My Path to Understanding Computers


Computers are a wonderful thing, aren't they?

I mean it's the reason you're able to read this random blog post on a random website in 2023.

For the longest time, computers confounded me. It was this magical black box that could do all of these cool things such as reading email, display high resolution graphics, visit social media sites, but how did this actually work? I mean after all, this is the thing students pay thousands of dollars to understand either through college or a bootcamp. It's abstraction after abstraction, and it's only become more complex as time passes.

I think the toughest part for people when learning this field is we don't realize that this has been an ever-evolving field since the 70's, and we have to catch up on all of those previous iterations to understand how it works now.

Indeed, we are standing on the backs of giants. The same giants that made all this work so you could place your minecraft beds next to each other (is that what the kids are still playing today)?

Let's take simple code for example. Suppose I wanted to write a program that prints out, "Hello World."


Python Language:
print('Hello World')

Even if you've never programmed before, you can probably guess that based on this line of code, I'm telling the computer to print the words "Hello World." That's pretty nifty and all, but I have the kind of mind where I want to understand at it's very root how this is working. How does the computer know to take the words "Hello" and "World" and output it?

I needed to know more. And thankfully, I found my answer.

If I had to teach computer science to someone who knew absolutely nothing about it, and wanted to understand it at a high level, to start them off, I'd recommend the book "But How Do It Know?" by J. Clark Scott.

As the name implies, this book is for absolutely everyone, new and experienced. You'll learn about the core components that make a computer, a computer. Such as the CPU, RAM, how they work, and what they do.

Surprisingly, I discovered that computers are just a lot of math happening in the background and moving data to various places in memory. Some of it may be a little hard to grasp at first, but stick with it, and I promise everything will finally click. This is the book that finally demystified computers for me. No longer was this a black box, but I finally understood what was happening.

The point of this post is to point out that it's sometimes beneficial to understand how things work from the lowest level possible. I'm not sure about everyone else, but when I crack the code and something finally makes sense, it only makes me want to learn more, and hopefully this post helps in acheiving that goal!

Where you go from here is totally up to you. Tech is such a wide net, and the options are near limitless. But if you'd like more reading material for various categories, then feel free to check out this Reddit post below:

• Books That Changed The Way You Understand Programming

This was the very same post that helped me get started on my learning journey, and it has tons of resources that are free to find on PDF.