Stanford University
CS 67N: The Computer of History, the Computer of Fiction
Winter 2006

The computer began as an arithmetic curiosity. From the hand-cranked Pascaline to the steam-powered Difference Engine, mathematicians imagined devices that would perform arithmetic for them. Some of these dreams never came to fruition. Lady Ada Byron was the first computer programmer, but the computer she wrote programs for -- Babbage's Analytical Engine -- was never fully built, and can perhaps be considered the first instance of "vaporware." It was not until 1945 that the first electronic computers emerged, which transitioned them from intellectual curiosities to engines of societal change. Computers have played such a major role in our lives since then that they are inevitably entwined with visions of the future. Arthur C. Clarke's "2001: A Space Odyssey" tells of intelligence unable to handle inconsistency. Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash" describes a future in which a person is usually little more than a body that follows a set of precise instructions. In this course, we'll read about and discuss the computers of history and the computers of fiction, and cover a bit about the basics of how computers work and their trends (e.g., bits, binary arithmetic, and Moore's Law).

Meeting Time & Place
TuTh, 3:15-4:30PM - 160-315

Instructors Office Hours & Location
Philip Levis Thursdays, 1-3PM, Gates 358

Course Syllabus

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