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← How do computers work? Book recommendations please

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Jump to comment 3 by Jos Gibbons

There are a number of issues here. It's one thing to care how individual components on chips work; read up on semiconductor device physics for that. (If the book mentions depletion layers and electron-hole recombination and how photons get involved, it's doing the right thing there.) It's another to understand how they interlock into the hardware whole; I don't know exactly what technical terms to look for there, save for maybe "systems". It's yet another to understand the various "levels" of programming, from binary up to modern languages. This is a classic example of the need for sensible (not greedy) reductionism, as is understanding computers in general. It is one last thing to understand why some computations are "faster" than others in terms of what are called complexity classes; this is what the P-NP Millennium problem is about. (Interestingly, this has some bearing on evolution; to cut a long story short, to fully understand natural selection requires one to appreciate it doesn't need the exponential timescale creationists never tire of pointing out that chance needs. I'm no expert, but I think it's closer to polynomial.) Since I know no helpful books (save for on semiconductor devices), I recommend looking up relevant technical terms on Wikipedia, and then reading the references and external links for those articles which show the most promise. Or, failing that, take advice from another poster who knows much more about this.

Mon, 03 Jan 2011 12:27:22 UTC | #572660