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am 15. Juni 2000
If you don't have too much of an idea how your PC works, but always wanted to know - well, stop looking for something else, you've just found what you need. I can't remember having read a book on a technical matter that took me by the hand and led me all the way through like this one, from flashlight communication between kids to Java virtual machines. Charles Petzold does not take any knowledge with his reader for granted, and so he uses lots of drawings and a most intelligable language to introduce you step by step and chapter by chapter into computer basics.
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am 20. November 1999
The average person who uses a computer to surf the web or type letters has so little knowledge of the underlying technology he or she is using that it may as well be magic. Even programmers, who typically spend their days solving problems with the high-end abstractedness of object-orientation, may be more than a little unclear about what's actually going on inside the box when their compiled code is running.
Petzold attempts, and largely succeeds at, writing a book that leaves the reasonably intelligent layperson with a thorough comprehension of each layer that comprises a modern electronic computer (binary coding -> electronic representation -> transistors -> logic gates -> integrated circuits -> microprocessors -> opcodes -> assembly language -> high-level language -> applications). At times, the reader must follow along carefully, but Petzold tries to avoid needless complication.
Code is a well written and very entertaining explanation of the digital electronic technology that has become an integral part of our daily lives. Short of getting a degree in electrical engineering, this book is your best bet to understand how it works.
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am 29. Mai 2000
Charles Petzold a does an outstanding job of explaining the basic workings of a computer. His story begins with a description of various ways of coding information including Braille, Morse code, and binary code. He then describes the development of hardware beginning with a description of the development of telegraph and relays. This leads into the development of transistors and logic gates and switches. Boolean logic is described and numerous electrical circuits are diagramed showing the electrical implementation of Boolean logic. The book describes circuits to add and subtract binary numbers. The development of hexadecimal code is described. Memory circuits are assembled by stringing logic gates together. Two basic microprocessors are described - the Intel 8080 and the Motorola 6800. Machine language, assembly language, and some higher level software languages are covered. There is a chapter on operating systems. This book provides a very nice historical perspective on the development of computers. It is entertaining and only rarely bogs down in technical detail.
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am 11. Februar 2000
It's not often that you come across a book that deals with complex topics in language that the layman can understand.
The organisation is excellent - Petzold explores one topic at a time, giving you the chance to absorb one concept before moving on to the next. And each chapter builds on what you have read before.
If you are just curious about what goes on inside your PC, or if you are involved in IT but lack an understanding of the actual box that does all the work, then this book is for you.
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am 9. November 2015
A very good book. After exploring the basic ideas of code, demonstrating various codes used more than 100 years ago (e.g. Morse), giving a brief introduction of basic electronics and circuits, the book breaks down the computer (or rather, breaks down the very fundamental devices that make it truly a computer) to its smallest component, the electronic switch, and assembles new pieces by stringing multiple such switches together, and then again assembles new pieces by combining these pieces, and reiterates multiple times. By rearranging and rewiring of these various components the book slowly builds what can be called the heart and mind of a computer that is capable of doing what all computers, be they the room-sized behemoths of the 60s or a 2015 smartphone, do at a very fundamental level. The book does a fine job explaining the various concepts and the pace is okay considering the vast amount of information conveyed. I'll probably need to read it a few more times before fully grasping all concepts covered, as I'm a fast or rather, inpatient reader.

This is the end of chapter 17 of 24 (or 25? can't remember) equaling about two thirds of the book. After chapter 17, after an introduction to the concept of transistors and microprocessors, a few more components of the computer are introduced and explained rather detailed (keyboard, display, hard drive...), but in general, the pace accelerates quite a bit, as the remaining, more high-level concepts that need to be explained in order to arrive at the modern computer aren't covered with as much depth, but more with a historical retelling of computing going from 1950 until 1999 (when the book was written). This includes mentioning various historically significant programming languages (e.g. algol) and operating systems such as ms-dos and its predecessor, and this is where it's the easiest to notice a slight bias towards microsoft/windows (the author being a programmer for this os and the book being published by microsoft) which is okay, given its historical significance. Unix, upon which nearly all non-microsoft operating systems are based and of which many concepts are also implemented in windows, gets about one or two pages, mainly devoted to historical aspects of its conception (GNU and Linux get about one paragraph).

