Bits to Bitcoin
How Our Digital Stuff Works
368 pp., 6 x 9 in, 100 b&w illus.
- Published: August 28, 2018
- Publisher: The MIT Press
- Published: August 3, 2018
- Publisher: The MIT Press
An accessible guide to our digital infrastructure, explaining the basics of operating systems, networks, security, and other topics for the general reader.
Most of us feel at home in front of a computer; we own smartphones, tablets, and laptops; we look things up online and check social media to see what our friends are doing. But we may be a bit fuzzy about how any of this really works. In Bits to Bitcoin, Mark Stuart Day offers an accessible guide to our digital infrastructure, explaining the basics of operating systems, networks, security, and related topics for the general reader. He takes the reader from a single process to multiple processes that interact with each other; he explores processes that fail and processes that overcome failures; and he examines processes that attack each other or defend themselves against attacks.
Day tells us that steps are digital but ramps are analog; that computation is about “doing something with stuff” and that both the “stuff” and the “doing” can be digital. He explains timesharing, deadlock, and thrashing; virtual memory and virtual machines; packets and networks; resources and servers; secret keys and public keys; Moore's law and Thompson's hack. He describes how building in redundancy guards against failure and how endpoints communicate across the Internet. He explains why programs crash or have other bugs, why they are attacked by viruses, and why those problems are hard to fix. Finally, after examining secrets, trust, and cheating, he explains the mechanisms that allow the Bitcoin system to record money transfers accurately while fending off attacks.
I found the book, in its entirety, to be original and engaging, with a compelling narrative and the right level of depth and detail. I think this book makes a valuable contribution to describing how modern information technology works for inquisitive, intelligent, but non-technical readers. Candidly, I loved the book.
Brad Kain, President, Quoin, Inc.
Modern society increasingly relies on computing technology. This book skillfully guides laypeople through the land of computing and helps them understand how sophisticated systems such as the internet and Bitcoin work. It covers concepts from a wide range of areas, including operating systems, distributed computing, and cryptography.
Martin Erwig, Stretch Professor of Computer Science at Oregon State University; author of Once Upon an Algorithm: How Stories Explain Computing
I highly recommend this book to the educated layperson who knows the importance of computing in the world, but who wishes to know more about what lies “under the hood” of the smartphones, laptops, cloud servers, social media, and artificially intelligent systems that we all encounter every day.
Paul Ceruzzi, Curator, Guidance, Navigation, and Control; Space History Department, Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum
An intriguing selection of Computer Science topics, explained in an entertaining way for non-technical readers. This book is a solid contribution to helping disseminate Computer Science ideas to the educated public. The explanations of these ideas are done with great skill, and whenever I stopped reading, I often had the urge to go back and read more.
Karl Lieberherr, Professor of Computer and Information Science, Northeastern University