Invitation to Computer Science 8th Edition
Book PrefaceInvitation to Computer Science 8th Edition
This text is intended for a one-semester introductory course in computer science. It presents a broad-based overview of the discipline that assumes no prior background in computer science, programming, or mathematics. It would be appropriate for a college or university service course for students not majoring in computer science, as well as for schools that implement their first course for majors using a breadth-first approach that surveys the fundamental aspects of computer science. It would be highly suitable for a high school computer science course, especially the AP Computer Science Principles course created by the College Board in cooperation with the National Science Foundation and colleges and universities around the United States.
The Non-Majors Service Course
The introductory computer science service course (often called CS 0) has undergone numerous changes. In the 1970s and early 1980s, it was usually a class in FORTRAN, BASIC, or Pascal programming. In the mid-to-late 1980s, a rapid increase in computer use caused the service course to evolve into something called “computer literacy,” in which students learned about new applications of computing in fields such as business, medicine, law, and education. With the growth of personal computers and productivity software, a typical early to mid-1990s version of this course would teach students how to use word processors, databases, spreadsheets, and email. The most recent change was its evolution into a web-centric course in which students learned to design and implement webpages using HTML, XML, ASP, and Java applets.
In many institutions, the computer science service course is evolving once again. There are two reasons for this change. First, virtually all college and high school students are familiar with personal computers and productivity software. They have been using word processors and search engines since elementary school and are familiar with social media, online retailing, and email; many have designed webpages and even manage their own websites and blogs. In today’s world, a course that focuses on computing applications would be of little or no interest.
But a more important reason for rethinking the structure of the CS 0 service course, and the primary reason why we authored this book, is the following observation:
Most computer science service courses do not teach students the foundations and fundamental concepts of computer science!
We believe that students in a computer science service course should receive a solid grounding in the fundamental concepts of the discipline, just as introductory courses in biology, physics, and geology present the central concepts of their fields. Topics in a breadth-first computer science service course would not be limited to “fun” applications such as webpage creation, blogging, game design, and interactive graphics, but would also cover foundational issues such as algorithms, abstraction, hardware, computer organization, system software, language models, and the social and ethical issues of computing. An introduction to these core ideas exposes students to the overall richness and beauty of the field and allows them not only to use computers and software effectively, but also to understand and appreciate the basic ideas underlying the discipline of computer science and the creation of computational artifacts. As a side benefit, students who complete such a course will have a much better idea of what a major or a minor in computer science will entail.
This last point was the primary reason for the development of the AP Computer Science Principles high school course, which is quite similar to the breadth-first overview model just described. By learning about the field in its entirety, rather than seeing only the small slice of it called “programming,” high school students will be in a better position to decide if computer science is a subject they wish to study when they begin college.
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