Held: Monday, 20 January 2003
Today we begin CSC151 by considering the core subject matters of the
course: problem solving, computer science, computer programming, and
- Definitions: Computer science, computer programming, computing,
algorithm, and more.
- Course basics.
- Getting started with the ECA.
- Administrative issues.
- Rather than telling you exactly what the class is about,
I'm going to start the class with a question for you.
the questions will help ground the class and also begin to get
you used to some aspects of my teaching style (particularly my
reliance on recitation-style work).
- What is Computer Science?
- I will give some of my own responses after I've heard some of yours.
- Computer scientists differ in how they define the discipline.
However, most would aggree that
Computer science is the study of algorithms and data structures.
algorithms, we mean sets of instructions that can be used
to solve problems.
- Some problems are mathematical. For example, you
might write an algorithm to find the square root of a real number.
- Other problems deal with textual information. For example, you might
write an algorithm that tells how to find a name in the phone book.
- You can write algorithms for a wide variety of problems.
data structures, we mean mechanisms for organizing information.
For example, we organize some information in lists and other information
study, we mean specify, design, describe, evaluate
mathematically, evaluate experimentally, implement in software, implement
in hardware, prove properties, consider applications and implications,
and much, much more.
- In our studies, we rely on the tools and techniques from a number of
- From mathematics, we take proof techniques,
formal language for describing problems and solutions, and even core
- From science, we take experimental techniques.
- From engineering, we take techniques for designing and
- From psychology and the social sciences, we take
techniques for understanding the relationship of our work to human
- These diverse perspectives and skill sets make CS interesting and
- I expect and hope that you will find CSC151 different from any class
you've taken in the past.
- We use a different format than many classes: a collaborative,
workshop-style format. (You may have seen this format in other
introductory science courses; we do it somewhat differently.)
- Computers and computer science also require you to think differently.
I expect that you'll exercise some brain cells you may have forgotten
you have. (And after all, isn't liberal arts education an exercise
in thinking in as many ways as you can?)
- Computer Science 151 has a number of goals
- To introduce you to fundamental ideas of computer science: abstraction,
algorithms, and data
- To enhance your problem-solving skills and give you experience
in formal representation of problems and solutions.
- To introduce you to two primary paradigms of problem solving:
functional and imperative.
- To give you some programming skills that you can apply to problems
in other disciplines.
- Like most computer science courses, CSC151 will have both theoretical
and practical components. I hope you will enjoy relating the two.
- You may have noted that I said that we'll study two paradigms
of problem solving.
- Over the years, computer scientists have designed (discovered?)
a number of techniques for looking at how to write solutions
to problems. There are four basic ones.
- We'll visit each in terms of making cookies (or at least we'll
- Imperative: Solutions are a collection of basic
instructions with some additional sequencing.
- Sift dry ingredients.
- Stir 50 times.
- Object-Oriented: Solutions are a collection of
- Head chef: Hand bowl of ingredients to mixing sous-chef.
- Sous-chef: Upon receiving bowl of ingredients, mix.
- Functional: Solutions consist of function definitions
and function applications. It's often useful to think of
a function as a form of filter: it converts its input to
- The mixer converts separate ingredients into a consistent mush.
- The oven converts raw dough to cooked dough.
- Declarative: Solutions consists of collections of
- To bake cookies, you cook at 375 degrees F for 8 to 10 minutes.
- Chocolate chip cookies contain ...
- Some people wonder why we need computer languages like Scheme, Pascal,
C, Java, and the ilk.
- In part, it's probably because the computer elite want to maintain
their sense of superiority over the masses.
- In greater part, it's because English and other
can be ambiguous. At the very least, they have many similar structures
that are interpreted very differently. Consider the classic pair of
- Time flies like an arrow.
- Fruit flies like a banana.
- Remember: Computers are sentient and malicious.
It often seems that they'll do their best to misinterpret whatever it
is you write.
- Please refer to the course web site
for more details.
- Teaching philosophy: I support your learning.
- Attendance: I expect you to attend every class. Let me know
when you'll miss class and why.
- Grading: I'm a hard grader. I don't grade everything.
- Course web.
- ECA. We'll use it for turning in homework and quizzes.
- Daily work
- Attend class, work on lab and participate in discussion.
- Finish the lab in the evening.
- Do the reading for the next class in the evening.
- The exams
- Three take-home exams during the semester. Plan to spend
ten hours on each one.
- An optional final to make up for a bad exam grade.
- Take all three exams anyway.
- The labs
- Available online.
- Being re-written as the semester progresses.
- I'll require more formal writeups of a few labs a semester.
- The homework
- About five.
- One makeup at the end of the semester.
- Academic honesty
- Core to the academic process.
- My basic policy: Don't cheat.
- The college's basic policy: Cite carefully.
- Significant breakdowns in CSC151 last semester.
- Read my handout on
academic honesty carefully.
Thursday, 16 January 2003 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]
- First version, created mostly automatically from previous course.