And now for something (almost) completely different! My latest book from Take Control—#53!—is not actually a “Take Control” book at all. It’s called Are Your Bits Flipped?, and unlike my usual fare, it’s not a how-to book! Instead, it’s a collection of essays about technology misconceptions—what you might be getting wrong and why, how things really work, and how to avoid forming new misconceptions. I think you’ll find it enjoyable as well as educational.
Computers store data as a series of bits, each of which can be either a 1 or a 0. You put bits together to make bytes, and put bytes together to make kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes, and so on. But the thing is, if even a single bit is “flipped” from a 1 to a 0 or from a 0 to a 1, that can change everything. It might lead to an error message, a crash, or worse. In other words, a tiny, simple error can have significant consequences. Likewise, when our ideas about how things work are just a tiny bit off, the resulting mistakes in our mental models can lead us to waste time, make poor decisions, and make bad matters worse.
Everyone has flipped bits (metaphorically speaking) from time to time. There’s no shame in having a flipped bit; it doesn’t mean you’re stupid or careless or inattentive. Just that you happened to miss, or misunderstand, a small piece of information, and that error had a cascading effect. This book is my attempt to reveal and correct a bunch of these common misconceptions—flipping those bits back to their correct values. I also offer some advice on keeping your bits from being flipped in the future.
About half of the chapters in the book are based on articles I wrote for the FlippedBITS series at TidBITS (although they’ve all been thoroughly updated and edited since then). The remaining chapters are in the same vein, mostly responding to questions I’ve heard or behaviors I’ve noticed that tell me someone hasn’t quite grasped the way things work. This $15 book is 190 pages long, and even at that, I had to cut a number of topics that were in the outline. If there’s sufficient interest in this book, I have many other ideas about topics that could be added in a future edition.
I hope you enjoy reading Are Your Bits Flipped? as much as I enjoyed writing it!
As is my custom, I spoke to Chuck Joiner about the book on MacVoices: