[SIGCIS-Members] Importance of history to practitioners

Brian L. Stuart blstuart at bellsouth.net
Thu Nov 17 09:24:35 PST 2016

I guess at this point, I should mention a couple of upcoming courses
that I'm offering here at Drexel.  This winter quarter, we're doing a
graduate level special topics on the history of computing.  In the
spring quarter, we're going to do an undergraduate version.  They're
definitely going to be technical courses.  In fact, to distinguish them
from the sort of course that the History department might question
CS teaching, we're calling them Evolution of Computing.  I'm still in
the planning stage, but just to give you an idea of what I've got in
mind, here are some of the things I'm planning to do:

- Have them write a simulation of the Babbage difference engine
the first week as a warm-up.
- Have them do a simple program on my ENIAC simulator in the
pre-instruction set processing mode of operation.
- Demonstrate an analog computer in class.
- Have them write a simulator for an early machine.
- Have them write a paper analyzing the architectural influence
of one early machine on another.
- Have them write some code for a PDP-8.  Then I'll bring in an
8/M and let them toggle in and run their code.
- The graduate version of the class will also read some of the
foundational papers on theory, especially Turing's "On Computable

Between now and the end of the year, I'll be firming up the details,
but hopefully you get a sense of what the class will be like.


On Thu, 11/17/16, Dave Walden <dave.walden.family at gmail.com> wrote:

 I don't remember if the following has been mentioned on this list or not.
 If it is unlikely that a university course of study for computer science 
 will be changed to include history, I wonder if some computing history 
 could be done in informal intersession courses (e.g., 
 http://web.mit.edu/IAP/) or through a lunch-hour seminar series.  Also, 
 in these days of on-line video courses, maybe one initial computing
 history course could be developed that is then available to students 
 everywhere; no doubt such videos already exist.  If there were a list of
 the good ones by topic, perhaps the professor for a particular technical 
 course could refer the students to the relevant video in case the
  students want to watch it.

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