How Computers Work

How Computers Work

4.5 6
by Ron White, Timothy Edward Downs

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Take a trip through the neural pathways and vital organs of your personal computer with the newest edition of this long-standing bestseller. Glorious full color illustrations make even the most complex subjects easy to understand. Follow PC/Computing senior editor and computer expert Ron White as he shows you the cutting edge technologies, including the Internet,…  See more details below


Take a trip through the neural pathways and vital organs of your personal computer with the newest edition of this long-standing bestseller. Glorious full color illustrations make even the most complex subjects easy to understand. Follow PC/Computing senior editor and computer expert Ron White as he shows you the cutting edge technologies, including the Internet, multimedia sound and video, Pentium processors, local bus architecture, Plug and Play, CD-ROM, digital cameras, color printing, and more in new chapters on the hottest, and coolest, PC components.

Editorial Reviews
The Barnes & Noble Review
Imagine yourself a "zero." Or if you prefer, a "one." Tiny as you've just become, you're perfectly sized to go inside your computer, zip from one device to the next, skitter across a network, and ultimately discover how all these technologies work.

Too fantastic a voyage for you? Get How Computers Work instead. Ron White takes you under the hood of virtually every contemporary computer technology, showing you how everything works -- with a major assist from hundreds of full-color illustrations. This Sixth Edition's not merely updated, and not merely bigger: It also includes a CD-ROM containing a "up-close virtual reality tour" of the innards of your PC. (Watch out for that fan!)

How Computers Work illuminates everything related to your PC: processors and memory; disks (including compression and defragging); software and programming languages; DVD players; joysticks, mice, and touchpads; the Web and email; streaming media, LANs, wireless, Palms, color printing, scanning and OCR, speech recognition, uninterruptible power supplies...we could go on. The explanations are exceptionally relevant, accurate, brief, and readable. This is a book that ought to be in every library. Starting with yours. (Bill Camarda)

Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer with nearly 20 years' experience in helping technology companies deploy and market advanced software, computing, and networking products and services. He served for nearly ten years as vice president of a New Jersey-based marketing company, where he supervised a wide range of graphics and web design projects. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks For Dummies®, Second Edition.

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Product Details

Pearson Education
Publication date:
How It Works Series
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
8.08(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.99(d)

Read an Excerpt


"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
Arthur C. Clarke

SORCERERS have their magic wands—powerful, potentially dangerous tools with lives of their own. Witches have their familiars—creatures disguised as household beasts that could, if they choose, wreak the witches' havoc. Mystics have their golems—beings built of wood and tin brought to life to do their masters' bidding.

We have our personal computers.

PCs, too, are powerful creations that often seem to have a life of their own. Usually, they respond to a wave of a mouse or a spoken incantation by performing tasks we couldn't imagine doing ourselves without some sort of preternatural help. But even as computers successfully carry out our commands, it's often difficult to quell the feeling that there's some wizardry at work here.

And then there are the times when our PCs, like malevolent spirits, rebel and open the gates of chaos onto our neatly ordered columns of numbers, our carefully wrought sentences, and our beautifully crafted graphics. When that happens, we're often convinced that we are, indeed, playing with power not entirely under our control. We become sorcerers' apprentices, whose every attempt to right things leads to deeper trouble.

Whether our personal computers are faithful servants or imps, most of us soon realize there's much more going on inside those silent boxes than we really understand. PCs are secretive. Open their tightly sealed cases and you're confronted with poker-faced components. Few give any clues as to what they're about. Most of them consist of sphinx-like microchips that offer no more information about themselves than some obscure code printed on their impenetrable surfaces. The maze of circuit tracings etched on the boards is fascinating, but meaningless, hieroglyphics. Some crucial parts, such as the hard drive and power supply, are sealed with printed omens about the dangers of peeking inside—omens that put to shame the warnings on a pharaoh's tomb.

This book is based on two ideas. One is that the magic we understand is safer and more powerful than the magic we don't. This is not a hands-on how-to book. Don't look for any instructions for taking a screwdriver to this part or the other. But perhaps your knowing more about what's going on inside all those stoic components makes them a little less formidable when something does go awry. The second idea behind this book is that knowledge, in itself, is a worthwhile and enjoyable goal. This book is written to respond to your random musings about the goings-on inside that box you sit in front of several hours a day. If this book puts your questions to rest—or raises new ones—it will have done its job.

At the same time, however, I'm trusting that knowing the secrets behind the magician's legerdemain won't spoil the show. This is a real danger. Mystery is often as compelling as knowledge. I'd hate to think that anything you read in this book takes away that sense of wonder you have when you manage to make your PC do some grand, new trick. I hope that, instead, this book makes you a more confident sorcerer.

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

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Meet the Author

Ron White is a former executive editor and columnist for PC Computing, where he created the concept behind How Computers Work. He also is the author with Michael White of MP3 Underground. How Computers Work has won as award for best nonfiction computer book from the Computer Press Association, and White's magazine work has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award (Maggie).

Timothy Edward Downs is the creative director of InfoWorld Media Group, and former art director of Smart Business magazine and PC Computing magazine, a two-time National Magazine Award winner. By tapping his vast computer system and process knowledge, Tim has developed the richly illustrative style that is unique to How Computers Work.

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How Computers Work (B&N Exclusive Edition) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was pretty long and went in depth. I liked how Ron explained some titles that un-used-to cyber freaks would enjoy. Matthew 2 Degrees
Impact88 More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book on several levels, and I do sincerely recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about what's going on inside their computers or similar high tech microprocessor based devices. It's extremely readable, with skilled writing that holds one's interest; not an easy task considering the complexity of the subjects it covers. In addition, the illustrations and graphics are absolutely exquisite, with page layouts that don't overwhelm the reader as he or she proceeds. In my opinion, the artwork alone is justification for having this book at hand. The one aspect of this book that disappointed me was the inclusion of a few errors that should have never made it into print, and that's my reason for a four star rating rather than five. Such statements as "16 bits in a binary number yields 256 different combinations" when only 8 bits is required to do so, just don't belong in a book that's likely to be the first exposure to computer technology for many people. The book does so many things well that such basic mistakes as the ones I noticed are even more obviously out of character. That said, however, the positive points outweigh the negative, and it's an enjoyable and informative read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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SocraJesus More than 1 year ago
Is this a new edition, or the same as the 2007/2008 9th edition? Why do book publishers misrepresent what is going on???????????
Guest More than 1 year ago
How comptures work by Ron White is one of the best computer books ever. It had great pictures and in depth study on every thing from windows to SCSI.