52

This is really difficult to communicate to anyone who hasn't lived through it (and even to those of us who have). I don't usually go back as far as the 60s. I show my students a picture of the ASCI RED supercomputer from ~1998, which was the first supercomputer to be able to perform 1 trillion floating point operations in a second (1 TFLOP). It's ...


31

Others have mentioned volume of a system and I think that's a great place to start. I have always thought of it like this: According to Wikipedia, in 1971, the 4004 could perform roughly 75000 instructions per second. So if you bought one when it was first announced, on November 15, 1971, and were able to keep it running continuously on some task, you could ...


14

I (barely) remember when the first iPhone came out. I remember playing this skeeball app on it, and really enjoying it. I thought it was so cool, and fast, and I thought the phone was sleek and small. Fast foward - I use that iPhone as an alarm clock (it can't do much else - we took it off our "plan" or whatever it's called a while ago). I've played the ...


14

Actually, technology per se isn't science. But then, neither is mathematics. Technology is normally about the creation of things. Science is about using a certain methodology for trying to discern the truth about the world and natural processes. If you define natural processes broadly, including human processes, then social science is also science. But ...


10

Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress contains passages about sneaker-netting printouts of program code from one location to another and re-typing it into the target system. It seems ridiculous today, but I guess it was way beyond bleeding edge when written. I'd say a (dramatic?) reading and a discussion about why it seems so silly today why ...


9

As someone in their 20s who has not actually lived through the history of programming and computer technology but can still very much appreciate it, here's a handful of things that have helped me appreciate the progress of computers: Watching (and laughing at) various episodes of "The Computer Chronicles" (a handful can be found on youtube). Especially ones ...


8

The Imitation Game: Alan Turing's life through the lens of his work on breaking the Enigma code at Bletchley Park during WWII and his later prosecution as a homosexual during the 1950s. It touches on computer science, World War 2, equality, women's role is CS and society, etc. The movie also casts Turing, inaccurately, as socially awkward and a loner. This ...


8

To give another perspective, when teaching an intro to web development course it's very useful to teach things in a way similar to how they were discovered and contextualize the different concepts in history. It's easy to understand why HTML is a markup language rather than a full fledged language when you consider the time: The Web was used for serving ...


7

I share that a single Google search uses more compute power than all of the Apollo missions, but even I can't wrap my head around that. Forget Google search. Your phone is more powerful than the computers that got us to the moon. Some random articles I found: The computers that put man on the moon How Do NASA's Apollo Computers Stack Up to an iPhone? Your ...


6

There are some history topics that link really well with computing - for example a history of communication, taking in writing, printing, semaphore, the telegraph and Morse code etc, through to the internet and the web. The English history curriculum for 5-7 year olds suggests that pupils compare William Caxton and Tim Berners Lee. Another great topic ...


6

I think you're still slightly confused yourself, actually. All of the fields below have a great deal of overlap because they are in similar parts of the world Computer Science: Computer Science is the broad study of computational systems, which can be a little frustrating, because people often use the term to describe some specific subset. If you major in ...


6

I like all the suggestions about visuals but it can sometimes be very hard to really connect an old storage device and a new one since the data stored is hidden in bits. It's easy to show that punchards used to be used and required and lend themselves to a nice visual. Punchards are 1 line of code per card. The Linux Kernel is 15,000,000 lines long. A ...


5

I think nobody has mentioned the (energy) cost of running an algorithm on these machines. For example when you are taking a photo on a phone, it is running a face recognition algorithm in real time. This consumes X watts of power and costs Y USD / second to run. You'd need to calculate how many multi-million USD machines you'd need from a specific era to ...


5

Compare a graphing calculator with a smart phone. If your students are in high school, then they probably carry around something like a TI-83 Plus calculator, which contains a 6MHz Z80 processor, 27 kB of user RAM, and a 96×64-pixel monochrome display. That's the same processor and similar specs as an Osborne 1, which was sold in 1976 for over \$4,000 (in ...


5

In short, yes. When introducing students to programming and how a computer works, historical perspective can prove highly valuable in several areas. Consider this one image of Margaret Hamilton next to NASA code: Encapsulated here are several important ideas: Women played an essential role in the development of the space program (Hidden Figures also ...


