University Scholars 201

The Machine and the Garden: History and Prospects of Humanity Computing

Course web page at

This course may be counted toward the 12 hours required for the general education requirement in fine arts, history, philosophy, and religion (area 4) but may not be used to satisfy the requirement that courses be selected from two areas

How did computers become entwined in every aspect of our lives? What can we expect in the next 20 years of evolution of silicon-based life forms? This course uses classic texts, syntheses, predictions, critiques, and fictional extrapolations to explore technological history, scientific and social implications, philosophical issues, and utopian visions of the computer. Students undertake research projects presented as Web pages. (3 credits)

Things to Include

Reading and Writing

my log of thoughts on 201
(begun 29 March)

Links from US101:

29 March
San Jose Mercury News SiliconValley.Com --their technology section. See especially Dan Gillmor's Ejournal column --a fine-grain look at what's Happening

28 March
Late-breaking news on gnutella... and more on Sandy Lerner

27 March
from Interface Culture (Steven Johnson). And see also Note that you can get to all the back issues of Wired via And take a look at

23 March
nanocrystals and hard disk capacity

21 March
preface to Beyond Calculation, a 1997 summary of ACM predictions/extrapolations (QA76 .D348), and some stuff on the Internet, and transcript of Nerds 2.0.1... and eventually you'll have to explore the Jargon File

16 March
Sprint in Fords

14 March
Mapping computer history (beginnings of a sketch...)

13 March
InfoWorld Scoop for 13 March

1 March 2000
Take a look at

and a wander through
(look at this article on wireless computing)

and also at what you wrote last night.

Our recurring problem is the multifarious complexity of the subjects we've plunked ourselves into the midst of. How shall we make sense of this landscape of technologies, cultural tidal waves, firestorms, earthquakes... and my best answer is: by trying to write about what we see and hear and sense. The medium really ought to be that of the computer itself, making as much use as possible of its advantages (hypertext being the most prominent of those), but keeping our eyes peeled for its disadvantages, limitations, and infelicities.

If you already know how to make web pages, I'd like you to

If you've never made a web page, it's really not such a big deal. Take a look at this page and try to follow its instructions, substituting us101 for "bio182". Try it... and I'll be glad to help you disambiguate or patch up if anything goes wrong.

my log file from a year or so ago, tracing the development of the course through Fall 1999