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.
Most introductions to computers either take the reader on a mathematical journey through the workings of computer architecture and Boolean logic or introduce them to a particular program or product. Hillis, an innovative computer engineer, tries a different approach by explaining the basic concepts of the computer in everyday language. Everyone has sorted socks and played tic-tac-toe. Hillis uses these simple examples and similar everyday experiences to explain the ideas that make computers work. He takes the reader step-by-step from computer logic to programming to memory and compression. The final two chapters show how computers are truly close to being thinking machines. Highly recommended for anyone studying computer science or electrical engineering, this book is also a good read for anyone who wants a better understanding of how computers work? William Baer, Brigham Young Univ. Lib., Provo, UT