5

I have two thoughts on this: Volume matters. Grab some picture of a very early computer (the first one in our sense, the Zuse Z3, would do nicely, and Wikipedia has its details, e.g. 4kW power consumption and 1 metric tonne of weight). Then take any of the numbers you find (i.e., number of individual elements etc.) and compare it to todays CPUs. Something ...


5

Here's one pretty good infographic from the Wall Street Journal, though it is almost 4 years old now: Of course, another way is to describe the change in scale. I love the approach used by BlueRaja here, though again this is from 2013. If adding two numbers consistently took a person one second (which is already pretty fast for most people, especially ...


5

One idea is to take your students on a field trip to a "computer museum" of some sort, if your local area has one. Being able to physically look at and maybe even interact with machines can maybe help give your students a more "visceral" feel for how computing has advanced in general. (One of my professors actually did this and took us all to the Living ...


5

In no particular order: Hacking Democracy (Documentary) - An investigation into the risks of online and electronic voting. The Code (Documentary) - About Linux and the free software movement, with many well known figures in Linux and free software. Pirates of Silicon Valley - About the Apple / Microsoft rivalry in the early days of the PC. The Social ...


5

Hackers The film follows a group of high school hackers and their involvement in a corporate extortion conspiracy. Made in the 1990s when the Internet was unfamiliar to the general public, it reflects the ideals laid out in the Hacker Manifesto quoted in the film: "This is our world now... the world of the electron and the switch [...] We exist without ...


5

It is not clear to me what exactly OP is looking for, but one relevant book is: David Alan Grier, "When Computers Were Human", Princeton University Press 2005. The author served for several years as editor in chief of the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing. He was inspired to work on the book when he learned that his grandmother had graduated ...


4

I began to realise how drastic the change was in 1997, when I had more computing power and more disc storage on my desk than my entire university campus had when I graduated in 1983. In 2010, I had more than that on my phone. To enumerate, the university in 1983 had: An old mainframe, an ICT 1904S* with 256K of 24-bit words, maybe 10 5MB and 10MB ...


4

The problem with teaching the trajectory of computing technology is with basic numeracy. The orders of magnitude are just too big for many students to comprehend without more numeracy and feeling for log() scales. Many of the examples here would just go over their heads as random magical numbers. I would teach this by not talking about computers, at first,...


4

Science is theory and Technology is putting science into implementation. Science is like learning swimming by seeing youtube and Technology is diving into a water body and swimming yourself. So my dear Technology is not a branch of science, but itself technology is practical implementation or practical ways of implementation.


3

I suggest asking a kind of riddle. Which is faster, UPS or the internet? (Use your schools internet as a starting point) Then specify many sizes of data. Use "common sizes" like: Blu-Ray DVD CD-ROM 120 Gig Hard Drive 2 Gig Hard Drive 1.44 Floppy 5" Floppy Casset Tapes (think C64) Tape Spools SD Cards Then use some variables for internet speed. Common ...


3

I have 8k of genuine Ferrite core memory, on a circuit board of about 1 square foot. I show that, followed by an 8k static RAM chip (1970's), followed by an 8 GB SDRAM (1M times the storage capacity of the original board), followed by a 1 TB SSD (125x the storage on the SDRAM.


3

What about the 90s internet? Maybe they'll relate to that. Then take them on a journey to pre commercial internet, then onto computing and networking before the internet? This 90s ad for AOL is hilarious. Try searching for "internet minute". There's some great infographics that may illustrate how far computing power and the internet has come.


3

From my experience of trying a history of computers lesson... I tried showing this old tech programme but they failed to relate to it and got bored really quickly. I think it destroyed my street cred more than anything :). They did enjoy a clip that showed one of the first home pcs and games consoles, so decided to change my lesson plan. I found a youtube ...


3

It isn't a textbook, but Hidden Figures is both a book and a movie. The same author, Margot Lee Shetterly, produced versions of the book both for adults and for young readers. The movie is quite uplifting. I haven't read the book, but assume it is the same. History.com has an article about these remarkable women. One of them: Katherine Johnson died this year....


2

I enjoy computing history and some of the mankier bits of Computing history are partly my fault, I'm even holding a dinner in the City to mark the 50th anniversary of Real Time Computing https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/real-time-computing-50-years-on-and-50-years-hence-tickets-32702374683, but it's a hobby, not a subject. Firstly, there are no good texts to ...


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