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But How Do It Know? - The Basic Principles of Computers for Everyone

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Finally, this brand new book exposes the secrets of computers for everyone to see. Its humorous title begins with the punch line of a classic joke about someone who is baffled by technology. It was written by a 40-year computer veteran who wants to take the mystery out of computers and allow everyone to gain a true understanding of exactly what computers are, and also what Finally, this brand new book exposes the secrets of computers for everyone to see. Its humorous title begins with the punch line of a classic joke about someone who is baffled by technology. It was written by a 40-year computer veteran who wants to take the mystery out of computers and allow everyone to gain a true understanding of exactly what computers are, and also what they are not. Years of writing, diagramming, piloting and editing have culminated in one easy to read volume that contains all of the basic principles of computers written so that everyone can understand them. There used to be only two types of book that delved into the insides of computers. The simple ones point out the major parts and describe their functions in broad general terms. Computer Science textbooks eventually tell the whole story, but along the way, they include every detail that an engineer could conceivably ever need to know. Like Momma Bear's porridge, But How Do It Know? is just right, but it is much more than just a happy medium. For the first time, this book thoroughly demonstrates each of the basic principles that have been used in every computer ever built, while at the same time showing the integral role that codes play in everything that computers are able to do. It cuts through all of the electronics and mathematics, and gets right to practical matters. Here is a simple part, see what it does. Connect a few of these together and you get a new part that does another simple thing. After just a few iterations of connecting up simple parts - voilà! - it's a computer. And it is much simpler than anyone ever imagined. But How Do It Know? really explains how computers work. They are far simpler than anyone has ever permitted you to believe. It contains everything you need to know, and nothing you don't need to know. No technical background of any kind is required. The basic principles of computers have not changed one iota since they were invented in the mid 20th century. "Since the day I learned how computers work, it always felt like I knew a giant secret, but couldn't tell anyone," says the author. Now he's taken the time to explain it in such a manner that anyone can have that same moment of enlightenment and thereafter see computers in an entirely new light.


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Finally, this brand new book exposes the secrets of computers for everyone to see. Its humorous title begins with the punch line of a classic joke about someone who is baffled by technology. It was written by a 40-year computer veteran who wants to take the mystery out of computers and allow everyone to gain a true understanding of exactly what computers are, and also what Finally, this brand new book exposes the secrets of computers for everyone to see. Its humorous title begins with the punch line of a classic joke about someone who is baffled by technology. It was written by a 40-year computer veteran who wants to take the mystery out of computers and allow everyone to gain a true understanding of exactly what computers are, and also what they are not. Years of writing, diagramming, piloting and editing have culminated in one easy to read volume that contains all of the basic principles of computers written so that everyone can understand them. There used to be only two types of book that delved into the insides of computers. The simple ones point out the major parts and describe their functions in broad general terms. Computer Science textbooks eventually tell the whole story, but along the way, they include every detail that an engineer could conceivably ever need to know. Like Momma Bear's porridge, But How Do It Know? is just right, but it is much more than just a happy medium. For the first time, this book thoroughly demonstrates each of the basic principles that have been used in every computer ever built, while at the same time showing the integral role that codes play in everything that computers are able to do. It cuts through all of the electronics and mathematics, and gets right to practical matters. Here is a simple part, see what it does. Connect a few of these together and you get a new part that does another simple thing. After just a few iterations of connecting up simple parts - voilà! - it's a computer. And it is much simpler than anyone ever imagined. But How Do It Know? really explains how computers work. They are far simpler than anyone has ever permitted you to believe. It contains everything you need to know, and nothing you don't need to know. No technical background of any kind is required. The basic principles of computers have not changed one iota since they were invented in the mid 20th century. "Since the day I learned how computers work, it always felt like I knew a giant secret, but couldn't tell anyone," says the author. Now he's taken the time to explain it in such a manner that anyone can have that same moment of enlightenment and thereafter see computers in an entirely new light.

