Comp 280: History and Philosophy of Computing, Winter 2009 |
## Syllabus |

This course is intended to exhibit the deep roots of computer science,
revealing its rich cultural heritage and showing its emergence as a
confluence of philosophy, mathematics, and engineering. Because of the
historical approach of this course, it should be appealing to students
from a variety of disciplines, introduce them to many fundamental
concepts revolving around computing and computers, and stir their
curiosity to learn more about the subject. For students in computer
science this course will provide a framework to better understand the
material they learn in other courses and foster a
better understanding of their own discipline.
Additional reading materials will be on course reserve, available
online, or handed out in class.
**Aim of the course:**
This course offers a historical introduction to computing machines and
the notion of computability. Part I will cover developments from the
Babylonians to the late 19th century (including number systems,
Leibniz's idea of an all-purpose language and associated calculus to
derive conclusions, Babbage's analytical engine). Part II introduces
the logical foundations of modern computers (Frege's logic,
mathematical models of computation, and theoretical limitations of
computability), and the third part will cover 20th century
developments up to the present (e.g., analog and digital computers,
programming languages, artificial intelligence, robotics, quantum
computing).

**Prerequisites:**
None.

**Textbooks:**
The following two textbooks are required for this course.

They will be available soon at The
Word Bookstore, 469 Milton Street (5 mins. from the University
Street Gates).
*Engines of Logic: Mathematicians and the Origin of the
Computer*, W. W. Norton & Company; 2nd edition, 2001.
*A History of Modern Computing*, MIT
Press, 2nd edition, 2003.

**Requirements & grading:**
Students are expected to attend and participate in class and do the
assigned readings.

The final grade depends on small homework
assignments (30%), a short paper (15%), a second short paper or a
poster (15%), and a final paper or project
(40%). Every student can take
up to two "late days" for handing in the homework assignments during
the semester. Otherwise, late homework will not be
accepted (except in cases of documented emergencies).

**Academic integrity:**
McGill University values academic integrity. Therefore all students
must understand the meaning and consequences of cheating, plagiarism
and other academic offences under the Code of Student Conduct and
Disciplinary Procedures (see www.mcgill.ca/integrity for
more information).

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