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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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As a software development manager, I employ many programmers (and other assorted life forms), and although they are (often) well versed in Object Oriented coding and High-Level languages, there is often a gap in their knowledge of the basics of computer science.
What are the constituent elements of a computer? How is a CPU put together? How do transistors work? How do you build a logic gate? What is electricity? What is Assembly Language and how does it compare to Machine Code?

Although you don't need to know the answers to these questions to be a good programmer - it is a bit like being a good car driver, but not really understanding how the internal combustion engine works - or how an automatic gearbox works... I think it is useful to understand the basics of the beast you are using - it at least makes you understand some of the potential foibles!

I thoroughly recommend this book to all IT professionals.

It starts with very very simple ideas - how to pass messages when you have only got an On/Off switch.
This then builds up through telephone relays, Morse Code, electricity to build simple logic gates... all the way to building a PC

Well written, with each topic explained elegantly and simply, this is a wonderful book that explains the fundamentals of computing. I started in IT (back in the 1970's) writing Assembler code for numeric controlled machines - so some of this was nostalgic history.
It is not quite up to date (still talking about floppy discs) - but for a comprehensive overview of the design and development of computers - this is excellent.
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on 9 April 2007
Charles Petzold is an excellent writer, and he gets to grips with difficult material in a way that makes it accessible for the uninitiated. I have worked as a computer programmer for years, but, having grown up with 'high level' programming languages, most of the material here was new to me. The book will fill in some very important gaps for a lot of IT professionals. Meanwhile, it is perfectly readable for someone completely new to the subject (a couple of chapters will be tough going, but you'll get it if you persist).

Top marks.
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on 25 April 2002
This is the only book I've found which REALLY tells the story of how computers work in a simple and easy to read form. That's not to say that anything has been watered down - this is the real stuff, and occasionally it gets a little heavy, but it fills in a much needed gap. Most books either cover digital electronics, or computer architecture, and few explain the leap that you need to make to get from one to the other.
On the negative side, the machine design is a little dated, and a register transfer architecture might have worked better.
The sections on operating systems are simply not up to the standard of the rest of the book, but the book is work it for the rest anyway.
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on 10 February 2000
Petzold explains the architecture of computing systems by deriving from first principles, as it were; starting off with simple concepts such as telegraph relays and morse code, he quickly uses simple building blocks to describe more advanced concepts. The author has clearly written this book at his leisure rather than to a deadline, and the relaxed tone of the book makes for an entertaining read, given the potentially dry subject matter. The author's enthusiasm for his topic comes across well and the use of two colours throughout the book assists understanding. This book would make excellent background reading for many CompSci or Electronics courses, or a great present for someone with any interest in technology. Recommended.
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on 4 July 2015
I originally purchased this book as a real-life paper book from a real life book shop. I was so impressed I read it twice then lent it to a colleague -- who was so impressed he wanted to re-read it and ended up keeping it. So, I purchased it more recently on Kindle. The only downside of the Kindle version is the Kindle itself isn't exactly ideal for showing the diagrams in the book but of course it can also be viewed on a tablet or laptop.
The book itself is captivating to anybody who wants to know how things work. The book builds an imaginary computer from scratch and never patronises the reader yet there isn't much "jargon" and mathematics is kept simple and easy to understand. I know I will buy this book for any children in my family who show an interest in computing and until computers are anything but digital this book will be relevant for decades to come.
An absolute joy to read.
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on 25 April 2011
It is rare that you will find a book with such a volume of information and in such an easy to read format. You don't even notice how much technical information you are taking in; it is like reading a good novel. It contains some very good analogies and make things easy to understand.

The only one small bad point is that it is a small bit dated. However don't let this put you off as there are very few parts where you will notice this.
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on 10 January 2016
Excellent! I've worked in software development my whole career, but I am actually trained as a chemical engineer. So, I have always felt a bit guilty that I didn't fundamentally understand how computers work. And now I feel I do!
The first third of the book is fairly easy going, and could probably by read by most people to get a flavour of how things work, starting from electrical relays. After that it gets more involved, with a lot of logic circuits, but most technical people should be able to understand it.
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on 19 May 2013
This is the introductory text I would have wanted to read about computers. It takes a clear, practical, approach, building from first principles.

I really got a sense of how to build a computer from the technology of the telegraph, until the sheer number of parts became apparent. It is easy to see how crucial transistors and IC's are to making a practical computer.

I also enjoyed the sections on software - a great way to bring both hardware and software together. Would be a good read for someone learning the theory behind an Arduino, for example.
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on 17 February 2016
I've read this book in my final year of Electronic Engineering degree, so I was already familiarized with all the concepts but the perspective that this book gives to the subject is so unique. I wish my course was taught in this way, I would understand it much better and faster. Even though I knew about all the content I still gained so much because I never thought about it this way. Is an amazing book and I couldn't put it down after I started. Plus the paper on this book is so amazing, don't buy the Kindle edition, only paperback.
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on 14 February 2013
A complete and detailed explanation of how computers work, starting from the concept of number to modern (1998-2000) computers. It roughly covers the first Electronic course you may take at university (binary numbers, relays, logic gates, IC, bus, ..), and it's probably better explained. Remarkable book.
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