30 review for But How Do It Know? - The Basic Principles of Computers for Everyone

  1. 4 out of 5

    Adam Zerner

    Notes: - There really need to be more pictures. - The author does a good job explaining things. He uses analogies very well. They're appropriate and relatable. - Very good job in being comprehensive without going into too much detail. The author explains things sequentially and makes sure that you don't have any gaps in your understanding before proceeding forward. He does about as good a job as I can imagine at explaining how computers work such that you won't have any major questions while being Notes: - There really need to be more pictures. - The author does a good job explaining things. He uses analogies very well. They're appropriate and relatable. - Very good job in being comprehensive without going into too much detail. The author explains things sequentially and makes sure that you don't have any gaps in your understanding before proceeding forward. He does about as good a job as I can imagine at explaining how computers work such that you won't have any major questions while being concise. - I think he could be even more concise with his explanations at times, though. Also, he explains how a lot of things work by taking you through the wiring pretty thoroughly. I often thought that you could just accept that "it could be wired to do that" and move on. Conclusion: I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know how computers work. I think the author does about as good a job as you can at: 1) Explaining it clearly and completely (such that you don't have any major gaps in your knowledge). 2) Doing so as quickly as possible.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ondrej Urban

    On the day of a customer meeting, my colleague and I were way early and ended up spending an antisocial half an hour in his car in a parking lot, making the best of the time on our phones. On that particular time, the rabbit hole took me to an article about someone 3D printing parts of transistors to show how they work. The article praised the project to high heaven and off-handedly mentioned this book - which ended up being my next, as well as the final stop, for a while. But How Do It Know is On the day of a customer meeting, my colleague and I were way early and ended up spending an antisocial half an hour in his car in a parking lot, making the best of the time on our phones. On that particular time, the rabbit hole took me to an article about someone 3D printing parts of transistors to show how they work. The article praised the project to high heaven and off-handedly mentioned this book - which ended up being my next, as well as the final stop, for a while. But How Do It Know is how all teaching should be done - by engineers and almost in a violent way proving that science is not hard, but if you put a lot of very simple bits together, they end up looking complicated to the uninitiated. As the book itself - correctly - claims, you'll need to understand English and be capable of doing simple addition, such as 5+8=13. This makes it accessible to pretty much anyone over perhaps the age of 7 or 8, and I'd love to see how an 8-year old would enjoy this. I loved it. During my life I've come across bits and pieces of information about the computer design (e.g. the computers being stupid and only really knowing how to add, about there being registers - whatever those are - inside, things like that). This book brings it all together in a concise, interesting manner that will give your brain just enough workout to bring some light sweat. This book is for everyone, not only because it's good to know how these ubiquitous machines work - at a high level - but also for showing how technical people think. Enjoy irresponsibly!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Cảnh Nguyễn

    This approach is awesome. The most understandable CS book I have ever read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mohammad Samiul Islam

    I had some gaps in my understanding about computer architecture. This book helped me fill in some of those gaps. Learned quite a bit about how CPU works (specially the control unit).

  5. 5 out of 5

    Masum Hasan

    For those who have ever wondered, "How does a computer do what it does?" The author takes the reader step by step from basic gates to fetching and executing machine instruction in an incredibly simple and interesting manner. The book was intended for non-CS people, so first 30% can be skimmed through. At about 52% into the book it gives a clear idea how the CPU, Registers, clock, bus and RAM combinedly makes a stupid machine do amazing things! It kind of feels like the first flight scene in Iron For those who have ever wondered, "How does a computer do what it does?" The author takes the reader step by step from basic gates to fetching and executing machine instruction in an incredibly simple and interesting manner. The book was intended for non-CS people, so first 30% can be skimmed through. At about 52% into the book it gives a clear idea how the CPU, Registers, clock, bus and RAM combinedly makes a stupid machine do amazing things! It kind of feels like the first flight scene in Iron Man 1, "Yeah, I can compute!"

  6. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Overall I think I'd still give the edge to Petzold's "Code," but this was a very good take on much of the same material, more in the style of Amdahl's "There Are No Electrons." No harm in reading both, and you can't really go wrong with either one; this was a nice refresher on the basics of circuit logic and rudimentary assembly. Overall I think I'd still give the edge to Petzold's "Code," but this was a very good take on much of the same material, more in the style of Amdahl's "There Are No Electrons." No harm in reading both, and you can't really go wrong with either one; this was a nice refresher on the basics of circuit logic and rudimentary assembly.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kimee

    As advertised, I better understand what "0s and 1s" actually means. Some lines blew my mind and it feels really cool to get things like how fonts work. I wish I could've spent more time with this book, and I definitely will in the future. Four stars only because I think there could've been a better reference page to refer back to names and descriptions. This one is best consumed all at once (e.g. every day for two weeks vs. how I had to do it a little bit at a time over the course of a month). As advertised, I better understand what "0s and 1s" actually means. Some lines blew my mind and it feels really cool to get things like how fonts work. I wish I could've spent more time with this book, and I definitely will in the future. Four stars only because I think there could've been a better reference page to refer back to names and descriptions. This one is best consumed all at once (e.g. every day for two weeks vs. how I had to do it a little bit at a time over the course of a month).

