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How Computers Work (B&N Exclusive Edition)

How Computers Work (B&N Exclusive Edition)

4.6 5
by Ron White, Timothy Edward Downs

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No book on the planet covers the diverse range of topics found in How Computers Work, and those that manage to come close don't do it in full color, with beautifully detailed illustrations throughout. Nor does any other author have Ron White's flair for taking complex technological concepts and breaking them down to be easily digested by



No book on the planet covers the diverse range of topics found in How Computers Work, and those that manage to come close don't do it in full color, with beautifully detailed illustrations throughout. Nor does any other author have Ron White's flair for taking complex technological concepts and breaking them down to be easily digested by audiences of all ages. Ron White and Tim Down's approach in How Computers Work has made it a perennial best-seller for the last 19 years, topping more than two million copies sold worldwide! How Computers Work is a marvel in book publishing, showing readers the inner-workings of PCs, displays, tablets, smartphones, and even eReaders. Akin to the great works of David Macauley ("The Way Things Work") and Marshall Brain ("How Stuff Works") "How Computers Work" shows you just how intricate and elegant technology is.


How Computers Work Multi-touch Edition is an iPad-only edition of the best-selling print book, How Computers Work, which has dazzled readers for years with its incisive look at the inner-workings of computers, printers, monitors, cell phones, networking, operating systems and more. The Multi-Touch edition includes many new and exciting features that take the one-of-a-kind How Computers Work experience to the next level. Here's a look at just a few of the new features you'll find in the Multi-touch edition:

  • The Touch Experience - How Computers Work has always been a beautiful book to look at, with loads of informative content to absorb, but the ability to drag, pinch, and tap your way through its wealth of content is an entirely new experience that enhances every facet of how it teaches you about the computing world.

  • Interactive Elements - We have added direct interactivity to more than a dozen of the topics covered in this book. Send a power surge into a surge protector to see how it protects your pricey electronics. Drag data into a processor to see how it divides up a work load and computes an answer. You'll even control the flow of light through an LCD monitor as you learn how it generates an image!

  • Animations, 3D Models, and Video - See first-hand how morphing software morphs a photo or how video compression and resolution change the quality of a digital video. Learn how a 3D model goes from wireframe to textured object and then manipulate that object yourself. Have you ever wondered just how a transistor physically controls the flow of electrons to turn itself on and off? You'll see it in action here!

System Requirements:

  • iOS 5 (required for iBooks2)

  • Apple iPad with iBooks 2 app installed

  • Windows XP or later

  • OS X 10.4 or later

  • iTunes 10 or later

  • TOC


    Part 1: Boot-Up Process.....2
    Chapter 1 Getting to Know the Hardware.....10
    Chapter 2 How Circuits Juggle Data.....20
    Chapter 3 How a PC Comes Alive.....30
    Chapter 4 How an Operating System Controls Hardware.....36

    Part 2: How Microchips are the PC's Brain.....46
    Chapter 5 How Transistors Manipulate Data.....52
    Chapter 6 How a Microprocessor Works.....62

    Part 3: How Software Works.....80
    Chapter 7 How Programming Languages Work.....94
    Chapter 8 How Windows Works.....104
    Chapter 9 How Software Applications Do Your Work.....118

    Part 4: Data Storage.....146
    Chapter 10 How a Computer's Long-Term Memory Works.....154
    Chapter 11 How Disk Drives Save Information.....166
    Chapter 12 How Little Things Make Drives Faster and Bigger.....176
    Chapter 13 How PCs Use Light to Remember Data.....184

    Part 5: Input/Output Devices.....194
    Chapter 14 How Data Gets Into Your PC.....202
    Chapter 15 How Scanners Capture Words and Images.....212
    Chapter 16 How Computers Use Power.....220
    Chapter 17 How Serial Ports Triumph.....228
    Chapter 18 How a Computer Display Works.....242
    Chapter 19 How Digital Photography Works.....252

    Part 6: Games and Multimedia.....260
    Chapter 20 How Multimedia Sound Works.....266
    Chapter 21 How Multimedia Video Works.....278
    Chapter 22 How Game Hardware Puts You In the Action.....286
    Chapter 23 How Games Create 3D Worlds.....296

