Fundamentals of Computer Science I   

CSC 151-01
Grinnell College
Fall 2007
MWF 8-8:50, Tu 11-11:50, Science 3813
Instructor: Janet Davis (office hours as posted; contact me)
Teaching Assistants:
Tutors are also available Su-Th, 9-10 p.m. most weeks.


About this course

Welcome to CSC 151! The official course description:

A lab-based introduction to basic ideas of computer science, including recursion, abstraction, state, information-hiding, and the design and analysis of algorithms. Includes introductory programming in a high-level, functional language. Prerequisites: None.

A course very much like this one is the reason that I became a computer scientist.  I'm very excited to be teaching this course, and I hope to share some of that excitement with you.  My goal for this class is that you will begin to learn how computer scientists solve problems. We will be using Scheme as our first programming language; if you have already programmed before, chances are excellent you will still find new ideas in Scheme.

We're doing something really new this semester. The class will revolve around media computation: using computers to manipulate digital media, particularly images but also text, sounds, video, even 3D objects. We'll have new readings, new labs, new homework, new tools to work with. I'm very excited! I think it will be a lot of fun, and you'll have many different ways to exercise your creativity. But, there may be some kinks to work out. Please bear with us if there are.

Important Warnings

Warning! Experience shows that CSC151 exercises different parts of your brain than other courses (even than math courses). Expect some difficult times, but have confidence that you can get through them and that you'll come out of the course with much more knowledge.

Warning! Computers are complex, and sometimes they do things we don't expect. Computers have no common sense or compassion. When things go wrong, don't blame yourself. Ask me or a tutor for help.

Optional books and other readings

Kelsey, Richard, Clinger, William, and Rees, Jonathan, eds. (1998). Revised5 Report on the Algorithmic Language Scheme [HTML] [PDF]. February 20, 1998. The concise and complete definition of the Scheme programming language. You won't need to understand all of it, but you'll find it helpful to keep it by your side.

Rice University Programming Languages Team (1999). PLT DrScheme: Programming Environment Manual. The guide to the Scheme development environment we'll be using.

Optional: Springer, George and Friedman, Daniel P. (1989). Scheme and the Art of Programming. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. The textbook that we formerly used in the class.

Optional: Felleisen, Matthias, Findler, Robert Bruce, Flatt, Matthew, and Krishnamurthi, Shriram (2001).  How to Design Programs. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Another excellent textbook. Available online at

Optional: Rebelsky, Samuel A. The CSC151.02 2007F Course Web. The course web for the other section of this class.

Janet Davis (

Created January 19, 2007
Last revised November 29, 2007
With thanks to previous instructors for this course