  8. 4 out of 5

    mono

    I wish I had this in high school...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mustafa Akur

    The book is beneficial to anyone who wonders about how computers really operate. I think the book is accessible to anyone with enough effort (yet non-technical people may have hard times). Also the language is enjoyable. My advice is to have paper and pencil as reading the book. Sketch details of each "black box", then you can always uncover abstraction levels in more complex diagrams. The book is beneficial to anyone who wonders about how computers really operate. I think the book is accessible to anyone with enough effort (yet non-technical people may have hard times). Also the language is enjoyable. My advice is to have paper and pencil as reading the book. Sketch details of each "black box", then you can always uncover abstraction levels in more complex diagrams.

  10. 4 out of 5

    pablo felgueres

    Offers an introduction to computer architecture fundamentals in plain English. I'd recommend this book to both technical and non-technical audiences who are curious about how hardware enables the magic-like powers of computers. It does a good job of simplifying complexity enough to make it easy to follow but doesn't leave out details for the more analytical reader. Offers an introduction to computer architecture fundamentals in plain English. I'd recommend this book to both technical and non-technical audiences who are curious about how hardware enables the magic-like powers of computers. It does a good job of simplifying complexity enough to make it easy to follow but doesn't leave out details for the more analytical reader.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Seige Poteau

    Excelletnt Job! I very much enjoy every BIT of it. I wish had the time to actually try to build the computer described in this book from scratch.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Diwakar

    Probably the best book ever when it comes to teaching the basics of how a computer works. After reading this book i think one can make a working computer from scratch if he knew the following: 1. Basic electronics (like transistors,capacitors,resistors,breadboard...) 2. Bit of coding will help 😗(this is optional if u want to make your computer do some advanced stuff say use it to play a simple game then obviously u need some coding constructs and some programming experience) This is a recommended f Probably the best book ever when it comes to teaching the basics of how a computer works. After reading this book i think one can make a working computer from scratch if he knew the following: 1. Basic electronics (like transistors,capacitors,resistors,breadboard...) 2. Bit of coding will help 😗(this is optional if u want to make your computer do some advanced stuff say use it to play a simple game then obviously u need some coding constructs and some programming experience) This is a recommended for people who also are enthusiastic about learning how things work at the lower levels of computing say ALU(alrithmetic Logic Unit),RAM(Random Access Memory),etc. Various other things that let the computer do what it is doing right now. Note: People who also feel like computers are doing majic ""Trust me computers are dumb"" Computers just perform simple stuff couple of billions of times per second that is why they are able to do the things they are doing right now. Prologue :(This happened after i read this book) My curiosity increased more and more and wanted to build a small working computer so i emailed the author asking him where can i learn more about computers and their inner workings he sent me this working computer made in excel. I'd highly recommend checking 'but how does it know' website where all the resources are available for free.. Reading this book paved way for me to learn more about how they operate above the hardware level So i started to learn how to code which will give me insights regarding how software is used to control the hardware and do the tasks it is supposed to do. Yeah that is it for the review. I highly recommend this book to anyone who are even teeny-tiny bit interested or amazed by computers and want to know their inner workings ask the question "But How Does it Know?" and read this book next🧐 Good luck reader 👍

