An Algorithmic and Social Introduction to Computer Science (CSC-105 2000S)

Front Door

Welcome to the Spring 2000 session of Grinnell College's CSC 105, An Algorithmic and Social Overview of Computer Science, which is described relatively well in the official blurb. My own take on this course is that we'll be visiting a number of topics in computing from multiple perspectives, primarily the CS techniques used to support these topics and the implications of these topics. While this is not a course in computer programming, we will do a little bit of programming, since it is often easiest to understand an algorithm through its implementation. We will be using JavaScript as our development language. This is the first time CS105 has been taught at Grinnell, so some things are not worked out as well as I might hope, and many things are likely to change.

In an attempt to provide up-to-date information, and to spare a few trees, I am making this as much of a ``paperless'' course as I can. You may also want to read the basic instructions for using this course web.


Meets: MTuWF 10:00-11:50 a.m.

Instructor: Samuel A. Rebelsky, Science 2427. Office hours: Tu 2:15-4:15, W 3:15-4:15 (also feel free to stop by when my door is open)

Teaching Assistant Sarah Luebke. Hours to be determined.

Grading: Thought questions: 20%; Labs, attendance: 10%; Risks reactions: 10%; Short stories: 30%; Exams: 30%;

This course has a midterm and a final. Both will be in-class exams.

Extra Credit: If you identify other sources to help with the thought questions, I am likely to give you some amount of extra credit.

Throughout the term, I may suggest other forms of extra credit.

Books and Other Readings

Dewdney, A. K. (1993). The (New) Turing Omnibus: 66 Excursions in Computer Science. New York: Computer Science Press.

Our text for the algorithmic side of things. The ``excursions'' in this text are short articles about different topics in computer science. Some are fairly mathematical.

Forestor, Tom, and Morrison, Perry (1994). Computer Ethics: Cautionary Tales and Ethical Dilemmas in Computer Science. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Our text for the social side of things. While this does not cover all the topics we will cover, it gives a very nice overview.

Rebelsky, Samuel (2000). The CSC105 2000S Course Web.

The hypertext that you are currently reading. All of these materials are optional, but you may find them useful.


Thought Questions: At the end of every class, I'll give you a question or problem to think about for the next class. At times, I will ask you to reflect on implications that are not discussed in our book. At other times, I will ask you to work out computational problems. You should email me a response by 9 a.m. Responses should generally be about one paragraph long.

comp.risks: You are expected to keep up with messages in the comp.risks mailing list. Since it appears that our news server is not quite up to date, you should read the digest online or subscribe as specified in the instructions. (Not everything in the digest will be interesting or comprehensible.) Send me a one-paragraph comment on some item in the digest within three days of receiving the digest. When appropriate, we'll talk about risks in class.

Short Stories: As part of your work in the class this semester, you will write three short narratives about a risk in computing. Each narrative should be about one page long, and include four discussion questions. I will have samples available in a few days. You must turn in at least one story before break.

Labs: We will do a number of labs in the class to help ground you in the technology of computing. Sarah and I will help you with the labs during class time. If we don't finish in class, I'd like you to try to finish up on your own. You need not turn in your labs; I will simply check to see that you've made a serious attempt at the lab.

The Course Web

The course web for this class is the definitive reference to what I expect to happen each day. Most of my students find it useful to check the course news and the daily handout at the start of each class.

Note that the outlines on the Web are a sketch of my plans for the day. I also expect to deviate from those plans when questions or ideas in class lead us in different directions. I'll do my best to make these available the day before class, but past experience suggests that I will have difficulty doing so, and that the outlines will change before class in any case.

I anticipate posting much of your work to the course site. If you have concerns about having your work posted, please let me know as soon as possible.


Tuesday, 4 January 2000

Thursday, 20 January 2000

Saturday, 22 January 2000

Monday, 24 January 2000

Disclaimer Often, these pages were created "on the fly" with little, if any, proofreading. Any or all of the information on the pages may be incorrect. Please contact me if you notice errors.

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