cs6501 Spring 2013

Great Works in Computer Science

Meetings: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11am-12:30pm in MEC 215 (varying location)
Instructor: David Evans

Participants: This course is open to ambitious undergraduate students (with permission) and all graduate students in computer science and computer engineering.

Web page: http://www.cs.virginia.edu/evans/greatworks/

Office hours: Mondays, 1-2pm; Thursdays, 12:30-1:30pm (after class); other times by appointment (when my door is open, you are always free to stop by).


Computer scientists have a tendency to ignore the past, reinventing things that have been previously discovered and repeatedly relearning the same lessons. The goal of this seminar is to deeply understand some of the great works in computer science.

What is a great work? A great work could be a written work, but could also be an algorithm, system, architecture, or methodology. To be "great", it must have lasting value and substantial impact. Great works change the course of computing in ways that become so ingrained in our thinking that people assume that they are how things must have always been, rather than something that was invented and developed.


Students will be expected to identify one great work in computer science, justify why it is great, and produce some artifact that illuminates this work. The artifact you produce should be something of value to people beyond just those in the seminar such as a web application, video, software simulation, or paper.


Students will be evaluated based on their contributions to the class including participating in the discussions, written responses to the readings, and course projects.


The first readings from the class will be Alan Turing's On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem (1936) and Charles Petzold's The Annotated Turing.

Later readings will be selected from among the great works in computer science based on student interests and projects. Possible topics include: Students will be expected to submit short written responses to each reading.