Learn How Computers Work with This Book

By Daniel Scocco

Only once after finishing a book I took the time to email the author to thank him for the masterpiece he had created, and it was after reading this one. The book is called CODE, The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software.

Despite the title, the book is not geared exclusively toward technical people. In fact I would recommend it for anyone who wants to learn how computers work, and how they were born in the first place. If you ever wondered how on earth you can press a couple of buttons on a calculator and instantly get the result of a complex multiplication, then this book is for you.

Not only the technical aspects are explained very clearly and with simple words, but the author also creates a very fun narrative to follow along. Here’s a quote from the back cover:

“What do flashlights, the British invasion, black cats, and seesaws have to do with computers? In CODE, they show us the ingenious ways we manipulate language and invent new means of communicating with each other. And through CODE, we see how this ingenuity and our very human compulsion to communicate have driven the technological innovations of the past two centuries.”

4-bit-adder

I was so pumped while reading the book that I decided to build my own 4-bit adder out of nothing more than wires, relays, switches and light bulbs. It’s basically a very rustic calculator that only performs addition, and only with numbers up to 4 bits (i.e., numbers can’t be larger than 15). Above you can see a picture of the adder.

The beauty of building a binary adder is that it allows you to understand how everything works at the lowest levels, and once you grasp that you realize how you can evolve the circuitry to arrive at a more complex calculator or even at a generic computer like the one you are using right now.

I spent around $100 to get the electronic components needed and one week planning the logic gates on paper and then soldering everything together. It was a blast though, and one of these days I am planning to take it a step further: building a calculator that can perform both addition and subtraction of multiple numbers (this makes the project more interesting because you need to build memory chips using flip-flops).

Anyway here’s a video I recorded demonstrating how the 4-bit adder works:




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8 Responses to “Learn How Computers Work with This Book”

  • Slavko Desik

    I was never the tech savvy guy myself, but man I really admire your passion.

  • Max Green

    Excellent book for anyone who is interested in learning more
    about code of computers and software… a real eye opener.
    I am enjoying reading it, not only because it is well written, but because it is fascinating. If you read this book, by chapter 8 you will have all the skills and knowledge you need to build an adding and subtracting machine out of wire and lightbulbs. I am recommending this book to everyone I know who has even a passing interest in how computers really work.

  • Rick

    Quality pic and vid; seems you had alot of fun building your 4-bit adder Daniel. I have to say, I am a total tech noob when its comes to hardware and even that is waaaaaaaaay beyond me. However, I think we could all do with learning the essential elements which comprise how computers and other electrically items function.

  • Ferb

    That is so smart and very interesting seeing your display. I think you’re into technology now and keep your great works up.

  • John

    Thanks for sharing this awesome book! Started reading it now hope i make it something useful out of it

  • Heru Prasetyono

    The book sounds great and awesome. Actually I like to learn computer including hardware and software by myself. I often ask anyone else if I find dificulties or troubles with my computer. Mostly I always try to solve the problems by myself first.
    Having this book must be useful for anybody who likes to learn computer especially the software individually or autodidact.
    Good luck finally you have get into and understood with the sophisticated technology.
    Thank you for giving me an interesting information about this book.

  • Joel

    Computers is something I understand but don’t understand. I say this because you learn something, and then the technology advances and changes. I guess if you know the basics, you can easily adapt your knowledge to the advancements. This book sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  • Kalpesh Rana

    It is very nice to have this book to know how computer works. It is most useful for all geeks specially for students of high school and college level.

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