Computer science doesn't require a computer
April 10, 2008 12:12 AM   Subscribe

Learn (or teach) fundamentals of computer science, without a computer. Provided as hands-on exercises suitable for children, or even CS-illiterate adults. (If this is too basic for you, go here.)
posted by orthogonality (13 comments total) 82 users marked this as a favorite
Just watched this one Very very good.

I teach a couple of kids programming, this is going to be a lot of fun.

Cool post - thanks.
posted by mattoxic at 12:29 AM on April 10, 2008

But..but...but you need a computer to access this...mind overloading....brain exploding
posted by GavinR at 12:39 AM on April 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

I support anything that involves teaching the subjects of graduate level CS/EE courses to schoolchildren and using a block product code to do magic tricks illusions.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:58 AM on April 10, 2008

Well, I learned computing with the help of the Cardboard Illustrative Aid to Computing (CARDIAC):

which is technically a computer, I suppose. A cool product of the Bell System from the pre-PC days. I still have my CARDIAC; perhaps I will go add two numbers with it now...
posted by foonly at 2:20 AM on April 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

My nine year old is fascinated by math and CS, so this will be invaluable.
posted by DU at 4:42 AM on April 10, 2008

That CARDIAC thing is so cool. I remember it from my childhood and thanks to foonly I'm going to get to play with again.
posted by rdr at 5:19 AM on April 10, 2008

I have a feeling that this FPP will eventually get sidebarred. Well, it should be anyway.
Great post, ortho. And great addition, foonly.
posted by NoMich at 5:26 AM on April 10, 2008

Considering the majority of the courses I took for my CS degree didn't involve using a computer, this isn't all that surprising. What you need a computer for is access to Google for when you're having difficulties stumbling through some of the problems in books like this.
posted by mikeh at 6:58 AM on April 10, 2008

Yeah, the best CS course I ever took was while on study abroad in Hungary; half of the students had no regular access to a computer, so no computer work was required. Just a lot of algorithm design and analysis...
(Communication complexity is an awesome concept, btw.)
posted by kaibutsu at 7:45 AM on April 10, 2008

(And here's the book we used. The chapter on information complexity is pretty cool, if you haven't thought about it before.)
posted by kaibutsu at 7:49 AM on April 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

seconding mikeh. my CS1 and 2 finals were both pencil and paper affairs (code writing, not answering questions), and there weren't any machines in the classroom during the year. dealing with the machine in the context of class just opens you up to getting distracted at random compilation errors or other minutiae that's not germain to the discussion at hand.

very cool link, thanks orthogonality!
posted by acid freaking on the kitty at 8:16 AM on April 10, 2008

It's great to see this. These are concepts kids can use forever, regardless of what happens with information technology hardware and software.

Also, the CARDIAC is very cool. Predating it just a bit, in the early 1960s, our math / science teacher taught us some basic relational database concepts using

3x5 note cards
a hole punch
a few pencils
a lot of imagination

The intention, I think, was to illustrate how set theory, Venn diagrams, and such were applied in computers. I have vivid physical memories of playing and learning with those cards over 40 years later.

A few years later, we learned BASIC (that's Dartmouth BASIC, GOTO and all) on paper, using the (different) math teacher's brain as a compiler. That part is not so vivid.
posted by Herodios at 6:57 AM on April 11, 2008

cs4fn is also a good read for compsci newbies.
posted by lahersedor at 7:56 PM on April 24, 2008

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