Book Review: CODE by Charles Petzold
CODE takes a reader from humble beginnings of communications using flashing lights, to telegraphs and the invention of the relay, to a (relatively) modern computer by the end of the book, making many stops along the way to detail each stage of the evolution of a modern, digital computer. At first glance this may seem a bit useless - why learn about Morse code or Braille when ASCII or Unicode is far more relevant? Why talk about using old technology like relays when integrated circuits are far superior? Upon reflection, it should become clear that understanding why something came to be used should help an engineer better understand the systems they work on, and maybe even give them better insight as to what they should look for when designing a newer and better technology.
While CODE covers topics well enough to educate a lay person on the basics of computers, it is not enough to turn someone into a computer engineer. For example, though the basics of Boolean logic are covered, it certainly wouldn’t replace a class in digital logic (or at least a book dedicated to it), and the same goes for other aspects of computers. However, it does make an excellent “road map” to a computer, and it would probably be a good book for a college freshman going into Computer or Electrical Engineering to read over the summer before their first classes. Quite likely reading and thoroughly understanding this book would give the reader the skills to build a very simple digital computer. Even three years in to a Computer Engineering degree I found that reading CODE made a few things click into place a bit better for me.