CSCE 190: Computing in the Modern World (Spring 2012)

Corequisites: CSCE 145, 204, 206, or equivalent

Meeting time and venue: T 1530-1620 in 300M B201

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. Why Study Computing? Presentation by Prof. Duncan Buell, which formed the basis of part of the lecture of 2012-01-10.
  2. Slides for the Presentation by Prof. Duncan Buell (see above), used on 2012-01-10. Note: this file is about 5MB in size.
  3. Computing Curricula at USC, used on 2012-01-17.
  4. Slides for the Presentation by Ms. Helen Fields of the USC Career Center, used on 2012-01-24.
  5. Trends in the Infrastructure of Computing, lecture by Dr. Jason Bakos, used on 2012-01-31
  6. Notes on Artificial Intelligence, used on 2012-02-07
  7. Notes on the IBM Watson Computer System, used on 2012-02-14
  8. Slides for the Presentaton by Mr. Steve Lariviere of SPAWAR (, used on 2012-02-21.
  9. Notes on Research Methodology in Computing, used on 2012-03-13
  10. Slides for the Presentation by Mr. Terry Floyd of TM Floyd & Company, used on 2012-03-20.
  11. Slides for the Presentation by Dr. Mary K. Harris of Savannah River National Laboratory, used on 2012-03-27.
  12. Slides for the Presentation by Dr. Rishi Mukhopadhyay of, used on 2012-04-10.
  13. Presentation on Judea Pearl, Winner of the 2011 ACM A.M. Turing Award, announced on 2012-03-15, used on 2012-03-13

Quizzes and In-class Exercises

Homework and Projects

Points per assignment.
  1. (HW1, due Tuesday, January 24, 2012) 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 7, 2012) 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 Wednesday, February 1 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.
    In total, your document should be four pages long.
  3. (HW3, due Tuesday, February 21, 2012) 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.

Lecture Log

The USC Blackboard has a site for this course.

Some Useful Links

  1. In this class, we write dates according to ISO Standard 8601.
  2. John Backus's Obituary from the New York Times, 2007-03-20.
  3. 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.
  4. Obituary of Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, from the New York Times (February 7, 2011) (local copy)).
  5. John McCarthy's Obituary from the _New York Times_, 2011-10-25 (local copy).
  6. Dennis Ritchie's Obituary from the _New York Times_, 2011-10-13 (local copy).
  7. ACM Citation Style and Reference Format.
  8. IEEE Citation Style Guide
  9. Another IEEE Citation Style Guide
  10. Alan Turing's ``Computing Machinery and Intelligence,'' Mind, 49 (1950), pp.433-460 , in HTML format.
  11. A panel discussion about Artificial Intelligence, from the Charlie Rose show
  12. 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)
  13. 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
  14. The Gamecock Toastmasters Club web site. The club mission is to help students and other members of the USC community develop communication skills.
  15. The IT-oLogy web site.
  16. What is the Internet? A funny video from a 1994 NBC Today Show Episode.
  17. Research Methodology Links
    1. Thomas Dietterich. "Editorial: Exploratory Research in Machine Learning." Machine Learning 5, 5-9, 1990 (local copy).
    2. Thomas G. Dietterich, Pedro Domingos, Lise Getoor, Stephen Muggleton, and Prasad Talelpalli. "Structured Machine Learning: the Next ten Years." Marchine Learning 73, 3-23, 2008 (local copy).
    3. Stephen Muggleton, Luc De Raedt, David Poole, Ivan Bratko, Peter Flach, Katsumi Inoue, and Ashwin Srinivasan. "ILP Turns 20: Biography and Future Challenges." Machine Learning 86, 3-23, 2012 (local copy).