[SIGCIS-Members] Importance of history to practitioners

McMillan, William W william.mcmillan at cuaa.edu
Fri Nov 11 04:17:23 PST 2016

As Len and Paul say, history should indeed be included in a computer science curriculum, but it is often hard to spend much time there given rigidly defined requirements.  If there's a required course that's an overview of, or broad intro to, CS then one can turn that toward history.  I taught an honors section of such a course (not to CS majors; it was a gen ed class) and encouraged historical topics for the group project.  I sat with mouth agape as one group presented their project on how to program the ENIAC.

Where I teach now an overview of CS is required for majors and is a gen ed class as well.  As long as I've been somewhat involved with the history of computing, I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't really taken the opportunity to include all that much on history in that course.  I'm encouraged to change that.

As Alex says, in arts and humanities, historical topics are more readily accepted.  BTW, Alex, in following some links from your syllabus, I saw your HyperCard references.  You and others might like to know that HyperCard is alive and well, more powerful than ever, in the form of LiveCode out of the UK (livecode.com).  It supports multiple stacks in the same application, web delivery, database front-ending, smart device deployment, and tons of other industrial grade capabilities.  A psych prof I work with uses it for running experiments and my software engineering students have used it for a term project.  There's a free community version for Mac, Windows, and Linux.

- Bill

From: Paul Fishwick [metaphorz at gmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, November 10, 2016 11:05 PM
To: Len Shustek
Cc: McMillan, William W; Sigcis
Subject: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] Importance of history to practitioners


> On Nov 10, 2016, at 9:46 PM, Len Shustek <len at shustek.com> wrote:
> At 09:59 AM 11/10/2016, McMillan, William W wrote:
>> I thought you might like to hear the following.  In a meeting with a small software company in Ann Arbor that emphasizes user-centered, agile development, a colleague and I asked what subjects should be included in an academic program in interaction design.  The firm's chief designer, who also has a programming background, said that the most important course would be history of computing!
> Even better would be to have the history of computing embedded in academic computing programs. Physicists learn about Newton, and chemists learn about Lavoisier, so why shouldn't computer scientists learn about Babbage, Turing, and Von Neumann?

+1 on this concept, but I would go further. What about analog computing? I am unsure how to solve
this problem of ahistorical computer science. I would guess that part of the problem is that engineering
(where many computer science departments are situated) have programs that have few electives, and
are geared heavily towards industry, as driven by student demand (they come by droves to get CS
degrees, for utilitarian purposes). Maybe this is one of those liberal arts vs. vocational debates?


> My frustration teaching computer architecture at Stanford in the mid-1990s with a required syllabus that avoided history led me to start a museum nearby, because I knew I wouldn't be able change the curriculum. If you are interested in the story of how that happened, see
> http://s3data.computerhistory.org/atchm/documents/Personal_Reflections_on_the_History_of_the_Computer_History_Museum_09-26-14.pdf
> which is referenced in my blog article on the Computer History Museum's 35th [sic] anniversary.
> http://www.computerhistory.org/atchm/computer-history-museum-celebrating-35-years/
> -- Len
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Paul Fishwick, PhD
Distinguished University Chair of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication
Professor of Computer Science
Director, Creative Automata Laboratory
The University of Texas at Dallas
Arts & Technology
800 West Campbell Road, AT10
Richardson, TX 75080-3021
Home: utdallas.edu/atec/fishwick
Blog 1: creative-automata.com
Blog 2: modelingforeveryone.com
LinkedIn: metaphorz
Twitter: @PaulFishwick

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