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ada

    So all the reviews of this book say how excellent it is at explaining the basic principles of computers. That said, it is still fairly complicated. The explanation of gates begins with a NAND gate - as NAND gates are the ones that are mainly used in setting up the memory and ALU. But here's the thing - unless you already know about AND gates- NAND gates can be quite a tricky concept to understand? So I had to go online, read up on various gates and start again. There were a few cases where that w So all the reviews of this book say how excellent it is at explaining the basic principles of computers. That said, it is still fairly complicated. The explanation of gates begins with a NAND gate - as NAND gates are the ones that are mainly used in setting up the memory and ALU. But here's the thing - unless you already know about AND gates- NAND gates can be quite a tricky concept to understand? So I had to go online, read up on various gates and start again. There were a few cases where that was an issue, and at one point I just gave up trying to understand the wiring thoroughly. But that's okay. I'm not necessarily the quickest to catch on those technical things. What I would have liked to have in the book are some exercises to verify my understanding of the computer design. After simply reading the book, I have some level of knowledge, but I would like to be able to somehow that my suspicions about certain gate combinations and how they work are correct? Anyhow. A good read for persistent beginners.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    In terms of actual content, this is easily a 5-star book, but the gratuitous comma errors throughout was enough for me to knock it down a star. Seriously, learn what a comma splice is. Aside from that, this book was fascinating and amazingly helpful even for complete beginners. I can't tell you how many times my mind was blown as I read this. It starts with the very basic knowledge and builds from there, focusing on the hardware, which is the root of it all and what I really wanted to learn about In terms of actual content, this is easily a 5-star book, but the gratuitous comma errors throughout was enough for me to knock it down a star. Seriously, learn what a comma splice is. Aside from that, this book was fascinating and amazingly helpful even for complete beginners. I can't tell you how many times my mind was blown as I read this. It starts with the very basic knowledge and builds from there, focusing on the hardware, which is the root of it all and what I really wanted to learn about. The best thing to do while reading is make sure you fully understand each chapter before you go to the next. This does mean flipping back and forth and re-reading passages a lot. By the end, even though they're talking about the whole computer, all that lower-level information will have been completely processed and you'll be good to go. It works a lot like how you teach algebra really thoroughly before you move up to Calculus, and it works really well.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Alex Orr

    Early in the book, when describing a nand gate, the author says that this diagram is as dificult as you will find...if you get this one, all the others willbe easy. I appreciate his optimism, but I have to respectfully diagree. In the end, I can't say I took away a lot of specifics from this book, outside of some broad basics. Then again, that's mostly what I was looking to take away from it in the first place, so even if a good 70% of the material sort've went in one ear and out the other, the Early in the book, when describing a nand gate, the author says that this diagram is as dificult as you will find...if you get this one, all the others willbe easy. I appreciate his optimism, but I have to respectfully diagree. In the end, I can't say I took away a lot of specifics from this book, outside of some broad basics. Then again, that's mostly what I was looking to take away from it in the first place, so even if a good 70% of the material sort've went in one ear and out the other, the basic ideas made sense and stuck. Also, his explanation of the hexadecimal system was REALLY good...I mean...I could explain hex to somene now using his examples, and for a guy like me who has a seriously hard time with most anything involving numbers, that's actually a pretty big take away from the book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    AD Elmisurati

    the book delivers well to its premise (teaching the basic of how computers work and receive bits of data and how does the hardware translates into the software and all of the basics), the way this book is written (lots of small chapters) is a very convenient and comfortable approach especially for a busy reader, but there is a bit of a steep curve in difficulty after the first few chapters which may confuse some people outside of the IT community and may require 2 or 3 reads to get a hold of the the book delivers well to its premise (teaching the basic of how computers work and receive bits of data and how does the hardware translates into the software and all of the basics), the way this book is written (lots of small chapters) is a very convenient and comfortable approach especially for a busy reader, but there is a bit of a steep curve in difficulty after the first few chapters which may confuse some people outside of the IT community and may require 2 or 3 reads to get a hold of the full concept... all in all i really recommend it to any person who have lots of basic questions regarding the most glorious of all human inventions...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Edward Xiao

    As someone who was always curious on how a computer could do anything, I couldn't ask for a better book. 'How do It Know?' walks through the building blocks of a computer from the bits and bytes all the way to a simple computer. The process is built with out with the beginner in mind and sets out lessons in basic computer principles that explains things such as how a CPU works, what is RAM?, and how does a keyboard work? Can be a little dense but highly recommend for anyone interested in understa As someone who was always curious on how a computer could do anything, I couldn't ask for a better book. 'How do It Know?' walks through the building blocks of a computer from the bits and bytes all the way to a simple computer. The process is built with out with the beginner in mind and sets out lessons in basic computer principles that explains things such as how a CPU works, what is RAM?, and how does a keyboard work? Can be a little dense but highly recommend for anyone interested in understanding the basics of a computer.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Srirang Ranjalkar

