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Code: The Hidden Language (DV-MPS General) Hardcover – 1 Oct 1999

4.6 out of 5 stars 62 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Microsoft Press,U.S.; 01 edition (1 Oct. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 073940752X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0735605053
  • ASIN: 073560505X
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 3.5 x 24.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,211,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Crossing over into general-interest non-fiction from his popular programming manuals, Charles Petzold has written Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software. It's a carefully written, carefully researched gem that will appeal to anyone who wants to understand computer technology at its most essential levels. Readers learn about number systems(decimal, octal, binary and all that) through Petzold's patient (and frequently entertaining) prose, then discover the logical systems that are used to process them. There's loads of historical information, too. From Louis Braille's development of his eponymous raised-dot code to Intel Corporation's release of its early microprocessors, Petzold presents the stories of people trying to find ways to communicate with (and by means of) mechanical and electrical devices. It's a fascinating progression of technologies and the author presents a clear statement of how they fit together.

The real value of Code is in its explanations of technologies that have been obscured for years behind fancy user interfaces and programming environments that, in the name of rapid application development, insulate the programmer from the machine. In a section on machine language, Petzold dissects the instruction sets of the genre-defining Intel 8080 and Motorola6800 processors. He walks the reader through the process of performing various operations with each chip, explaining which op codes poke which values into which registers along the way. Petzold knows that the hidden language of computers exhibits real beauty. In Code, he helps his readers appreciate it. --David Wall

Topics covered: Mechanical and electrical representations of words and numbers, number systems, logic gates, performing mathematical operations with logic gates, microprocessors, machine code, memory and programming languages.

About the Author

Charles Petzold wrote the classic Programming Windows®, which is currently in its fifth edition and one of the best-known and widely used programming books of all time. He was honored in 1994 with the Windows Pioneer Award, presented by Microsoft® founder Bill Gates and Windows Magazine. He has been programming with Windows since first obtaining a beta Windows 1.0 SDK in the spring of 1985, and he wrote the very first magazine article on Windows programming in 1986. Charles is an MVP for Client Application Development and the author of several other books including Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.


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4.6 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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