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Miguel T Rivera
Miguel T Rivera

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Book Review: Code by Charles Petzold


As part of an online syllabus, one of the requirements is to read the book: Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold. This is a review of the paperback edition. The book targets people who have a general interest in computing. You will build a computer from scratch, using old technology. It assumes no prior knowledge. From the back of the book:

Using everyday objects and familiar language systems such as Braille and Morse code, author Charles Petzold weaves an illuminated narrative for anyone who's ever wondered about the secret inner life of computers and other smart machines.

Listed Chapters

  1. Chapter One – Best Friends
  2. Chapter Two – Codes and Combinations
  3. Chapter Three – Braille and Binary Codes
  4. Chapter Four – Anatomy of a Flashlight
  5. Chapter Five – Seeing Around Corners
  6. Chapter Six – Telegraphs and Relays
  7. Chapter Seven – Our Ten Digits
  8. Chapter Eight – Alternatives to Ten
  9. Chapter Nine – Bit by Bit by Bit
  10. Chapter Ten – Logic and Switches
  11. Chapter Eleven – Gates (Not Bill)
  12. Chapter Twelve – A Binary Adding Machine
  13. Chapter Thirteen – But What About Subtraction?
  14. Chapter Fourteen – Feedback and Flip-Flops
  15. Chapter Fifteen – Bytes and Hex
  16. Chapter Sixteen – An Assemblage of Memory
  17. Chapter Seventeen – Automation
  18. Chapter Eighteen – From Abaci to Chips
  19. Chapter Nineteen – Two Classic Microprocessors
  20. Chapter Twenty – ASCII and a Cast of Characters
  21. Chapter Twenty-One – Get on the Bus
  22. Chapter Twenty-Two – The Operating System
  23. Chapter Twenty-Three – Fixed Point, Floating Point
  24. Chapter Twenty-Four – Languages High and Low
  25. Chapter Twenty-Five – The Graphical Revolution


Each chapter contains the following:

  • A real-world problem
  • Terms and definitions
  • Diagrams and/or pictures
  • Solving the real-world problem
  • History
  • Summary

Final Thoughts

I rate this book a three out of five. Although its full of technical and historical information, its not beginner friendly. Some of the information here is a refresher for me, but its very intense. I enjoyed chapter eleven, since I was not familiar with gates. If you want to learn about this information, IMO, a project-oriented resource is best. I linked some courses which you can audit for free.


Syllabus-Python & Django Focus
Code Book
CS50 - edx
Build a Modern Computer from First Principles - Coursera

Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

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