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The books covered have these ISBN codes: 0-8094-5679-6 0-8094-5683-4 0-8094-5666-4 0-8094-7618-5

Earlier in last year, I visited a small book store, expecting to find naught that would interest me; in the computer section, part of one shelf, I'd found some thin books I'd at first assumed to be the usual children's fodder, but poring through them revealed illustrations by Alan Kay, and then I knew them to be something more. I bought that entire set, seven books, for a mere five dollars per book.

As of writing, I've but read about half of this set, but can still recommend it; I may not have all.

Every book is filled with hand-painted illustrations and diagrams delightful to readers of all ages.

The ``Computer Languages'' book has an obvious topic. It begins by describing the software set of a submersible camera, written in Forth, held by cable underneath a ship with a C language program, and with each end of the cable using routines written in assembler language for speed. This book covers the basic binary code with different numerical bases; Konrad Zuse's Plankalkul; assembler languages; ancient Babylonian algorithms; and all the way to the higher level languages of Lisp, Smalltalk, and Prolog. I was very pleased to see this book is one not afflicted by modern idiocy; it's an accurate collection of the state of the art, and avoids idiotic preferences so unfortunately common nowadays. As always, it was delightful to see what I've learned elsewhere reflected in these pages. The early British developments, and those such as John Backus' designing, and regretting, FORTRAN are detailed alongside the early conferences on ALGOL and its ability to use multiple translated human languages. As a criticism, there's an over focussing on sequential programming, and not enough focus on others.

These pages depict message-passing in an object-oriented programming language.

In ``Memory and Storage'' I also saw much of what I've learned reflected back at me, like delay line memories using mercury, but I'd never before known of the Williams tube which used cathode ray tubes as used in a television to achieve the same; from there are detailed magnetic drums and then random-access memory with magnetic cores, but again I'd known not of the arrangement of magnetic cores into one-dimensional, two-dimensional, and only then three-dimensional memories, each with advantages the previous lacked. I'd similarly never learned that the development of magnetic tape storage was owed to Third Reich Germany in school; later still are covered the topics of error correction, relational databases, virtual memory, and garbage collection. I'd only vaguely understood how the compact disc could be read and written beforehand; a small history in materials goes a long way in understanding.

These pages depict a method of transmitting data to make errors easy to detect and correct.

The ``Input/Output'' book begins by discussing the difficulties of piloting the X-29 aircraft before giving a history of data media from the punched cards Herman Hollerith recycled in census tabulation to the IBM Selectric and System/360 effort. One of Mark Twain's first typewriter written letters to his brother is in the section on early typewriter and keyboard topics, on to matrix decoding and the like. This is the book that has sections detailing the work of Douglas Engelbart and Alan Kay. The later sections are devoted to topics like input devices for cripples, computer-driven manufacturing, and computer-generated music. Still, I suppose this book is the least interesting to me in the set.

These pages depict some mechanisms of the X-29 aircraft.

Perhaps the best is ``The Chipmakers'' for the reason of holding so much information new to me. The book not only describes that history of the transistor and its forms, but continues on to integrated circuit design, silicon crystal formation, and the chemistry of photolithography. It gives detailed illustrations of abstract circuit units, the logic tables which they use, the logic gates comprising them, and even the individual transistor formation of such circuits. This is yet another book which discusses the triumph of Japanese manufacturing resulting from those teachings of W. Edwards Deming. From this book I learned of Gallium Arsenide as a better semiconductor than silicon, and X-rays as a potential alternation from other light sources in photolithography; I see naught of these elsewhere.

These pages depict a bit adder at the transistor and logic gate level, along with an example data flow.