A book that every programmer should read: The Elements of Computing Systems

I would like to say thank you to Scott Hanselman, who tweeted about this book. When I saw the content, I knew I will love it. And I was right.

The Elements of Computing Systems cover

The Elements of Computing Systems: Building a Modern Computer from First Principles is written by Noam Nisan and Shimon Schocken, who are University Professors. They created course based on this book (or wrote this book based on their course :)). The first 6 (out of 12) chapters are available for free at course website.

Why every programmer should read this book? Because it allows you to understand how computer works. It is going from logic gates, through machine code, intermediate code, compilers etc., to high level programming language. At the end of each chapter, there are exercises in which you are ‘building’ parts of the computer.

This book has only 344 pages and of course it doesn’t cover all details. Each chapter is kind of basic overview, however it is sufficient to get the idea and basic understanding before you go more deeply (e.g. into Computer Architecture or Compilers).

I really enjoyed reading this book. It is amazing how all those things we are doing everyday on our machines are done just by adding, subtracting, comparing and copying sequences of zeros and ones.

The book is available at amazon. There is also a website with more information about it (e.g. 10 minutes overview video), and software created for exercises (which you can find at the end of each chapter).