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I have been listening to a Podcast called "Security Now" and one of the shows presenters, "Steve Gibson" has been covering the basics of of how computers work. Topics include the basics from logic gates, registers, and stacks to hyper threading and multi-core processors. Though I think Mr. Gibson is knowledgeable I find it hard to follow his instruction due to a lot of pausing, repeated words, and the use of "uhh" and "ummm". My intention is not to criticize Mr. Gibson, as I think him to be very knowledgeable, rather I am just looking for an alternative source of instruction on these topics.

Can anyone recommend any books or better yet any audiobooks that cover the basics of computer hardware? I am looking to understand topics so I can get a better understanding of how computers actually work. I am not an engineer (rather a biochemist) so I do not have the engineering background, however I am fairly good at understanding topics that are presented in a defined and structured manner.

Please note I am not looking for a "Coffee Table" book which offers a 10,000 ft view of computers rather, something that can really describe the details on how computers function. That being said I would like something at a "higher level" that an engineers schematic.

Thanks for any assistance.

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+1 for listening to the TWiT network. Gibson knows his stuff. –  osij2is Jun 25 '10 at 17:55
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closed as off topic by slhck Nov 4 '12 at 19:05

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5 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

"The Elements of Computing Systems: Building a Modern Computer from First Principles" explains you how to build a computer from buttom up (yes, i mean the lowest possible bottom possible).

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Thank you! It looks great. Free even! –  webworm Jun 24 '10 at 14:59
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I found a really neat book a while back called Code by Charles Petzold. It takes you through from the beginning, how Morse and Braille and telegraph switches, eventually led way to how RAM works and how complex computers use logic to compute. Very good book. Great read and recommended to all. I got my copy at Goodwill for $5. I think you can find them used at bookstores like Powell's in Portland for around $12.

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The textbook Computer Systems is really good. It goes from the very basic to quite advanced. It might be a bit too detailed for you, but if you are really interested in learning the nuts and bolts of how computers function I would highly recommend it. It covers everything from logical gates to machine language and everything in between.

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You won't find anything better than "How Computers Work, 9th Ed." from Que Publishing. It's a coffee table book in that the illustrations in it are fascinating. But the text with the art work is nitty-gritty in getting down to specific details that at the same time can be understood by layman and appreciated by technical types.

I wrote it.

Ron White

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