Gary Crandall is the author of Programming From Scratch and one of the earliest pioneers in the field of the micro processor program. He started his career as a hardware technician back in the 70s, later developing some of the earliest software for the original Apple Macintosh. He has personally written over ten million lines of code throughout his career, and has a unique perspective on "hardware under the hood" and cross platform development.
"The most difficult part of the book," he says, "was to undercut everything down to the level of an entry point. Where does one start? The problem now today is that programming is so high level and so removed from the machine, it's almost impossible for a new programmer to comprehend what's going on under the hood."
When you see the title Programming From Scratch, what it really ought to say is How To Learn From Scratch.
"In the 30 some odd years that I've been doing this, different languages become the standard, and then all of a sudden that standard changes. The book goes step by step into how programming languages have evolved and what is evolving today. When I approached this I had to decide which way I was going to go. I finally decided that the emphasis would be to teach you how to learn programming. In other words, to actually teach programming from scratch would've been a 900 page book. My approach is to teach you how to learn this stuff because, even if I tried to write a book on the whole subject, it would be antiquated six months from now.
Gary states one must understand the language to be able to keep abreast of new technology.
"What's interesting is, in spite of the technology changing rapidly, the same fundamental basics still exist under the hood. Take the iPad, as fancy and new as it is, the same fundamental principles still happen inside that machine. As far as computer technology goes, the very primitive basics have not changed one iota in 30 years. The technology, the physical hardware has evolved rapidly but, internally, the way the computer computes and the way it operates is exactly the same as it was 30 years ago.
"It's a double edged sword because on one hand you need to understand the basics because nothing has changed but on the other hand the way programming is taught in a modern class is so high level and so far removed from the machine that a person learning it has no understanding of those basics. The result is irresponsible large software that is not very efficient."
Okay, let's say you pick up the book and read it page by page cover to cover, what's your take away?
Gary says, "An understanding of the basics that have not changed in 30 years. That is what you should come away with, and the ability to learn new things in that subject. The ability to learn new things is probably the key point of this book because there's no way I could've tackled the entire subject of programming in a paperback book, that would've been impossible."
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Perfectly Scientific Press
April 19, 2011
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