CS 101 Fundamentals of Computing

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Catalog Description

The main focus of the course is to give students a practical understanding of computing to become well-informed citizens and professionals in the computing age. Topics may include a basic study of - computational thinking, computer security, big data, artificial intelligence, and current trends in computing.


Typing and basic computer use - web browser, email, etc.

Standard Content

Course Outline

We will spend 1-2 weeks on each of the following topics:

  • What is inside a computer: CPU, RAM, hard drive, etc.
  • Internet 101: how data is moved around the internet
  • Computer and internet security: how do you know your data is secure?
  • Servers and such: logging into a server, transferring files
  • Html basics: creating web pages, a little bit of javascript
  • Block programming: scratch.mit.edu, code.org, blocky
  • Computational problems: things computers can do really well, and things that are impossible for computers to solve
  • Artificial intelligence: different meanings of the term, examples

Learning Outcomes

The following are the most important learning outcomes for each of the 8 topics listed in the course outline.

  • What is inside a computer
  • Name the different components that make up a computer.
  • Describe what the terminology associated with a component means (e.g., Ghz for CPU’s is the speed of the CPU, GB for the size of a hard drive).
  • Evaluate the tradeoffs between different components (e.g., one CPU versus another)
  • Internet 101
  • Explain the basic infrastructure of the internet and associated terminology.
  • Explain the infrastructure of a home network, and be able to configure a home network.
  • Explain how web browsing and email works, in terms of which parties are involved (e.g., server and client), where data is stored, and what communication is involved.
  • Computer and internet security
  • Explain the concepts of encryption/decryption, digital signing, and the difference between public-key and private-key encryption.
  • For given situations, be able to say whether a given interaction is secure or not.
  • Know the key terminology of internet security (e.g., rsa, sha, https, etc.).
  • Servers and such
  • Explain what servers are used for
  • Be able to log in to a server to transfer files to a server, and login via ssh to issue commands to the server
  • How is data stored on a server, and how do we access data
  • Html basics
  • Explain the basic structure of an html document, and understand that an html document is a plain text file that has markup tags to say how to display different parts of the webpage.
  • Be able to create simple html webpages.
  • Be able to put webpages onto a web server.
  • Block programming
  • Understand the concept of a computer program as instructions for the computer.
  • Be able to design simple programs in a graphical programming environment (one where there is no possibility for syntax errors, e.g., scratch).
  • Computational problems
  • Explain some examples of computational problems, and understand how problems are framed (input to the problem, correct output, running time of finding the solution).
  • Basic skills in evaluating efficiency of an algorithm.
  • Explain some examples of computational problems that either cannot be solved, or require inordinate amount of time to solve (e.g., halting problem).
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Understand the concept of the “Turing test” as a test of artificial intelligence.
  • Know the history of some famous examples of “artificial intelligence” (e.g., chess playing, Jeopardy playing, chat-bots).
  • Explain some examples of artificial intelligence techniques (e.g., spam filtering, facial recognition, expert medical systems).

Important Assignments and/or Exam Questions

  • TODO

Standard resources

  • The Beauty and Joy of Computing - course on CS Principles, including programming in SNAP
  • Computer Science Principles - a similar course by Amit Jain at Boise State with much of the content online
  • Introduction to Computing - a similar course by Nick Parlante at Stanford with much of the content online
  • HTML tutorial, CSS tutorial, More on CSS, Javascript tutorial
  • Introduction to Computing: Explorations in Language, Logic, and Machines by David Evans
  • A Computer Science Tapestry by Owen Astrachan
  • Blown To Bits: Your Life, Liberty and Happiness After The Digital Explosion by Hal Abelson, Ken Leeden and Harry Lewis