Brown Dogs and Barbers — Karl Beecher (2014)

Until now, the books I’ve reviewed have been big titles, or at least on the radar. It’s always nice to have picked a book off the beaten track and share why it’s so valuable. This has become one of those reference texts that I keep on my main shelf. If you’re interested in computer science, start with this one. I’m also looking for more entry-level computer science books to read and review, so do please comment or message suggestions! Excerpt of the book can be read here.

Long has been my hunger and search for a readable primer in computer science and this book has most certainly satiated it. Brown Dogs and Barbers takes us on a journey, not necessarily chronological, on the birth and evolution of computer science. It answers seemingly rudimentary questions such as “What classifies as a computer” and “What can be solved with a computer?” but these are critical to understand What’s computer science all about?

I recommend the Kindle edition, if you have a Kindle reader.

As an enthusiastic but not necessarily all that accomplished mathematician, I loved the trip down memory lane (except that I don’t miss university whatsoever, but swiftly moving on…). Everything is explained very clearly, thus no prerequisite mathematical knowledge is needed, but this book is not too diluted for those with a scientific background. A lot of pure maths analytical concepts are revised and their applications to computer science are explored.

We learn of the many famous names in computer science and of their contributions to the field. We learn about hardwares, software, computer languages and networks. Beecher tells us that a computer is a general purpose, programmable, automatic device. We’re also told that the act of computing is to input something, for said input to be processed and generate a resultant output. All that is discussed together form the necessary ingredients to compute.

Computer science has been the notable field of advancement in the twentieth century and it continued to advance now as captured in the observational Moore’s Law. Computers are everywhere and yet the education system (at least the one that I went through in London) may provide IT lessons that are focused on using Microsoft Office (and often taught by those who have yet to master touch-typing, or is that just me?). Brown Dogs and Barbers is a must read for curious sixth-formers and anyone who missed out — it’s not too late to answer those basic questions. I do wonder what impact this could have had on me had I read it as a sixth-former, but of course it wasn’t around back then.

London-born Gujarati. Interested in books, strategy games, business, tech, food & culture.