I personally would have preferred more information about assemblers, about coding beyond individual processor instructions (e.g. writing an assembler in assembly), how high level programming works, about the translation of high-level code into machine code (i.e.compiling), memory management, or the difference between compiling and interpreting. As another reviewer has pointed out, there could have been about 5 more chapters on software. But perhaps this would have blown the scale of the book (easily >100 pages more). Additionally, I think some of the software chapters aren't well chosen, e.g. it doesn't become clear why floating point numbers are more important for understanding the machine than let's say, hex color codes. Still a great book, the hardware parts are written really well.
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am 24. Januar 2000
This is a fascinating book on many levels. Extremely well written. For anybody who uses computers in their work and always wondered what goes on under the covers, this book touches on just about every area and goes into great detail in some areas.
On the other hand, don't buy this book if you want practical information about how to be a better programmer or whatever. This book is definetely suited to an enthusiast who is honestly interested in learning arcane details. It isn't going to help anyone get a higher salary or a promotion.
That's what I really liked about this book. It was truly different from any other book you will ever buy from Microsoft Press or like publishers.
My only real critiscism is that it seems to run out of steam at the end. Chapter after chapter is devoted to the inner workings of logic gates, memory, and so on, but almost nothing is said about operating systems.
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am 24. Dezember 2012
Ich habe dieses Buch gelesen um mehr über die Grundlagen von Computern zu erfahren und besser verstehen zu lernen wie ausgehend von einfachen Binärzuständen komplexe Computersysteme aufgebaut werden können.

Dieses Buch fokusiert stark auf grundlegende historische Hardware, lässt aber leider viele Entwicklungen, die wohl auch schon 1999 zu erkennen waren, völlig außen vor. So werden beispielsweise bei der Diskussion der grafischen Darstellung der Inhalte ausschließlich Konzepte vorgestellt, die CRT-Monitore betreffen. Der Autor hat scheinbar noch nicht einmal geahnt, dass LCD- und TFT-Monitore existieren könnten.

Das Buch ist auch nur Menschen zu empfehlen, die sich durch endlos viele Schaltpläne und Befehlssätze längst nicht mehr relevanter Hardware kämpfen wollen. Fur das Nachvollziehen der Grundfunktionen ist aus meiner Sicht die detaillierte Darstellung vollständiger Befehlssätze von Computern aus den 50er- und 60er-Jahren kaum hilfreich weil sich dabei die selben Konzepte wiederholen und das Nachvollziehen der teilweise doch recht komplexen Variationen mehr ermüdend als erleuchtend ist.

Wer sich ohne irgendwelche Programmier-Kenntnisse an dieses Buch heran wagt, wird vermutlich überfordert sein.

Ich habe den Verdacht, dass es inzwischen viele Bücher gibt, die die selbe Aufgabe zeitgemäßer und mit weniger unnötig mühsamen Details bewältigen. Vermutlich wäre es allgemein hilfreicher einfachere Beispiele anschaulicher zu erklären als sehr ähnliche eher minimalistische Beschreibungen in immer neuen Derivaten hoffnungslos veralteter Hardware auszubreiten.

Gut dagegen fand ich die Querverknüpfungen mit historischen Details aus der Computergeschichte. Die haben eine dringend nötige Auflockerung zu den vielen Schaltplänen geboten und gleichzeitig dafür gesorgt, dass ich Vieles in ein grobes Gesamtbild einordnen konnte.

