CSCE 190: Computing in the Modern World (Spring 2011)

Corequisites: CSCE 145, 204, 206, or equivalent

Meeting time and venue: T 1530-1620 in 300M B213

Instructor: Marco Valtorta
Office: Swearingen 3A55, 777-4641
Office Hours: MWF 11-noon, or by previous appointment.


Grading Policy

Reference Materials:

Current Departmental Syllabus


This course is intended to provide you with the bigger picture of how computing fits into the modern world and why there is more to "computing" than just "programming." Unlike nearly everything else taught in the department, this will not be a highly technical course. We encourage you to participate in the discussions and ask questions. The course will involve several other faculty members at the department and external professionals working in the fields of computer science, computer engineering, and computer information systems.



  1. Trends in the Infrastructure of Computing: Processing, Storage, Bandwidth, lecture by Dr. Jason Bakos, given on 2011-02-01 (Local copy)
  2. Notes on Artificial Intelligence, used on 2011-02-08
  3. A PowerPoint presentation on the IBM Watson computer systems used on 2011-02-15 is at the blackboard site for this course
  4. Electronic Voting Machines, lecture by Dr. Duncan Buell, given on 2011-02-22
  5. Computing Challenges in Robotics, lecture by Dr. Jason O'Kane, given on 2011-03-01 (pdf, very large file including videos).
  6. Computer Security and Information Assurance, lecture by Dr. Csilla Farkas, given on 2011-03-15
  7. Computational Biology and Computational Medicine, lecture by Dr. Homayoun Valafar, given on 2011-03-22
  8. Directions for the Site Visit to IToLogy on March 29, 2011 (text version)
  9. Open Source Software, Medicine, lecture by Mr. Ben Francis of the National Guard and president of the Columbia Area Linux User Group (ColaLUG) 2011-04-05
  10. Notes used in lecture of 2011-04-12
  11. Two Examples of Uncertain Reasoning with Bayesian Networks (Icy Roads and Wet Lawn), used in the lecture given on 2010-04-12
  12. Some Pattern of Reasoning and Bayesian Networks, background for lecture given on 2010-04-12
  13. Introduction to Logic Programming, used in the lecture given on 2010-04-19
  14. Introduction to Functional Programming, used in the lecture given on 2010-04-19

Quizzes and In-class Exercises

Homework and Projects

Points per assignment.
  1. (HW1, due Tuesday, January 25, 2011) Write an essay about definitions of Computer Science. Search for several of them. Choose at least three of them. Write a 3-page essay, double-spaced, in 12-point font, in which you describe the definitions you chose, compare them, and conclude with an argument for one of the three definitions and, if you like, your own improvements to that definition. References must be listed after the conclusion and cited in the main text. Quote appropriately. Do not plagiarize!
  2. (HW2, due Tuesday, February 8, 2011) Choose a company where you would like to apply for a position. Write:
    1. A one-page overview of the company
    2. A one-page overview of the position that you would apply for
    3. A one-page resume geared towards that position
    4. A half-page essay on what you need to learn or do to be competitive for the position
    5. Attend the SET Career Fair on Monday, February 2 and write a half-page essay describing your experience
    6. Register on Jobmate at the USC Career Center. Write a statement that you registered on the first page of your homework submission document.
  3. (HW_E, due March 29, 2011) This assignment is not required. It can replace another homework assignment of your choice. Register for and attend POSSCON 2011. As Dr. Huhns wrote: POSSCON "is being held March 23-25 in the [Columbia] Convention Center. The first 150 students to register get in for free and will receive free lunches. There will also be drawings for cool high-tech door prizes that they might win. More importantly, there will be excellent technical presentations (see the attached description) and a good way for them to meet local and national leaders who can provide professional employment opportunities." Here is how to get free registration: type 'student' in the discount code box and it will knock the cost to 0.
  4. (HW3, due Tuesday, February 22, 2011; previously called HW4) Write a 2-page essay, double-spaced, in 12-point font, as follows. Read Turing's original paper on AI: Alan Turing. Computational Machinery and Intelligence. Mind, 59, 433-460, 1950. List the arguments against artificial intelligence written in section 6 of Turing's paper. (The paper is linked to the course web site.) Choose three of the arguments and describe them in detail. Do you agree with Turing's conclusion? Argue for or against.
  5. Make sure that you have grades for all homework assignments: (1) check blackboard; (2) submit late; (3) resubmit for better grade, although I do not guarantee that I will change previous grades!

Lecture Log

The USC Blackboard has a site for this course.

Some Useful Links

  1. Norman Matloff's Introduction to the vi Text editor
  2. Norman Matloff's Unix Tutorial Center
  3. New USC and CEC Student E-Mail System!
  4. An Interview with Maurice Wilkes, by David P. Anderson. Communications of the ACM, 52, 9 (September 2009), local copy. Maurice Wilkes, the designer and builder of the early stored-program computer EDSAC, passed away on Nov. 29, 2010, at age 97.
  5. ACM Citation Style and Reference Format. (Note that this does not specify how to refer to web documents.)
  6. IEEE Citation Style Guide
  7. Another IEEE Citation Style Guide
  8. "What is Artificial Intelligence?" An article by Richard Powers, New York Times, February 5, 2011, about the IBM Jeopardy-playing Watson program (local copy)
  9. Amnon H. Eden. "Three Paradigms of Computer Science." Minds and Machines Special issue on the Philosophy of Computer Science, Vol. 17, No. 2 (Jul. 2007), pp. 135--167. London: Springer. DOI 10.1007/s11023-007-9060-8. ( Local copy)
  10. Obituary of Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, from the New York Times (February 7, 2011) (local copy)).
  11. League of Women Voters of South Carolina Website with links to materials related to Dr. Duell's presentation "Unsafe for any Ballot Count"
  12. Two papers related to the presentation on cybersecurity and information assurance by Dr. Csilla Farkas:
    1. Bruce Schneier, "U.S. enables Chinese hacking of Google," CNN Opinion, Jan. 2010.
    2. Monica Chew Dirk Balfanz Ben Laurie, "(Under)mining Privacy in Social Networks," in Proceedings of Web 2.0 Security and Privacy 2009.
  13. Information Systems Security Association
  14. Alan Turing's ``Computing Machinery and Intelligence,'' Mind, 49 (1950), pp.433-460 , in HTML format.
  15. A panel discussion about Artificial Intelligence, from the Charlie Rose show
  16. Career-related links
    1. Career Center at CEC
    2. Career Center at USC (main site)
    3. ACM Career and Job Center
    4. ACM CareerNews
    5. ACM Computing Degrees and Careers Guide
  17. The Gamecock Toastmasters Club web site. The club mission is to help students and other members of the USC community develop communication skills.
  18. The IT-oLogy web site.
  19. What is the Internet? A funny video from a 1994 NBC Today Show Episode.
  20. Links concerning professional codes of ethics
    1. The ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct
    2. The Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice
    3. The Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics (from the site of Computer Professional for Social Responsibility)
    4. Gotterbarn, D. and Miller, K. W. 2004. Computer ethics in the undergraduate curriculum: case studies and the joint software engineer's code. J. Comput. Small Coll. 20, 2 (Dec. 2004), 156-167.
    5. Local copy of the above.