Writing Problem 0-0: Around the House


Think critically about computers and computing.

Learn about how to write with an eye towards a technical audience.

Pull up the definition of the word "computer" a few places online (or in a handy, printed dictionary if you happen to still have one!), and while it’s likely you’ll find some common threads, it’s also quite likely that no two definitions are the same.

For purposes of this course, we define a computer as a device that accepts input and processes it in some way to produce an output

Writing? I thought I was here to code...

Rest assured, there’ll be plenty of time and plenty of opportunity to dive into programming this school year. In fact, the vast majority of the problems you’re assigned in this course will require you to program in one or more of the programming languages we’ll learn about, such as Scratch, C, PHP, or JavaScript. But occasionally, and a bit more frequently at the very beginning of the course, you’ll also be asked to complete some "writing problems" like this. Why?

Being able to write code is just one tool at your disposal. Among the many characteristics of a computer scientist is his or her ability to communicate effectively with others, both with and without technological backgrounds alike, about computers, emerging technologies, and more. By researching these topics and reading about technology on tech news you’ll not only become more conversant in the jargon that computer scientists use to describe technology, computers, and computing, but you’ll also improve in your ability to further relay what you’ve learned to others.

In some contexts you’ll be relaying your newfound knowledge to those with absolutely no background in the subject matter, and to address those individuals you’ll need the ability to describe things clearly and, importantly, correctly. In others, you’ll be addressing your peers or more technically-oriented audiences, and instead of having to explain a new technology, you will have to persuade that audience about something. Being able to analyze a technology, compare it to others, and point out its relative flaws is an important rhetorical tool to do just that. Organizing your thoughts and communicating them on paper is one of the best ways (particularly if you otherwise might experience stage fright!) to practice this skill.

Ok, Computer

Have a look around your home. See any computers? Even if you don’t have laptops or desktops where you live, odds are you have many more computers in your home than you think. Perhaps you have a smartphone? Maybe you have a flatscreen television or a video game system?

In this problem, we want you to think even more outside the box than that. Recall that we defined a computer as a device that accepts input, and processes it in some way to produce a result automatically. Surely there exists some device in your home that adheres to that definition but isn’t something that before now you would have readily called a computer. If you can’t think of any such device in your home, feel free to venture beyond those four walls and pick any device with which you may be familiar.

In no more than 400 words[1], describe this device in detail. Post your response on your CS Class Blog.

You may wish to consider questions such as:

What does the device look like?

What kind of data does it accept?

How does it process that data?

What is the result of that processing?

Conduct a little bit of research (formal or informal), and if you suspect others may be skeptical of your assertion that the device you chose is a computer, write persuasively so as to do your best to convince such individuals that you aren’t crazy and that you know what you’re talking about.

This was Writing Problem 0-0, your first problem

1. Seriously! In the real world, projects often have specifications just like this one, and it’s frequently quite important to adhere to those specifications exactly so that you are in compliance with project scope. So keep it to 400 words, tops!