How Computers Really Work

How Computers Really Work: A Hands-On Guide to the Inner Workings of the Machine is an approachable, hands-on guide to understanding how computers work, from low-level circuits to modern software. Coming in 2020! To be published by No Starch Press.

The Book

How Computers Really Work cover art

How Computers Really Work takes an informal approach to technical topics. Each chapter covers one foundational aspect of computing. Exercises and hands-on projects throughout are designed to help you learn. Exercises mostly involve mental problem solving, while projects allow you to try various aspects of computing: building a circuit, writing software, and so forth.

You will learn about electrical circuits, learn how to read a circuit diagram, and build a working circuit. You’ll learn how computer hardware like processors, memory, and input/output work and fit together; how low-level machine code runs on a processor, and how to examine the machine code of software running on a computer. You’ll gain an understanding of the differences between programming languages like C and Python; examine operating systems; use tools to explore your local network and the internet, and build a simple web page.

Computing is everywhere, and as our society depends more and more on technology, we need individuals who understand computing broadly. This book will help you construct a mental picture of how computing works, enabling you to then dig deeper into the topics that interest you.

How Computers Really Work will be published by No Starch Press.

The Author

Photo of Matthew Justice

Matthew Justice is a software engineer. He spent 17 years at Microsoft where he took on various roles, including debugging the Windows kernel, developing automated fixes, and leading a team of engineers responsible for building diagnostic tools and services. He has worked on low-level software (the operating system) and on software far removed from the underlying hardware (such as web applications). Matthew has a degree in electrical engineering. When he's not writing code or building circuits, Matthew enjoys spending time with his family, hiking, reading, arranging music, and playing old video games.

Resources for Readers

Online content referenced in the book:


You can pre-order How Computers Really Work from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other book retailers.