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Interested with computers

  1. Nov 25, 2012 #1
    I'm interested with computers, with no formal education on them outside of the basics taught at middle school. The problem is that I really enjoy learning about head amazing machines, I visit the dump and scavenge old parts from old systems, I go through phases in which I attempt to learn an object oriented language for a few weeks, but every once in a while I try to learn something else. The most recent was Playing around with the unix shell. I read a few chapters about it, then flipped through the book and noticed on of the words that always haunts me; kernel. It's one of those words that reminds me I have absolutely NO idea how complex these machines are, no matter how much I try. It's a bit difficult searching google for this sort if thing, and I was tempted to name my post "computers". Can anyone help me with this? I really just want to be able to read a book about computers and understand what it means. However stupid this question is, it never hurts to ask so you can just forget about leaving those one sentence replies.

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 25, 2012 #2


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    Re: Where to start?

    The most important thing is to go at it in some systematic way. Jumping around is not going to work well. An object oriented language is definitely NOT the best place to start.

    Surely the internet will lead you to "Computers for Dummies" or the equivalent.

    Kernel is just the UNIX name for "operating system".
  4. Nov 26, 2012 #3
    Re: Where to start?

    Agreed, I think you should start at the beginning and work your way up, because I think there are a lot of things people take for granted and think they know already, when in reality there are gaping holes.

    I haven't read it, but the book How Computers Work has always looked cool because it's a beginner's book without being boring to the folk who have used computers their whole lives... I don't need to be told where the power button is!

    If you need something more advanced than that, though, I would say look for some administrator handbooks, they'll go into a lot more detail.

    Programming won't really tell you what goes on under the hood... but I think working with the Unix shell is probably a good step. I learned how computers work mainly from using Linux, because I had to actually know that stuff in order to even install Slackware. (Ubuntu makes it a little too easy, I think.)
  5. Nov 26, 2012 #4
    Re: Where to start?

    Computers are a huge field and it totally depends on your personal interest. A lot of people figure out what interests them the most by starting with building their own desktop PC. For that I recommend the Steam hardware forums. It's well moderated and has a large following of dedicated amateurs and professionals who know all the best websites on the subject.
  6. Nov 26, 2012 #5
    Re: Where to start?

    As others have said, it totally depends on what you're interested in.

    Khan Academy has a great beginner programming series created by John Resig - he's sort of a big deal. After you work through that series you should have the basic foundation to pick up another language, like JavaScript or C.

    If you'd like to work with the actual guts of the computer, then the sources everyone else pointed you to are great! Note that you do not, in any way, need to know one to know the other. In other words, you don't need to understand how computers work internally in order to write code, neither do you need to know how to code in order to put together a computer (although for the latter, at some point you'll definitely want to at least know some sort of scripting language).
  7. Nov 28, 2012 #6
    A modern operating system has two main parts, the kernel space and the user space. The kernel handles low level tasks like managing multiple processes, sharing hardware resources and the actual interface between the software and the hardware. Your programs and utilities reside in user space. When you are using a program, there will be certain tasks that it must ask the kernel to handle. When you want to save your file, a request is made to the kernel to perform disk I/O. The kernel is the real guts of the operating system.

    A good book to read, that I used for my operating systems course, is:

    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  8. Nov 28, 2012 #7
    At $175.20 (list price) it had better be more than just "good". I'd expect something like "miraculous" or at least "awe-inspiring" for that kind of money.

    O'Reilly (http://oreilly.com/) have books on most computer-related subjects, and I would recommend anything of theirs if you're interested in the software aspect of computers (programming languages or operating systems). But be warned that pretty well anything with "Programming" or "Programmer" in the title is meant for advanced readers, so the books called "Beginner something" may be better to start off with.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  9. Nov 28, 2012 #8
    Oh wow I didn't look at the price, that is a bit heavy! From memory I picked up my copy for about $80 US, but I didn't get it from Amazon, I found it in Borders which is now defunct in Australia :(
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