Tuesday, 26 December 2006

Mini-review: Inside the Machine

I recently finished reading my copy of Ars Technica editor Jon “Hannibal” Stokes’ new book on computer architecture, Inside the Machine; overall, I’d say it’s a pretty good semi-technical introduction to the field, but there are points at which Stokes seems to gloss over important details. Two examples: in one chapter he discusses “SPRs” without ever seeming to define the term, and there is no reference to the term in the index; he also seems to underplay the register-starved nature of the x86 ISA (which lagged behind its CISC contemporaries, the Motorola 680×0 series, much less the PowerPC RISC processors that competed with the Pentium and beyond) and the degree to which the Pentium and its successors had to work around that limitation. There are also the requisite number of typos and goofs for a first printing of a book. But overall, I enjoyed the book, which after all is aimed at the typical Ars Technica or AnandTech reader more than the budding computer engineering student.