The Pattern On The Stone

The Simple Ideas That Make Computers Work


By W. Daniel Hillis

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$25.99 CAD



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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around February 10, 2015. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Most people are baffled by how computers work and assume that they will never understand them. What they don’t realize — and what Daniel Hillis’s short book brilliantly demonstrates — is that computers’ seemingly complex operations can be broken down into a few simple parts that perform the same simple procedures over and over again. Computer wizard Hillis offers an easy-to-follow explanation of how data is processed that makes the operations of a computer seem as straightforward as those of a bicycle. Avoiding technobabble or discussions of advanced hardware, the lucid explanations and colorful anecdotes in The Pattern on the Stone go straight to the heart of what computers really do. Hillis proceeds from an outline of basic logic to clear descriptions of programming languages, algorithms, and memory. He then takes readers in simple steps up to the most exciting developments in computing today — quantum computing, parallel computing, neural networks, and self-organizing systems. Written clearly and succinctly by one of the world’s leading computer scientists, The Pattern on the Stone is an indispensable guide to understanding the workings of that most ubiquitous and important of machines: the computer.
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  • Peter Thomas, New Scientist
    “This is the best book on computers I have ever read. Hillis takes us on a lightening tour of the fundamentals of computing.... Nowhere does [he] lose sight of the fact that what is important is not the detail of these issues, but the story that flows through them and rationality of thought that connects them.”

    Dan Brekke, WIRED
    “[Hillis'] conclusion is thoughtfully optimistic—and appealing even to a skeptic.”

    Bill Brazell, The Industry Standard
    The Pattern on the Stone illustrates basic computing concepts with line drawings of Tinkertoys in various positions—a surprisingly helpful approach.... The book's gradual pace, low-tech design and gentle title are meant to bring hope to those who feel swamped by a tidal wave of computer-wrought change. And the approach succeeds, by showing the reader how humans, not magicians, discovered a few basic principles and built these amazing machines.”

    Publisher's Weekly
    “Hillis…provides an almost philosophical approach to the machine that has changed our lives.... [He] writes with the authority of an expert and the rigor of a logician.... A helpful and succinct volume.”

On Sale
Feb 10, 2015
Page Count
192 pages
Basic Books

W. Daniel Hillis

About the Author

As an MIT graduate student, W. Daniel Hillis designed the first practical massively parallel computer, the Connection Machine, and in 1983 co-founded the world-famous Thinking Machines Corporation to produce and market this device. The co-founder of the Long Now Foundation, Applied Minds, Applied Invention, and other technology companies, Hillis lives in Los Angeles, California.

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