history of computing

CS Table 5/8/18: Classic computers

For CS table next week we will spend time looking at some of the unusual hardware and software from previous eras in computing. There is no reading for next week’s discussion; instead, please send your recommendations to Prof. Curtsinger by email. If you’ve heard of anything particularly funny, odd, creative, or just different from current computing technology, please send it along. It could include examples like gaming consoles, calculators, mechanical computers, and anything else you think is relevant. We will have a projector available at CS Table pictures or videos are welcome, too. Please send suggestions by 5pm on Monday, May 7, so Prof. Curtsinger has time to organize them.

Here are a few examples to inspire you:

Computer science table (CS Table) is a weekly meeting of Grinnell College community members (students, faculty, staff, etc.) interested in discussing topics related to computing and computer science. CS Table meets Tuesdays from 12:00–12:45pm in JRC 224A (inside the Marketplace). Contact the CS faculty for the weekly reading. Students on meal plans, faculty, and staff are expected to cover the cost of their meals. Visitors to the College and students not on meal plans can charge their meals to the department (sign in at the Marketplace front desk).

Computer Science Table: "The story of Mel"

For this week's Computer Science Table (at noon on Friday, September 27, in Rosenfield 224A), the reading is a classic short story about a “real programmer,” providing some historical perspective on the practice of programming:

Nather, Ed. “The story of Mel.” Usenet, 1983.

Algorithmic arts / CS Table: Early computer artists' writings on computer art

At this Friday's CS Table/Algorithmic Arts session (at noon in Rosenfield 224A) we will consider some writings by a variety of early practitioners of computer art, published as the art was actually being produced. These articles are taken from

Rosen, Margit, Ed. (2011). A little-known story about a movement, a magazine, and the computer's arrival in art: new tendencies and Bit international, 1961-1973.

The particular readings are
  • Franke, Herbert W. (orig. 1971, translation 2011). Social aspects of computer art (pp. 435-437).
  • Morellet, Francois (orig. 1962, translation 2011). The case for programmed experimental painting (pp. 92-93).
  • Munari, Bruno (orig. 1964, reprinted 2011). Arte programmata (p. 176).
  • Nake, Frieder (orig. 1968). There should be no computer art (pp. 466-467).
  • Nees, Georg (orig. 1968, translation 2011). Computer graphics and visual translations (pp. 320-325).

Copies of the readings are available outside Professor Rebelsky's office (Noyce 3824). Please complete the reading in advance so that our discussion is productive. Colin and Sinan will lead our discussion.

Friday Extra: "Why so many?"

At noon on Friday, October 2, in Science 3821, Professor David G. Kay will give a presentation entitled Why so many?: A historical view of the early development of programming languages:

Java. Scheme. C++. Python. There are dozens of programming languages in common use today. Each has its adherents -- often highly partisan adherents. High-level programming languages have been available at least since Fortran in 1954; why haven't we agreed on a common language by now? Why is there so much heat (and so little light) when programming languages are compared? We try to answer these questions with a historical look at how and why some of the major programming languages were developed. We find that, as with many technical issues, the ultimate success of a programming language depends as much on social, economic, and historical factors as it does on the technical merits.

Professor Kay teaches in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Irvine, where he holds appointments in the departments of Informatics and Computer Science and serves as Vice Chair of Informatics. He has degrees in linguistics, law, and computer science; his current academic interests include computer law, computer science education, software engineering, human-computer interaction, and the teaching of writing and other communication skills.

Pizza and soda will be served before the talk. Everyone is welcome to attend!

This talk also serves as this week's CS Table.

Syndicate content