Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software

by Charles Petzold

Hardcover, 1999




Microsoft Press (1999), 393 pages


"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 ways to communicate 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."--Jacket.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Foretopman
I *think* this is a wonderful explanation of how computer hardware and software work, but I could be wrong. I'm not certain that it's really understandable for someone who, unlike me, doesn't already have a strong grounding in a lot of the material.

The book has held up remarkably well over the years. I feel like 95% of the content is still relevant. This is all of the fundamentals of how the hardware and software work. Only a little bit of the detail of how computers are used, (and, of course, what 'typical' sizes and speeds are) has become dated.

When I first read it, eight years ago, I was disappointed by chapter 17, Automation, because he glossed over the CPU control signals. This time around I discovered that he has a "technical addendum" on his website that goes into more detail on the control signals. Also, this time, I see that perhaps it's not such a great leap to think that, based on what has come before, readers can fill in the blanks for themselves.
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LibraryThing member twertz
Quite possibly the most amazing and entertaining (in a geeky way) non-fiction book I've read in a decade. I learned things from this book that, as a programmer, I probably should've known a long time ago. If you have ANY interest in computers, I HIGHLY recommend this book!
LibraryThing member wolever
Like others have said, very well written, but since I have a technical background I ended up skipping large portions of it.
LibraryThing member tenacious_nixie
Better than all the 'Introduction to this... whole... IT thing' classes I took in school and university (and I'm practically a CS major).

It starts with the basics to which a 10-year-old can relate, and then takes a very clear, full, and consistent path to fill in all the blanks you may have on the 'but how exactly do 1s and 0s do this?' subject.

I'd say it's an excellent book for anyone, and the sooner you read it, the better. I wish my grandma could read it and never be embarrassed because of a computer again.
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LibraryThing member johninBurnham
Currently re-reading this wonderful book.
An excellent explanation of so many basic ideas behind the code that lies at the heart of modern day computing.
Written in 1999, but still extraordinarily relevant to today's computer science students, whether at A Level or higher.
LibraryThing member ilokhov
This is a wonderful book for those interested in how computers function but lacking formal education in the subject. The beauty of "Code" is that it goes back to the very beginnings of computing and builds on these bit by bit (pun intended) eventually arriving at the modern architecture of personal computers. The reader is spared the overly technical complexities, however this text is quite full-on and does not make for particularly light reading. As such I feel it is better to take one's time reading through it, as the ideas contained are quite profound and require time to sink in. It covers electrical circuitry, number systems (including binary and decimal), bits, logic, bytes, RAM, the invention of microprocessors and an introduction to operating systems and programming languages.

A must read for those enthusiastic about computers who are seeking an in-depth introduction to how modern computing architecture functions.

This is a book I will be re-reading in the future as the information contained here is densely packed and I am hoping to take in more of the finer details the next time I read it.
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LibraryThing member danrk
Just plain excellent.


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