Assignment: The CSE 490H Living Computer Museum

Learning Objectives

As a seminar, this course does not require much beyond attendance and involvement in weekly discussions. However, we do want students to think about what they are learning in the seminar as well as their other experiences in the context of a very dynamic history (and future) of computer science and technology.

Your only "assignment" in this course will be to demonstrate a reflection on the history and the potential of some topic related to computing. You will propose a contribution to a “new computing museum” to educate others about the role of computer science over time. Specifically, your contribution will serve as a “mini” exhibit of a computing topic of your choice, whether it be the origins of some technology, influential person in CS, focus on a particular decade, etc. You may choose to create a written contribution (minimum of 500 words) or visual/interactive contribution.

Assignment Details

Option I (Written)

Write a short article or blog post (minimum of 500 words) reflecting on the origins/early history of some topic related to computing. Some ideas include:

  • Explore history/origins of some topic you’re exploring in another class.
  • Explore history/origins of some topic you’re interested in learning more about but haven’t taken a class on
  • Explore history of research areas at the Allen School or other schools
  • Write a small biography on some person influential to computer science (directly or indirectly)

Suggested process:

  • "Dig up" some artifact (paper, influential figure, research lab, company, etc.) relating to a weekly seminar discussion or a course you are taking
  • Read up/review the artifact and its social/economic/political context
  • Choose:
    • Past: Written reflection or experimentation on artifact
    • Present: Reflection on its impact/adaptation to tools you can use today as programmers/users
    • Future: Predict or propose its impact on society X > 10 years from now

Option II (Visual/Interactive Mini Exhibit)

Develop a visual or interactive contribution that can help educate people about the history of computing. Some ideas include:

  • Find and demo (code walk-through) working implementations of historic artifacts, e.g. from Bret Victor’s future of programming (sketchpad, grail)
  • Implement your own version of a Hackenbush game / game solver
  • A collection of programming folklore collections
  • Data visualization of trends over time for some technology