Freshman Seminar: Roots of the Computer Age

Course Number: 
24
Before the Dawn: Imagining Deeper Roots of the Computer Age
Semester: 
Fall
Year: 
2013
Instructor: 
Rosemary Joyce
Units: 
1

Turing's Cathedraltells the true story of the post-World War II development of the modern digital computer-- the ancestor of every laptop and internet-capable device you might use in your daily life. In this seminar, we go deeper in history, and touch on other remarkable people and events in the invention of computing, through the lens of fiction. We start with the stories of Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, who developed the idea of computer programming-- before 1850. Our main guide here is the cyberpunk novel, The Difference Engine, published in 1990, written by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson-- better known as the author whose novels inspired the movie The Matrix. Our next historical figure is Alan Turing-- whose work for Great Britain during World War II led to breaking German codes. The "Turing Test", named for him, defined how to decide if a machine exhibited artificial intelligence. Turing died in 1952 shortly after being arrested for being homosexual. Here, we will read selections from the cyberpunk classic Cryptonimicon, by Neal Stephenson, published in 1999.

Location: 
2251 College Ave, Room 101
Time: 
T 1-2
CCN: 
02488
Prerequisites: 

Note: This course is open to freshmen only