Computer Science

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Computers have been an interest of mine for a very long time. I was much impressed by the “electronic brains” that predicted election winners and matched couples on TV in the ’50s. And I remember my uncle’s showing me a large IBM computer installation, probably sometime in the late ’50s. He had been repairing radios and TVs when he got the opportunity to work for IBM, servicing the latest electronic marvels.

In high school, I built computer circuits. Unfortunately, this was before the microprocessors that made CPU personal computers possible were available. Having no hope of being able to buy and assemble enough circuitry to do anything truly useful, I contented myself with packaging discrete-component flip-flops in clever and convenient packages. Steve Jobs’ life had better timing, and, sadly, I have avoided becoming a billionaire.

Nonetheless, I have had a varied and interesting career as a computer scientist and computer educator, as may be gleaned from my list of publications. I have also been using personal computers since before the first IBM PC hit the market, and it is difficult for me to imagine living without a computer. I have come a long way from dreaming of one day owning a 110-baud Teletype terminal of my very own to access a time-shared mainframe.

When I first designed this Web site, I expected that this section would be populated largely by new computer-related essays, mostly providing advice for living happily with your personal computer. What you will find below, however, are mostly papers and essays—sometimes revised—from years ago. Some items are, I hope, of enduring interest; some are—for one reason or another—important to me; and others have found their way here though happenstance. No one should draw any conclusion from what is or is not here.

My recent “computer-related essays” mostly describe personal experiences (many misadventures, actually), offering “expert advice” only by indirection. (You can find some these under Commentary and in my Web log.) I do have some other projects in various states of completion, however, and advice on using your PC and even some work on algorithms may be posted here eventually.

— LED, 3/26/2008


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Conversion of Number Representations—Why do we use one method rather than another to convert number representations from one base to another (i.e., from binary to decimal)? Why do we tend to use one method to convert from decimal to binary and another method to convert from binary to decimal? The material here is adopted from a 1975 handout.

Requirements for Student Programs in the Undergraduate Computer Science Curriculum: How Much Is Enough?—This is another 1979 paper, wherein Mark Pozefsky and I argue that high standards should be imposed on undergraduate student programs in computer science departments.

Implementation of Programming Standards in a Computer Science Department—This 1979 paper was written with Mark Pozefsky and addresses the problem of creating uniform expectations for programs throughout the computer science curriculum.

CMS at North Carolina State University: Tailoring a Time Sharing System for Computer Science Instruction—This paper from 1982 treats a computing environment that will be incomprehensible to some, yet it describes characteristics of a system for administering programming classes that still are relevant today.

Effective Strategies for Taking the Advanced Placement Computer Science Test—This 1986 article drew on my experience as a grader for the APCS test.

Reading Computer Programs: Instructor's Guide and Exercises—This 1990 report from the Software Engineering Institute (SEI), written with J. Fernando Naveda, discusses the uses of program reading and how program reading can be employed in computer science education.

Scenes of Software Inspections: Video Dramatizations for the Classroom—This is a 1991 report from the SEI. It discusses software inspections and acts as a guide to dramatizations of software inspections available from the SEI on videotape. The video, alas, is not available here.

Unit Analysis and Testing—This is an SEI “Curriculum Module” on unit testing  of software and related topics, written with Larry J. Morell.  

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