Want to learn how computers really work? This course will teach you.

I spent over 15 years of my life in school (elementary school, HS, college) and during all of that time I basically just viewed it as a scorecard or a stepping stone of tasks that you needed to get through before you were allowed to try to become rich (I guess I was born in America?). Aside from being an incredibly depressing and cynical view for a 5–22 year old to have and also the fact that it makes me seem like a total schmuck, I sort of wonder why I was never really that inspired by any of the classes I took or latched onto any particular subject. I am not really sure of what the answer is…but probably something to do with being stressed out about grades. Anyway, this post isn’t really about that.

This is about a class called Nand2Tetris that I took on Coursera. It can be taken for free or for $49 if you want to get your exercises graded so you can make sure you have developed the correct solutions (you can submit them as many times as you want, so this kind of grading is more for your personal development, not a scoreboard). In the class, you build a computer from the ground up starting with elementary logic gates up through creating a high level language called Jack. The creators of the course, Shimon Schocken and Noam Nisan, have built virtual environments for you to do everything (meaning you don’t actually need any real hardware, you can do it all on your computer). If you have ever had any curiosity about how computers ACTUALLY work and also want to challenge yourself/develop confidence in your ability to solve hard problems on your own, this class is a miracle.

You can check out the course reviews here which speak for themselves.

And here is my assembler I wrote as my final project in Part I. Wooo.

I am starting Part II of the course this week. It’s just fucking outstanding.

If you have any interest in computers and want to do something that will bring you a lot of satisfaction and pure joy…take this class. I can’t say enough about it. Its inspiring it was possible to create something this amazing and also share it for free. It has re-affirmed my belief that MOOC style education is going to change the world and the main thing holding it back is it doesn’t carry the same signaling value of a degree from a prestigious school.

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