An assembly language is a low-level programming language for a computer, or other programmable device. Assembly language is used by almost all modern desktop and laptop computers. It is as close to writing machine code without writing in pure hexadecimal. It is converted into executable machine code by a utility program referred to as an assembler.
Assembly language is infrequently used by programmers nowadays, but there are still good reasons to learn the language. It is the most powerful computer programming language available. While assembly language shares very little with high level languages (such as Java, C#, Python etc), and assembly languages for different CPU architectures often have little in common, it gives programmers the insight required to write effective code in high-level languages. Assembly language is also used primarily for direct hardware manipulation, access to specialized processor instructions, or to address critical performance issues. Assembly is excellent for speed optimization.
We have published a series covering the best open source programming books for other popular languages. Read them here.
By Jonathan Bartlett (326 pages)
Programming from the Ground Up is an introductory book to programming and computer science using assembly language. It teaches assembly language for x86 processors and Linux. It assumes the reader has never programmed before, and introduces the concepts of variables, functions, and flow control.
The reason for using assembly language is to get the reader thinking in terms of how the computer actually works underneath. Knowing how the computer works from a “bare-metal” standpoint is often the difference between top-level programmers and programmers who can never quite master their art.
This book should teach the reader to understand how a program works and interacts with other programs, be able to read programmers’ code and learn how they work, to learn new programming languages quickly, and also to learn advanced concept in computer science quickly. The book includes review exercises at the end of each chapter.
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify the book under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation.
By Dennis Yurichev (1061 pages)
Reverse Engineering for Beginners offers a primer on reverse-engineering, delving into disassembly code-level reverse engineering and explaining how to decipher assembly language for those beginners who would like to learn to understand x86 (which accounts for almost all executable software in the world) and ARM code created by C/C++ compilers. It discusses x86/x64, ARM/ARM64, MIPS, and Java/JVM.
The book is available in Russian and English, and there are partial translations in Chinese, German, French, Italian, and Brazilian Portuguese.
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) license.
By Paul Carter (190 pages)
This book is a good tutorial on 32-bit protected mode assembly programming on the x86 processor.
The tutorial has extensive coverage of interfacing assembly and C code and so will interest C programmers who want to learn about how C works under the hood. All the examples use the free NASM (Netwide) assembler.
The book may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety, provided that no charge is made for the document itself, without the author’s consent.
Other good assembly books which are available to read for no charge but which are not released under an open source license are listed below:
- The Art of Assembly Language
- Optimizing subroutines in assembly language: An optimization guide for x86 platforms
- Intel® 64 and IA-32 Architectures Software Developer’s Manual
- Assembly Language Succinctly