The Manga Guide to Microprocessors
I was surprised at the subject of this latest title in the Manga Guide series. Many of the other volumes have been more general in scope, focusing on branches of science or math. The Manga Guide to Microprocessors is more specialized, with details about how a computer CPU works at the most basic level.
Typical of this series, the characters are a cute, goofy schoolgirl being tutored by a more knowledgeable guy. Ayumi is a champion shogi player, but she’s defeated by a computer program written by Yuu, who winds up teaching her how CPUs work. (Shogi is a board game often called “Japanese chess”.)
Also typical of this series, much of the meat of the learning comes in text sections. I imagine drawing out all this content as dialogue would make for a substantially larger book without much gain in understanding for the reader. Some of the stories and characters in other volumes are more interesting than the two here, though. (Manga fans might find it amusing, at least, that a common trope — the long-lost, forgotten childhood friend — makes an appearance here.) I never believed that Ayumi had the dedication to be a game champion, and Yuu’s knowledge of the basic principles behind how computers function is never tied back to being able to write a champion game program. Still, no one is reading these for the story. It’s just a device to make sometimes difficult content more memorable.
Chapters cover computer components, including input, output, memory, the arithmetic unit, and the control unit; binary math and logical operations (and, or, not), plus how circuits handle them; memory addresses, instructions, registers, and interrupts; branches, jumps, bit shifts, status flags, and operands; and in passing, the ideas behind machine, assembly, and high-level programming languages. A final chapter tells us briefly about microcontrollers.
Author Michio Shibuya makes an interesting point in his preface. He mentions that in the 1950s, you had to answer questions about engine design to get a driver’s license, but now that’s unnecessary. The analogy is to computers, where anyone can use them now without needing to know the details about how they work. So he knows this book will have a limited audience, but one that’s particularly curious, since none of this knowledge is necessary unless maybe you’re taking a class on the subject and want some study help.
Art is done by Takashi Tonagi in generic manga style, while the story scenario is by Sawako Sawada. There is a preview chapter available at the publisher’s website. (The publisher provided a review copy.)