Syllabus and Schedule


Date Topic, Readings, and Deadlines
Mon., Sept. 26 What is computing? What history do we care about?
Scribe: Jenelle
Videos: Computer History in 90 Seconds; Abacus Action
Wed., Sept. 28 Looms and Machines
Read: Jacquard’s Web, Ch. 4 (p. 35-38), Ch. 5 (p. 45-48), and Ch. 6 (p. 65-79)
Scribe: Manali
Video: Jacquard’s Loom
Mon., Oct. 3 Babbage and his Engines
Read: Jacquard’s Web, Ch. 7 (p. 81-98); Babbage’s Autobiography (handout, p. 107-111)
Optional: Jacquard’s Web, Ch. 8 (p. 99-117)
Due: Assignment 1
Scribe: Austin S.
Video: Babbage’s Engines
For fun: The Difference Engine, by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling
Wed., Oct. 5 Lovelace, the First Programmer
Read: Jacquard’s Web, Ch. 9 (119-148), Appendix 2 (p. 270-276)
Scribe: Manali
For fun: Listen to Episode 102: Ada Byron
Fri., Oct. 7 Add/drop deadline (by web)
Ada Lovelace Day
Mon., Oct. 10 Hollerith and the Census
Read: Jacquard’s Web, Ch. 10-11 (149-177); “The Electrical Tabulating Machine” by Hollerith (1894)
Scribe: Jenelle
Pictures: from The Computer History Museum and Columbia University
For fun: Listen to Episode 401: IBM and the 1890 Census, Episode 879: Babbage and Tennyson
Wed., Oct. 12 Codes & Ciphers
Read: The Code Book, by Simon Singh (handout)
Scribe: Nathan
Going further: Babbage and deciphering (Ch. XVIII of “Passages from the Life of a Philosopher”); Breaking the Code (movie)
For fun: Build your own Enigma machine; Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson; Enigma (movie); Episode 2666: Alan Turing
Mon., Oct. 17 Turing and Computation
Read: “On Computable Numbers” by Alan Turing (sec. 1,2,3,5,6,8); Excerpt from “The Diamond Age” by Neal Stephenson (handout); “On Alan Turing and the Origins of Digital Computers” by Brian Randell
Due: Assignment 2
Scribe: Austin V.
Video: Excerpt from Breaking the Code
For fun: Episode 2660: Inside the Machine
Wed., Oct. 19 von Neumann and Electronic Machines
Loebner Prize Competition
Read: Johnny Builds Bombs and Johnny Builds Brains, by Howard Rheingold; Jacquard’s Web, Ch. 12-13
Due: Computers & History paper selection
Scribe: Nick
Going further: Birth of the Computer; “Von Neumann’s First Computer Program” by Donald Knuth
Mon., Oct. 24 Hopper and Compilers
Read: Jacquard’s Web, Ch. 14-16; “The Education of a Computer” by Grace Hopper; “Improbable Warriors” by Kathleen Williams (p. 108-118 only)
Scribe: Sarah
Video: Grace Hopper on 60 Minutes, 1982
Going further: “Babbage and Aiken” by I. Bernard Cohen
Wed., Oct. 26 Human Computers, Commercial Computers
Read: “When Computers were Human” by Paul Ceruzzi; “Programming with Punched Cards” by Dale Fisk (p. 1-8)
Scribe: John
Videos: Top Secret Rosies (ENIAC) and ENIAC operators in action; UNIVAC advertisement
Going further: “Nov. 4, 1952: Univac Gets Election Right, But CBS Balks”; “The Age of Female Computers”, by David Skinner
For fun: Online card puncher
Mon., Oct. 31 The early Internet and Humans vs. Machines
Due: Assignment 3
Read: “The Past and Future History of the Internet” by Barry M. Leiner et al.; “The Chess Master and the Computer” by Garry Kasparov; “My Puny Human Brain” by Ken Jennings
Scribe: Kevin
Going further: UCLA’s log books showing the first ARPANET transmissions; Where Human Workers Can Still Beat Robots (at Least for Now); Desk Set (movie)
Wed., Nov. 2 Artificial Intelligence
Read: Introduction to The Turing Test by Stuart M. Shieber, “Mind vs. Machine” by Brian Christian
Scribe: Mai
Going further: “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” by Alan Turing
Mon., Nov. 7 More AI, and Hardware Advances
Read: “Machine of the Year: The Computer Moves In” by Otto Friedrich; “Kilby, Noyce, and the Integrated Circuit” by Bob Stoffels
Scribe: Cody
Going further: The First PC; “Engadget Primed: SSDs and You” by Jesse Hicks
For fun: Episode 1059: Inventing the Computer
Wed., Nov. 9 Guest lecture: Jon Brewster from Hewlett-Packard
Due: Computers & History paper draft
Read: None!
Scribe: Austin S.
Mon., Nov. 14 Software
Due: Assignment 4
Read: “Machine of the Year: The Computer Moves In” by Otto Friedrich; “A Brief History of Hackerdom” by Eric Raymond
Scribe: Sarah
Wed., Nov. 16 Property
Read: “Chinese Gamer Sentenced to Life” by BBC News; “Twitter’s Secret Handshake” by Ashley Parker
Scribe: Mai
Mon., Nov. 21 Communication and Attention
Read: “Technology and Human Vulnerability” by Sherry Turkle; “Can You Hear Me Now?” by Sherry Turkle
Scribe: Nick
Going further: Death By PowerPoint
For fun: Idoru by William Gibson
Wed., Nov. 23 Identity and Privacy
Due: Assignment 5
Read: “Tinysex and Gender Trouble” by Sherry Turkle; “How Privacy Vanishes Online” by Steve Lohr; “Is Online Privacy a Generational Issue?” by Heather West
Scribe: Andrew
Mon, Nov. 28 Space Exploration
Computers & History Presentations
Scribe: Cody
Read: None
Going further: “The Mars Rover Spirit FLASH Anomaly” by Glenn Reeves and Tracy Neilson
Wed., Nov. 30 Student Presentations
Computers & History Presentations
Scribe: Andrew
Read: None
Tue., Dec. 6 Due: Computers & History final paper