"The Finest Machine" details computing's rise from converging quantum physics, materials science, and complexity theory.
I hope to explain, in one book, how quantum physics, materials science, and the theory of computation give rise to the modern microprocessor. While some mathematical sophistication is required for a full treatment, the majority of the book will be accessible to any motivated reader with high school mathematical training. This is not a textbook, though it will involve significant portions of the undergraduate and graduate curricula in computer science.
After reading The Finest Machine, the sedulous reader will understand the physical limits of computational devices, how silicon and optics yield computational structures, and the conceptual boundaries of computational theory. We start with electrons, build up through ALUs and compilers, and end at the brain. Along the way, we'll learn things like why your cell phone has multiple cores, why we use bits instead of trits or quatrits, the ancient art of single-instruction set computing, and why people who quip that "the universe is a computer" seem never to have time nor space sufficient for their algorithms.
Initial sketch at a table of contents: http://dank.qemfd.net/the-finest-machine.pdf
By the way, (LaTeX) source code for the book is available: https://github.com/dankamongmen/thefinestmachine. Note that a $5k backer means source for the entirety will be made available upon publication! Note that I will likely honestly do so regardless, because information wants to be free, and this is all about getting the book written, not hoarding it once I'm done :D.
Computer science is my great passion. I've been programming for more than four-fifths of my life, and in that time learned many things which I pieced together only much later. This book, I hope, will provide a meaningful consilience; I dream it will perhaps help foster far greater computer scientists than I could ever hope to be. Even if those lofty ambitions aren't met...well, it ought be a hell of a lot of fun to read.
(Need proof that I'm for real? Look around at http://dank.qemfd.net/dankwiki/index.php/Compiler_Design, http://dank.qemfd.net/dankwiki/index.php/Programming_Language_Theory, http://dank.qemfd.net/dankwiki/index.php/Architecture and, say, http://dank.qemfd.net/dankwiki/index.php/Nuclear_weapons from my wiki.)
The target amount, minus fees, will allow me to take three months' sabbatical to do necessary researches and write the core of the text. I have been shaping this book in my head for many years; help me finally get it down as text! Thank you, and hack on.
update Sun Apr 22 04:20:56 EDT 2012: people, your response has been tremendous and overwhelming. you are all awesome. i've been motivated to commit to the Kicking it Forward (http://kickingitforward.org) project -- should funding succeed, i'll donate 5% of all post-tax profits to Kickstarter projects. what a cool idea!
the "thanks on the project page" will go up may 2012, though the book will obviously not be delivered until it's done :). i put the date i was sure of down, though i suppose it ought have corresponded to the expected delivery of the more major component of the reward.alas, i have gone to change them both, and cannot change the one people have already locked in :/.
well first and foremost, richard feynman's demigod status. perhaps more immediately relevant would be the different core perspectives: his *Lectures* were those of a physicist coming upon computer science (and with a history of physics pedagogy), whereas i'm a computer scientist coming upon physics (with a history of teaching CS). readers trained in solid state and probably even good ol' EE will likely find Part II review at best, but will hopefully discover plenty new in Parts I, III, IV and V. I'll freely admit that Part II will be, in part, a learning experience for me to write.
There's also the small matter of major advances in programming language theory, complexity theory, compiler theory, computer architecture, and parallel design since the *Lectures*, just to name subjects with which I'm fluent. There's the total absence of automata formalisms in the *Lectures*, the question of how meaningful a discussion of quantum computing can be without mention of the class BQP, major lacunae regarding processor design even for the era in which Feynman wrote, etc. etc. ...
this is a 400--600 page book about computation, not a 200 page book about computers.
i'd say that the following won't leave my side for long while i'm writing:
(a) Arora and Barak, *Computational Complexity*, Princeton University Press 2005
(b) Ward and Halstead, *Computation Structures*, MIT Press 1990
(c) Culler and Gupta, *Parallel Computer Architecture*, Morgan-Kaufmann 1998
(d) Patterson and Hennessy, "Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach", M-K again, i've got the 2nd and 4th (there's a 5th now)
(e) Barendregt, "The Lambda Calculus, its Syntax and Semantics", North Holland 1985
(f) Ashcroft and Mermin, "Solid State Physics", Brooks and Cole 1976
(g) Pierret's *Advanced Semiconductor Device Fundamentals*, Prentice Hall 2002
(h) Taur and Ning's "Fundamentals of Modern VLSI Device Design", Cambridge 2009
(i) Abelman and Sussman's *Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs", MIT Press 1996
(j) Knuth's ... well, we all know which Knuth: METAFONT. Hah, j/k, *The Art of Computer Programming*, primarily Volumes 2 and 4.
pledged of $16,384 goal
seconds to go
Funding Unsuccessful This project reached the deadline without achieving its funding goal on May 10, 2012.
Apr 20, 2012 - May 10, 2012 (20 days)
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Free electronic edition. Thanks on the project's website, and in the electronic edition of the book.Estimated delivery: May 2012
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Autographed first-run paperback edition. Thanks on the project's website, and in the electronic edition of the book.Estimated delivery: May 2013
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Autographed first-run hardback edition. Thanks on the project's website, and in the electronic edition of the book.Estimated delivery: May 2013
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An autographed first-run hardback and paperback, thanks in all media, and an email sent to Dan Moore in your name saying "here's the $100 reward; sorry i can't come up with more permutations of free copies and thanks."Estimated delivery: May 2013
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Five autographed first-run hardback editions (great gifts!). Thanks on the project website's "Benefactors" section, in the electronic edition, and in the printed edition.Estimated delivery: May 2013
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Everything you get at the $500 level, plus advisory rights on naming of metasyntactic characters (aka Alyssa P. Hacker, Ben Bitdiddle, Eva Lu Ator, Louis Reasoner, George P. Burdell, etc).Estimated delivery: May 2013
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If any single donor ponies up $5k, I'll make the electronic edition free, and open source the LaTeX text and all peripheral tools. You'll be credited (if you wish) for making this awesome possibility a reality!Estimated delivery: May 2013