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New Course: History and Philosophy of Computing

From the Abacus to the XBox

COMP 280 History and Philosophy of Computing

Prof. Dirk Schlimm

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).

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.

Prerequisites: None.

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