Menschen, die gerne anschauliche Erklärungen haben ohne sich mit Code, Diagrammen und Schaltplänen befassen zu müssen, sollten das Buch meiden. Wer aber einige Grundlagen ausführlich in verschiedenen Variationen dargestellt haben möchte, ohne Angst vor trockenen Speicherzuweisungen und Maschinencodes zu haben, und wer es auch verkraften kann nicht in die aktuellen Technologien eingeweiht zu werden, wird über das Buch sicher einige neue Einblicke bekommen können.
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am 27. November 1999
I think that this is the best book that I have read all year. In some sense this is the book that I have been looking for for twenty-five years--the book that will enable me to understand how a computer does what it does. And--given the centrality of computers in our age--it has been a long wait. But now it is over. Charles Petzold (1999), Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software does a much better job than anything else I have ever seen in explaining computers--what they really are, and how they really work.
Have you ever wondered just how your computers really work? I mean, really, really work. Not as in "an electrical signal from memory tells the processor the number to be added," but what the electrical signal is, and how it accomplishes the magic of switching on the circuits that add while switching off the other circuits that would do other things with the number. I have. I have wondered this a lot over the past decades.
Yet somehow over the past several decades my hunger for an explanation has never been properly met. I have listened to people explain how two switches wired in series are an "AND"--only if both switches are closed will the lightbulb light. I have listened to people explain how IP is a packet-based communications protocol and TCP is a connection-based protocol yet the connection-based protocal can ride on top of the packet-based protocol. Somehow these explanations did not satisfy. One seemed like answering "how does a car work?" by telling how in the presence of oxygen carbon-hydrogen bonds are broken and carbon dioxide and water are created. The other seemed like anwering "how does a car work" by telling how if you step on the accelerator the car moves forward.
Charles Petzold is different. He has hit the sweet spot exactly. Enough detail to satisfy anyone. Yet the detail is quickly built up as he ascends to higher and higher levels of explanation. It remains satisfying, but it also hangs together in a big picture.
In fact, my only complaint is that the book isn't long enough. It is mostly a hardware book (unless you want to count Morse Code and the interpretation of flashing light bulbs as "software." By my count there are twenty chapters on hardware, and five on software. In my view only five chapters on software--one on ASCII, one on operating systems, one on floating-point arithmetic, one on high-level languages, and one on GUIs--is about ten too few. (Moreover, at one key place in his explanation (but only one) he waves his hands. He argues that it is possible to use the operation codes stored in memory to control which circuits in the processor are active. But he doesn't show how it is done.)
Charles Petzold's explanatory strategy is to start with the telegraph: with how opening and closing a switch can send an electrical signal down a wire. And he wants to build up, step by step, from that point to end with our modern computers. At the end he hopes that the reader can look back--from the graphical user interface to the high-level language software constructions that generate it, from the high-level language software constructions to the machine-language code that underlies it, from the machine-language code to the electrical signals that load, store, and add bits into the computer's processor and into the computer's memory.
But it doesn't stop there. It goes further down into how to construct an accumulator or a memory bank from logic gates. And then it goes down to how to build logic gates--either out of transistors or telegraph relays. And then deeper down, into how the electrons actually move through a transistor or through a relay and a wire.
And at the end I could look back and say, yes, I understand how this machine works in a way that I didn't understand it before. Before I understood electricity and maybe an AND gate, and I understood high level languages. But the whole vast intermediate realm was fuzzy. Now it is much clearer. I can go from the loop back to the conditional jump back to the way that what is stored in memory is fed into the processor back to the circuits that set the program counter back to the logic gates, and finally back to the doped silicon that makes up the circuit.
So I recommend this book to everyone. It is a true joy to read. And I at least could feel my mind expanding as I read it.
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am 20. Dezember 1999
This book cleared up some fuzzy areas that I have always been interested in but never really had the time to pursue. I have been developing software since 1980, and got this book because of the sample chapter that I read from the MS website. Now that I have read the book, I am able to better understand the electrical system on my plane (a surprise side effect of reading the book, I expected it to be more high level)
I would recommend this book to all software developers, and also anyone that has any technical hobbies. It has much technical information, but is also very easy to read.
Steve
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am 30. Januar 2000
Creo que es lo más didactico que leí en los últimos 5 años. El autor es una verdadero maestro, un educador de primera categoría. Esta obra es para todas las edades. Pero es especial para "acelerar" a los jovenes que quieren ingresar al fascinante mundo de la computación por la puerta de la Historia de la Ciencia.
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