COMP 1400: Computing in the 20th Century and Beyond

Given the ubiquitous nature of computing in everyday life as well as the increasing number of reports in the news of computing-related calamities, the material in this course will give members of the general student population the tools to understand how computing impacts them and what they can do to both embrace the potential and mitigate the risks of applying computing technologies in their professional and private lives.

Prerequisites: None

Availability: ⚠ This course is not planned to be offered in the near future.

Course Objectives

This course will give an overview of the development of computing technologies over the last 75 years as well as both the perception of these technologies by, and their impact on, society. The course will be organized chronologically by decade, and within each decade will examine the dominant computing developments, their image in various print and pictorial media, and their social impact. The aim is to give students of all disciplines an appreciation of the abilities and limitations of computer technology and how such technologies interact with society.

Representative Workload
  • In-class Exams (4) 100%
Representative Course Outline

In each course unit below, material will be organized by, and presented sequentially, as three themes: Technology (e.g., processing/memory/I/O/network), Applications (for example, areas of application/user-group/level of knowledge required), and Impact (for example, social/economic issues and problems raised by technology, depictions of technology and its creators and users in the media).

  • How We Got Here: Computing in the Past (15 hours)
    • In the Beginning (pre-1940)
    • The First Computers (1940-1955)
    • The Rise of the Machines (1955-1970)
    • The Personal Computer Revolution (1970-1990)
    • The Wired Society (1990-now)
  • Where We Are: Computing Now (10 hours)
    • An examination of selected issues in current computing, e.g., life online, big data and privacy, robots and artificial intelligence
  • Where We’re Going: Computing in the Future (3 hours)

Page last updated May 24th 2021