I’ve spent most of my lifetime fascinated by the fact that my computers work at all. I have often told the story of the day I was able to get my first program to run and how that day competes for the title of the “greatest day of my life.” Certainly, the wedding and the birth of the children win, but it’s a close follow-up.
I’m a subscriber to several podcasts from the Twit network (Leo Laporte), but my favorite is the geekiest of that network, Steve Gibson’s Security Now. I’m not a security expert, but a wanna-be. I’ve listened to the podcast since its earliest days (started in its first couple years but not first episode). I’m not a die-hard fan who’s listened to every one of them, but probably half or so over the last 12 years.
During this weeks episode, Steve answered a listener’s question about what which episodes should a new listener go back and listen to since there’s almost no conceivable way to go back a listen to all of them. Steve recommended a series he did back in 2010 over how a computer works. I’ve started listening and he’s a done a great job taking me through the very basics up through the core components of a modern computer. Even though he starts with resistors and transistors and how they are used to make basic logic gates, the core concepts are actually still very much the same.
It’s a nice follow-up to the book I read earlier this year by Stephen Levy called Hackers which documented much of the early history of the modern computer era. I would actually recommend both. Here’s where you’ll find the complete archive of Steve Gibson’s Security Now podcast, and here are the specific episodes he recommended. Be aware that he spends roughly the first half of each episode reviewing security news. I enjoyed the walk down memory lane. It was also fun to recall where I was and what I was doing back when these episodes were first recorded (e.g., associate dean, pre-VC director phase of my career, planning first ever Spring Research Day at Wayland, kids were 9-6-4, Lori was at the VC as an instructional designer)
Episode 233: Let’s Design a Computer (mp3)
Episode 235: Machine Language (mp3)
Episode 237: Indirection: The Power of Pointers (mp3)
Episode 239: Stacks, Registers, and Recursion
Episode 241: Hardware Interrupts
Episode 247: The “Multi”-verse
Episode 250: Operating Systems
Episode 252: RISC-y Business
Episode 254: What We’ll Do for Speed
And here’s a bonus episode from that time frame that ranks as one of my favorites of all time: Episode 248 – The Portable Dog Killer