Kelly's Reviews > Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software

Code by Charles Petzold
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Dec 04, 10

Read from August 02 to 11, 2010

I really loved this book, much more than I expected to. It was about two main things, computer science and electronics (well, and how they overlap). The ultimate target of discussion is the computer, but as everyone knows, this is a complicated thing. The book wasn't non-technical, but it was extremely approachable for someone who's not an expert in these areas. And if you are knowledgeable in one but not the other, it's even more interesting because see connections you never noticed before. It starts at the "beginning", with raw codes and fundamental (applied) electronics. So, Morse code, Braille, binary... things like that on the code track, and flashlights, telegraphs, and relays on the electronics track. Other code issues that get explored are non-base-ten number systems, addition and subtraction, ASCII and character coding, computer languages, and graphics. Most of the basic electronic components are explained--not the fundamental things like capacitors and resistors, but higher-level stuff like switches, flip-flops, and gates. These two tracks really combine in chapters on memory, microprocessors, the operating system and so on.

I actually also really liked the diagrams in the book. They were simplistic but crisp black and white line drawings, with occasional red thrown in for emphasis. I'm a big fan of black and right and a little red.

I'm not entirely sure who this book is for. Programmers who are at least somewhat curious about electronics would like it, and electronics hobbyists or engineers might enjoy understanding the low-level workings of the computers they use all the time. And anybody else with those sorts of interests also would like it, I suppose.
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