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The Pattern On The Stone: The Simple Ideas That Make Computers Work (Science Masters) Paperback – 17 Sep 1999

4.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (17 Sept. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046502596X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465025961
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.1 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,003,404 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Book Description

Will computers become thinking machines? A scientist at the cutting-edge of current research gives his provocative analysis. Abridged edition. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Daniel Hillis holds some forty patents, sits on the scientific advisory board of the Santa Fe Institute, and is a fellow of the Association of Computing. His many awards include the Hopper Award, the Spirit of American Creativity Award, and the Ramanujan Award. Hillis was named the first Disney Fellow and became vice president of research and development at the Walt Disney Company in 1996.


Customer Reviews

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By A Customer on 1 Sept. 2001
Format: Paperback
This book takes an extrordinary look at computers from angles you would never have looked at a computer from before.
This book can be read and appreciated by anyone with any level of knowledge of computers. I personally have had several years of programming experience before reading this and have to admit I learned something new with each page turned. Even information I already knew was put forward to me in ways I had never looked at before, for example, in this book Hillis will explain to in a non-jargon, easy to understand manner as to how computers could be built from sticks and string.
Hillis covers almost all aspects of computing in this text but without being too specific to the technicalities to each area. For example, if you know nothing about programming, he`ll explain the theory behind it without reffering to the syntax used.
This book will apeal to anyone who has an interest in computers. As I say can be read by anyone (I could give this book to my granny and she wouldn`t get too lost, yet I could give it too a computer scientist and he would begin to look at his work in a different way). It would be an ideal text for anyone about to study computing/computer science courses at uni or college, as it lays down the foundations nicely.
A MUST READ!!
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By Jeremy Walton TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 15 Mar. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Danny Hillis is probably best-known as the inventor of the Connection Machine, a massively parallel computer which was manufactured by his company Thinking Machines in the early 1980's. In this book, he tackles the problem of explaining how computers work, using simple, direct language and examples which are accessible to the layman. This could be viewed as challenging, since most people (even those of us who work with them all the time) view these machines as being too complicated to understand, and take them for granted in the same way as we do the cars we drive every day, for example.

The author rises to this challenge very well, building his explanation from the ground up, starting with an account of Boolean logic - i.e. the construction and manipulation of AND, OR and INVERT functions - that's firmly rooted in concrete examples (he points out that, although these functions are invariably implemented using electrical signals in a circuit, they could equally well be built using sticks and strings, or water-operated valves). Having laid down this foundation, he is able to move to more high-level topics such as programming, algorithms, heuristics, parallel computing, data encryption and compression, and adaptive systems, ending up with a lucid discussion about whether it will be possible one day to build a computer which could be described as (in a nod to the name of his old company) a thinking machine.

In spite of the abstruseness of these later subjects, he never leaves the reader behind, being careful to explain new ideas in simple terms that are easily understood. For example, he quotes the philosopher Gregory Bateson's definition of information as 'the difference that makes a difference', and points out (p10) how this could be applied to a binary signal, or bit.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bought to check whether there were any corrections or additions but it's the same edition without corrections as the original hardback. Still a great intro to Boole's logic as the core of computation running up to his bicentenay albeit with some less than ideal illustrations at its core (the traffic lights!).
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Format: Paperback
Worth the money just for his three page discussion of simulated evolution (the software he 'evolved' for sorting lists of numbers is faster than any algorithm he can write but he has no idea why it works).
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