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Diomidis Spinellis Publications


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Book review: Bebop to the boolean boogie: an unconventional guide to electronics fundamentals, components and processes

Diomidis Spinellis
Athens University of Economics and Business

Clive "Max" Maxfield
Bebop to the boolean boogie: an unconventional guide to electronics fundamentals, components and processes
Second edition.
Butterworth-Heinemann, Newton, MA, 2002.
ISBN 0-7506-7543-8

"Bebop to the Boolean Boogie" is the most entertaining electronics book your reviewer has ever read. One should not however be misled by its unashamedly offbeat style (the book ends with an appendix titled "A No-Holds-Barred Seafood Gumbo" containing a food recipe). The technical writing is crisp and accurate; Clive "Max" Maxfield not only knows his subject well, but can also explain the difficult topics he tackles with a consistently easy-to-understand style.

The book is a an overview of electronics technologies from 15,000 feet. Three introductory chapters set the scene by describing the difference between analog and digital signals, outlining the structure of atoms, molecules, and crystals, and explaining in plain terms the notions of voltage, current, resistance, capacitance, and inductance. The rest of the book's first section deals at an abstract level with the basic elements of the Boolean logic world: transistors, logic functions, numbering systems, binary arithmetic, Boolean algebra, Karnaugh maps, complex functions, and state machines. The presentation's level of detail would suit an introductory undergraduate course, or a "conversion" postgraduate course. Surprisingly, the second section, which is 50 pages longer than the first one, deals with components and processes; typically those topics are dealt in a course as an afterthought or are relegated to a separate course. Dedicating more than a half of the book on component technologies is a bold but justified choice. The marvels of electronics that serve us every day clearly owe more to their innovative manufacturing processes than to the basic underlying theory. The second section's chapters present integrated circuits, memory, programmable and application-specific ICs, circuit boards, hybrids, multichip modules, and future technologies.

Both sections benefit from numerous detailed, clear, and well presented diagrams. On the other hand the many cross references appearing as footnotes are sometimes irritating, while the lack of a bibliography section (despite what is claimed in the cataloging-in-publication data) is unfortunate. However, the demanding reader will be compensated by a glossary, a table of acronyms, a detailed index (unsurprisingly indexing "Bill Gates" as a subentry of "gates"), and a CD-ROM containing the book's text in eBook format. One other unusual feature of the book is to provide the pronunciation of every acronym or quirky term when it is first introduced. Given that an aim of "Bebop to the Boolean Boogie" is to allow a layman to intelligently discuss with digital electronics engineers, this is a wise decision.