On Monday, we went over the course syllabus and began to talk about computing. In the syllabus, we highlighted the objectives, schedule, assignments, and grading. Specifics readings are listed on the course website and should be completed before the due date, as these are essential to the class discussion. In addition, to readings there are specific assignments. These should be submitted electronically before the class in which they are due as a pdf via email to the instructor, Kiri Wagstaff. If anyone has trouble creating or cannot create a pdf, please let the instructor know. It is also recommended to post them to the class website so that everyone can see your ideas and viewpoint, but this is not required. The first assignment is due October 3rd. If you happen to lose your schedule, it is downloadable on the Syllabus and Schedule page.

After discussing the syllabus, we discussed computers that we encounter on a regular basis. Examples included GPS, video gaming consoles, cell phones, calculators, laptops, desktops, lights, slide rule, abacus, etc. From this stemmed the question of what differentiates a computer and a calculator. An explanation given in class consisted of the following:

  • A computer can store programs. These programs can be brought up later and accessed.
  • A calculator has to be told each time to do a computation. It doesn’t store programs and instead has to be accessed each time.

However, during class it was noted that this is a very simple explanation and it will be covered more in depth later.

A little video was shown in class, which briefly covered the History of Computers: Computer History in 90 Seconds.

photo credit: http://711tech.com/?p=23

Also the abacus and napier’s rod were discussed. The abacus is a calculating tool that consists of two sections of rows of beads. In the top row, the beads represent the number 5, whereas the bottom represents the number 1.  Those that touch the middle bar are counted. If mastered, the abacus can greatly help in calculations. As seen in a video of Chinese school children using the abacus: Amazing Abacus Math Video.

Some background for napier’s rod was talked about during class, such as the logarithmic tables. For which numbers were converted to exponentials. This would make multiplication and division easier, since the exponents would just need to be added or subtracted.