The Digital Age

CSC 105
Grinnell College
Spring 2012
MWF 1:00 - 2:05, SCI 3813
Instructor: Janet Davis (office hours posted outside my door or by appointment; contact me)
Mentor: Andy Hirakawa '12 (mentor session M/Th 8 - 9 p.m.)
Computer science tutors will be available in SCI 3813/3815 SMTWTh 7 - 11 p.m.


About this course

Welcome to CSC 105! The college catalog says this course is a "study of core topics and great ideas in the field of computer science, focusing on underlying algorithmic principles and social implications." We will address questions that will give you a new perspective on the everyday uses of computing, such as, How do the parts of a computer work together? How are digital images and music stored? What happens when I browse a web page? Why are some web sites easier to use than others? Are there things that computers can't do? With hands-on class activities, we will create, discover, and gain a better intuition of computational phenenomena.  Because this technology does not exist in a vacuum, we will also discuss computing's role in society and the ethical issues involved.  In short, we will answer the questions (and question the answers) that should make you responsible and well-informed citizens of the digital age.


Our major objectives for this course include:

Is this course for me?

YES! Seriously, if you are at all interested in what computers can (and cannot) do, then this overview of computer science is for you. Although computing and its uses are constantly evolving, many basic concepts and skills remain the same. Knowing these will prepare you well for understanding future technologies.

This course assumes some basic computing skills: word processing, email, and web browsing. This course assumes no prior experience with programming or computer science.

How to be successful in this class

Do the readings, participate fully in class, and ask questions.

Don't be afraid to try things. It's very unlikely that you will break the computer, and even if you do it can almost certainly be fixed.

Also remember that computers have no common sense or compassion. They are complex, and sometimes they do things we don't expect. If things go wrong in ways you don't understand, don't blame yourself. Ask for help from me or the class mentor.

Janet Davis (

Created January 12, 2012
Last modified March 8, 2012
Thanks to Jerod Weinman and Marge Coahran