    Part 7: How the Internet Works.....306
    Chapter 24 How Local Area Networks Work.....314
    Chapter 25 How PCs Connect to the Internet.....324
    Chapter 26 How the Internet Moves Data.....332
    Chapter 27 How We Reach Each Other Through the Net.....338
    Chapter 28 How Wireless Sets PCs Free.....350
    Chapter 29 How the Net Provides Video and Audio on Demand.....360
    Chapter 30 How the World Wide Web Works.....366
    Chapter 31 How Internet Security Fights Off PC Invaders.....378

    Part 8: How Printers Work.....398
    Chapter 32 How Black-and-White Printing Works.....404
    Chapter 33 How Color Printing Works.....414


    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.

    Stephanie Zvirin
    Ever wonder what the guts of those familiar PCs look like? If you're curious but fear computerese might get in the way, this book's the answer. Although not entirely without technical terminology, it's an accessible, informative introduction that spreads everything out for logical inspection. Carefully sequenced captioned diagrams do most of the work. Scattered throughout the book, they conduct readers on a visual tour of PC terrain that begins with the bootstrap--the permanent coding that launches PC operations--and ends with explanations of how different kinds of printers handle the information PCs send. In between comes information about such things as RAM, a mouse, CD-ROM, and tape backup. To make everything even clearer, White introduces the explanatory diagrams with a few concise, lucid paragraphs of text. Readers will come away knowing not only what everything looks like but also what it does.
    A book/CD-ROM tour through the workings of the personal computer. Sections on microchips, data storage, input/output devices, multimedia, networks, and printers contain overviews of how and why technological processes work. The color diagrams explaining details are clearer and more interesting than the companion CD-ROM's interactive displays, video interviews, and computing tips. This second edition contains updated material on multimedia. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
    New York Times Book Review
    For many computer users, the notion of probing beneath the covers of these expensive machines and noodling with their innards is not appealing. Even if someone works up the nerve to look around in there or dares to make some useful upgrades, poking around motherboards and expansion cards will probably feel like a perilous walk in the dark. But if knowledge is the light of the world, then the contents of the 292-page book "How Computers Work," which comes with a complementary CD-ROM, will certainly illuminate much about the inner workings of today's home and business computers-without requiring the user to look under the hood. Unlike instruction manuals that often come with computers and are either so laden with jargon or so simplified that they read like maps without street names, this large, well-illustrated book strikes a good balance between the needs of the beginner and those of the more experienced user. Its author, Ron White, a senior editor at PC Computing magazine and founder of one of the first PC online user groups, is an old hand at these kinds of books. A patient teacher, he writes in a clear and well-informed voice that says, "You, too, can understand this stuff." In the opening of chapter six, "How Windows Uses Memory," for example, White writes, "Memory is the staging area for the processor, the place where the processor receives the instructions and data it needs to do its job." And yes, this book, while conveying some information that is universal to practically all computers, is more or less aimed at explaining the ins and outs of Windows-based PC's with Intel chips, commonly known as Wintel computers. There is no mention, for example, of Macintosh computers. Windows 95 and Windows NT figure prominently in the book's explanations of software, and Intel's Pentium Pro chip gets its own chapter. To its credit, the book covers some of the most common computer peripherals, like printers, scanners, joysticks and even digital cameras. And "How Computers Work" delves into the unseen world of what is actually going on inside, say, a transistor, the building blocks of computer chips-the kind of exploration that is a must for any computer book worth a tree's life and limbs. Interested in the interplay of electrons on P-type silicon? White tries to make it seem oh so simple-most of the time. The generous use of large, colorful illustrations practically turns "How Computers Work" into a picture book. And the CD-ROM that comes tucked in a pocket inside the back cover is an imaginative interactive guide into the hardware of multimedia computers. Through sound and animation, the CD-ROM offers a 3-D vision, rather than the book's X-ray vision, of how computers work-for example, what happens when a floppy disk is formatted. In the face of this book-and-CD-ROM combination, the computer might have a tough time holding on to the mystery of its inner workings.

    Product Details

    Publication date:
    How It Works Series
    Edition description:
    B&N Exclusive Edition
    Product dimensions:
    6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(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.

    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) 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 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
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    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.