The Pattern On The Stone: The Simple Ideas That Make Computers Work (Science Masters)

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9780465066933: The Pattern On The Stone: The Simple Ideas That Make Computers Work (Science Masters)

Most people are baffled by how computers work and assume that they will never understand them. What they don't realize—and what Daniel Hillis's short book brilliantly demonstrates—is that computers' seemingly complex operations can be broken down into a few simple parts that perform the same simple procedures over and over again. Computer wizard Hillis offers an easy-to-follow explanation of how data is processed that makes the operations of a computer seem as straightforward as those of a bicycle.Avoiding technobabble or discussions of advanced hardware, the lucid explanations and colorful anecdotes in The Pattern on the Stone go straight to the heart of what computers really do. Hillis proceeds from an outline of basic logic to clear descriptions of programming languages, algorithms, and memory. He then takes readers in simple steps up to the most exciting developments in computing today—quantum computing, parallel computing, neural networks, and self-organizing systems.Written clearly and succinctly by one of the world's leading computer scientists, The Pattern on the Stone is an indispensable guide to understanding the workings of that most ubiquitous and important of machines: the computer.

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Review:

Daniel Hillis has made a career of puzzling over the nature of information and the mechanisms that put information to use. Now, he's distilled his accumulated knowledge of computer science into The Pattern on the Stone, a glorious book that reveals the nature of logical machines simply and elegantly.

Millions of times each second, to the drumbeat of a clock signal, electronic computers compare digital values. These comparisons, and the actions taken in response to them, are what computers are all about at their lowest levels, and, with the help of this book, they're not hard to comprehend. Moving on from the nature of logical circuits, the author deconstructs software and the mechanisms it employs to solve problems.

Hillis then stands atop the building blocks he's arranged into a sturdy foundation and discusses the future of computing. Parallel processors already are in use, and neural networks with limited abilities to learn and adapt have proved quite good at certain jobs. Hillis explores the potential of both these technologies. Then, he throws some light on quantum computing and evolving systems--emerging ideas that promise to make computers much more powerful, and thereby change the world. --David Wall

About the Author:

As an MIT graduate student, W. Daniel Hillis designed the first practical massively parallel computer, the Connection Machine, and in 1983 co-founded the world-famous Thinking Machines Corporation to produce and market this device. The co-founder of the Long Now Foundation, Applied Minds, Applied Invention, and other technology companies, Hillis lives in Los Angeles, California.

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