The Journey Continues (Inside the Computer)
I come bearing book news:
The second book in the Hello Ruby series is coming out in English. It's called "JOURNEY INSIDE THE COMPUTER" and it's published on October 3rd. (And you can get it from bookstores everywher!)
As the community that made me into an author, I wanted to give you a story: how the book was born, footnotes and resources that inspired me while writing the book as well as a secret list of easter eggs that made their way into the book.
So the book. It's about computers - the machines we spent last book talking to. This time Ruby is bored, but fortunately dad’s computer is always magical. However the computer doesn’t work - who could find the missing cursor? Ruby and the white mouse fall inside the computer and meet a group of new, exciting friends. Who lives inside the computer? And who left footprints all over dad’s desktop?
Writing the second book was so much easier. I trusted the process. Where while writing the first book I felt loss, this time I knew it was part of the journey and embraced, almost enjoyed the misadventures.
For me, the genesis of a new picture book is two-fold. It's a picture and a sentence a. For this book, respectively:
1. Idea of falling inside a machine. I asked kids to illustrate what they imagined was inside a computer and kept returning back to the idea of shrinking yourself to the size of a silicon chip. The first picture I drew for the book was the one of Ruby and the Mouse falling inside the computer.
2. "Computer is an abstracion machine." I think it was Neal Gershenfeld who said something similar and I kept a post it with the sentence on my desk. I wanted to explain the entire abstraction of a computer: from the lowest levels of electricity, bits and logic gates all the way up to operating systems and apps. Many of the How computers work -books focus on peripherals (the mouses, screens and keyboards). I wanted to focus on the big idea of a computer.
After this, words and images interact with one another over beautiful, messy, fluctuating months. The book is pulled apart, divided into little thumbnails, twisted and turned around. At one point the book was set in an amusement park, at another Ruby got stuck inside the computer. In the end, the book was ready a few hours before deadline. As always. Then it was 18 months of waiting - and now it's almost in the hands of the readers.
And again, this book defies the covers. It has already spread to the website where you can play a memory game with RAM and ROM, build a computer or see what children around the world (from Australia to Japan to Finland) imagine is inside a computer. The great team at CS4All in New York was kind enough to already create content and curriculum around the book. And this is before the book is even out. If you decide to get it let me know what you think!
As always, thanks. I wouldn't be here without the support from all of you.
It's been a long time! I heard a lot of people enjoyed the tidbits, footnotes and references I collected, so here's a list of things that sparked my interest and curiosity while writing the book. In no particular order.
- Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Obviously - the Mouse owns a lot to the White Rabbit. I own this book in so many versions, but my favourite might be from Yayoi Kusama. Check out this very nerdy backstory to the technical aspects of the book, the 150 years retrospective by Macmillan or this experimental annotated edition on Medium.
- The Elements of Computing Systems by Noam Nisan and Shimon Schocken. The best thing about this book is that it's not only a book. It's a talk, a course and a community. You build a working computer from the smallest building blocks. Journey inside the computer wouldn't exist without this book.
- Taeyoon Choi's Hello World. Taeyoon's work has been a true inspiration and I was lucky enough to get to also collaborate with him this year. The essay on Avant is glorious, but I love even more the unfinished notes and inspiration of the original Github repo for Handmade Computer.
- Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold. Helped me understand how computers work in a friendly, hand-holding way. I'll do more with this knowledge, promise.
- Learning about computers with Hello Ruby & Miss Chu. A video by a little girl, her sister and her mom doing the computer activity. The reason I do what I do.
- The animal shelter at CERN. CERN has an animal shelter for abandoned mice. So precious and wonderfully weird.
- The Original Macintosh Made of Legos. Made me smile and I had a wonderful afternoon building this.
- The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. A little girl with a magical book and badass nanotechnology. My favourite of Stephenson's so far.
- The Difference Engine by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson. Steampunk meets Babbage! An alternative story of the computer.
- Inside the Personal Computer by Sharon Gallagher. This I actually got after writing the book as a present to myself, but it's an amazing, illustrated pop-up book about computers from 1985.
- What is a computer? by Art of the Problem. I've gushed about Brit's work before, but these videos helped me so much that I'll repeat.
- The Information. James Gleick helped me grasp so many things about the tiniest things like bits and the overarching huge things like history of computing.
- Computers are fast. Well, how fast? Julia Evans' work helped me get a grasp on this. Related, found out about Knuth’s challenge: Analyse everything your computer does in one second.
- Posters of schematics of classic computers. I got Apple I.
- How do calculators even? Amy's work is always inspiring, I could have picked any of her zines, but this taught me about computation in a fun way.
- I found Quora to be a great resource for all my How do computers work? type of questions, balancing technical accuracy with easy approach. Check out for instance How do computers work the way they do? and How does a computer chip work?
- Things like Kano, Arduino and micro:bit and RasberryPi <3
- Minecraft! I remember my head absolutely exploding when I first realised you can build a virtual computer inside Minecraft. First time I also understood logic gates. The essay in the link is gold.
- Richard Feynman on Computer Heuristics. He talks so eloquently about computing.
- How to Build a Computer out of Children. Fun video by BBC.
- Bottom up Computer Science. Very, very technical, but thorough. I found a lot of joy in these old teaching tools: Little man computer and CARDboard
- TED-Ed: What happens inside your computer. Linking through The Kid Should See This, because it offered me inspiration every week.
- List of fictional computers by Wikipedia.
- Lift the flap. Computers and Coding by Usborne. I wish I could have had this book when I was growing up, it's great!
Because every update should have some secrets, right? I've listed below a few references you might spot from the book, if you look close enough.
- The cuckoo clock characters are Github Octocat, Twitter bird and Scratch cat.
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a wonderful novel by Philip K. Dick. That's why the robots are dozing off.
- On the way to dad's study you can see pictures (from left to right) of: Bubble sort algorithm, Ada Lovelace, Venn Diagrams, Super Mario mushroom, Konami sode, Why´s Cat, Petersen graph, Susan Kare's icon work, Insertion Sort, Alan Turing, Dijkstra's algorithm, David Heinemeier Hanssen, Binary tree, Grace Hopper and Yukihiro Matsumoto.
- First spread of Ruby sitting inside the computer - can you recognise what the bits spell?
- Venn Diagrams next to the logic gates reference the graphic version of the gate.
- GPU borrows ideas from the 3D graphic communities: neural networks, Utah teapot, Stanford bunny and triangles.
- When the RAM is too busy, Mac computers get a much feared spinning pinwheel
- Mouse doesn't recognise the floppy drive anymore! It's a modern world.
- Pictures from first Ruby book in the Mass Storage.
- Code from original MacPaint in Pascal is now open-sourced.
- Icons for Tetris, Ping Pong, Pacman, Minecraft - Ruby seems to like classics!
- Sudo is a much loved command for Unix users. Windows Ninja Cat is an easter egg in the Windows 10 OS.
- The line of code Ruby tries to fix is the cursor code for the original MacPaint program.
- The Computer in the workbook namedrops famous fictional computers.