the microprocessor. As I read I learned more about the many difficulties that our peers from the past had to deal with to solve their problems and, ultimately, create the technology of today.
  • Okay, so I’m only 30 pages into this book but I’m hooked. I started taking evening IT classes to get into a different career and ran into some issues in my A+ certification went they kept using volts, amperes and other terms that I only had a vague idea of what they meant. This book gave me a more solid understanding of these terms, so much so I saved a friend $85 dollars that he was about spent on a starter for his car. I saw immediately that the cable wire attached to the battery was missing a few inches of electrical tape, leaving the copper exposed. This book taught me that electricity does not ran very well through air, so we went to Auto Zone and bought some electrical tape to cover the exposed areas, making sure enough electricity is getting to the battery. I didn’t think it was going to work but the car started right up! For a noob like me this was a big deal. This author created a strong interest in me for chemistry, which would of been real helpful years ago but oh well. I enjoyed his intro into Morse code and Brail as it felt he was conditioning readers to grasp idea how computers received and process information. Brail was very interesting as he pointed out how certain markers will alert a blind person to cease interpreting letters and switch over to numbers, than another nullifier to switch back to letters.
  • I have worked with computers since I was young and to this day I am still entwined with them. However, there were certainly still little mysteries of their functioning I had simply glossed over, and now that I am changing careers to a code-oriented position, I took it upon myself to use this as a refresher’s course of sorts. Petzold breaks the topic of computer mechanics into three parts: Firstly, Petzold discusses the nature of codes (as in the means for communication), electricity, and other essential basics that open the door for what could be considered the ‘second’ section of the book in which Petzold builds a computer ‘from the ground up’. Using some basic examples of circuitry he has previously explained he explains the nature of logic gates and relays, their relativity and use to one another, and how these parts make a very basic and initial ‘adding machine’ or ‘computer’ when combined in certain ways using certain idiosyncrasies of circuitry structure. The convolution sets in about this time as some chapters can be kind of complicated by means of items such as logic gate tables, but don’t be dismayed by my words because pressing on will not leave you baffled as Petzold still does a rather fantastic job summarizing the key points at good times. Finally, the book ends on a few chapters explaining the history of, at the time of him writing the book, ‘current’ computer technology. It is obvious the book has not been updated in awhile, but since I did grow up about the same time Petzold wrote this book (the reign of the 3.5 floppy diskette), understanding what he was talking about was not totally baffling. In fact, it’s quite a time capsule for computer technology in a certain way, and he does mention some things (e.g. DVDs, fiber optic cables) that, in his words, might come into fruition and commonplace use in the future, and, well, have. Fundamentally, I left having read code with a very clear idea of what’s going on in a computer, that isn’t too complicated or hard to envision and strongly recommend this to anyone who doesn’t entirely ‘get’ the basic ideas / workings of the fundamental parts of a computer system. Petzold never fails to use metaphors in proper time and good taste, and I feel the predominance of positive reviews (and references from other programmers / computer science individuals marking this text as a fundamental) would agree that this is a solid explanatory work.

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