The Elements of Computing Systems : Building a Modern Computer from First Principles, Paperback

The Elements of Computing Systems : Building a Modern Computer from First Principles Paperback

5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


In the early days of computer science, the interactions of hardware, software, compilers, and operating system were simple enough to allow students to see an overall picture of how computers worked.

With the increasing complexity of computer technology and the resulting specialization of knowledge, such clarity is often lost.

Unlike other texts that cover only one aspect of the field, The Elements of Computing Systems gives students an integrated and rigorous picture of applied computer science, as its comes to play in the construction of a simple yet powerful computer system. Indeed, the best way to understand how computers work is to build one from scratch, and this textbook leads students through twelve chapters and projects that gradually build a basic hardware platform and a modern software hierarchy from the ground up.

In the process, the students gain hands-on knowledge of hardware architecture, operating systems, programming languages, compilers, data structures, algorithms, and software engineering. Using this constructive approach, the book exposes a significant body of computer science knowledge and demonstrates how theoretical and applied techniques taught in other courses fit into the overall picture. Designed to support one- or two-semester courses, the book is based on an abstraction-implementation paradigm; each chapter presents a key hardware or software abstraction, a proposed implementation that makes it concrete, and an actual project.

The emerging computer system can be built by following the chapters, although this is only one option, since the projects are self-contained and can be done or skipped in any order.

All the computer science knowledge necessary for completing the projects is embedded in the book, the only pre-requisite being a programming experience.The book's web site provides all tools and materials necessary to build all the hardware and software systems described in the text, including two hundred test programs for the twelve projects.

The projects and systems can be modified to meet various teaching needs, and all the supplied software is open-source.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 344 pages, 100 illus.
  • Publisher: MIT Press Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Personal computers
  • ISBN: 9780262640688



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Review by

I have used this book in my computer organization class and I must admit that it brought a very fresh perspective to second year computer science students. For the first time they were able to see the process of designing a computer from the ground up.The book is very suitable for self-study or classroom use: it has an excellent website, all the required HDL simulator, assembler, CPU and VM emulator and compiler are freely available and easy to run on any platform (they are all coded in Java).Of course there are simplifications such as the lack of interrupts and multhithreading but this book prepares the students very well for 3rd and 4th year courses. Every chapter has very well and clearly defined goals and projects that are %100 self-contained. That means even if you skip a chapter you can work out the next project without any loss in implementation.If you or your students want to have a grasp what it means to build a computer starting from logic gates, hardware definition languages, up to the ALU, RAM, CPU, assembler, virtual machine and compilation of an object oriented high level language, then this book is the best choice. It is one of the most hands-on book I've ever seen in this subject matter and at that intermediate level.

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**** UNDER CONSTRUCTION ****"Building a computer from first principles" ist UebertriebungZu viele Wiederholungen fuer meinen Geschmack

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