    "But How Do it Know?" is an interesting book that takes you through the journey of building a simple 8-bit computer. Clark Scott successfully breaks down each of the components of a computer and explains the fundamentals in a way that even a high school student will be able to understand. For someone who has been working in the software industry for over a decade, this book actually gives a different perspective to look at things. This is, perhaps, the perfect refresher for the Computer Architec "But How Do it Know?" is an interesting book that takes you through the journey of building a simple 8-bit computer. Clark Scott successfully breaks down each of the components of a computer and explains the fundamentals in a way that even a high school student will be able to understand. For someone who has been working in the software industry for over a decade, this book actually gives a different perspective to look at things. This is, perhaps, the perfect refresher for the Computer Architecture course studied in college.

  19. 5 out of 5

    CrookedCucumber

    Although this is my first book about the insides of the computer, i felt that the book was overall very successful at unraveling the complexities of the computer is a simplified manner. And even though some chapters did feel a little under explained for me personally, that might say more about me than about the book itself, since some of the misunderstandings might have been simply due to careless reading.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    This is one of my favorite books. Most of us spend A LOT of time with computers. It's about time to learn something about the mystries that go on inside. This book breaks it down beautifully - you will actually understand it! It really comes down to simple, ingenious building blocks! HIGHLY recommended reading! This is one of my favorite books. Most of us spend A LOT of time with computers. It's about time to learn something about the mystries that go on inside. This book breaks it down beautifully - you will actually understand it! It really comes down to simple, ingenious building blocks! HIGHLY recommended reading!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lloyd Thrall

    Solid At times brilliant, particularly on making the electrical engineering of a computer's cpu accessible to a layperson. I wish he would have given similar attention to programming, and the end of the book lacks the depth and clarity of the first two-thirds. Still, very good. I walked in knowing nothing, and now feel I have a solid foundation. Solid At times brilliant, particularly on making the electrical engineering of a computer's cpu accessible to a layperson. I wish he would have given similar attention to programming, and the end of the book lacks the depth and clarity of the first two-thirds. Still, very good. I walked in knowing nothing, and now feel I have a solid foundation.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas

    Easy to read plain language explanation of how computers work for any level of technical proficiency. If you've found yourself bewildered at how saturated life is by computerized devices that seem to work like magic, then the intuitive understanding you'll gain from this book will be horizon expanding. Easy to read plain language explanation of how computers work for any level of technical proficiency. If you've found yourself bewildered at how saturated life is by computerized devices that seem to work like magic, then the intuitive understanding you'll gain from this book will be horizon expanding.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Cody Reavis

    The computer used to describe how one works is a very basic one, but once the terms start coming together, it can get a bit tricky. I definitely recommend remembering/practicing the most basic "gates" before moving on in this book, it truly helps. The computer used to describe how one works is a very basic one, but once the terms start coming together, it can get a bit tricky. I definitely recommend remembering/practicing the most basic "gates" before moving on in this book, it truly helps.

  24. 5 out of 5

    William Melbourne

    Brilliant unveiling of the simple reality inside computers. Always remarkable when an author can break down a very complicated subject and explain it in such an intuitive and engaging way. Highly recommended.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    Really enjoyed this! A very good and comprehensive book on how a computer works. Will probably need to read this a second time to understand everything, but it's still explained very well. Recommended. Really enjoyed this! A very good and comprehensive book on how a computer works. Will probably need to read this a second time to understand everything, but it's still explained very well. Recommended.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Adekunle

    This is an amazing book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Yabir Canario

    Perfect. Liked from the start to the end.

  28. 4 out of 5

    FabianKL

    Amazing insight into the working of a computer, realized how simple it really is!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jack Reilly

    Amazingly concise and fascinating journey from a NAND gate all the way to a programmable computer. I even wrote a simulator at https://quikcircuit.reillybrothers.net Amazingly concise and fascinating journey from a NAND gate all the way to a programmable computer. I even wrote a simulator at https://quikcircuit.reillybrothers.net

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bert Bertson

    Very good. Very informational and straight forward. I recommend it dearly.

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