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Computing for Ordinary Mortals

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

In Computing for Ordinary Mortals, cognitive scientist and AI expert Robert St. Amant explains what he calls, "the really interesting part" of computing, which are the ideas behind the technology. They're powerful ideas, and the foundations for everything that computers do, but they are little discussed. This book will not tell you how to use your computer, but it will give you a conceptual tour of how it works. Some of the ideas, like modularity which are so embedded in what we do as humans, can also give us insight into our own daily activities, how we interact with other people, and in some cases even what's going on in our heads. Computing is all around us, and, to quote Richard Hamming, the influential mathematician and computer scientist, "The purpose of computing is insight, not numbers," and it is this insight that informs the entire book.

St. Amant starts off with an overview of basic concepts in computing-computers are machines, though different in a few important ways from other kinds of machines. From this point we'll follow two different threads through the fabric of computing. One thread is practical. He explains how the architecture of a computer (it's a more dynamic architecture than that of a building) makes it possible for computers to be efficient. He then shows us how to write down instructions so that a computer can accomplish specific tasks (programming), how the computer manages those tasks as it runs (in its operating system), and how computers can communicate with each other (over a network).

The other thread is theoretical. Computers are physical machines, but they process information-in the abstract, they're machines for solving problems. Here we get a view into the nature of computing itself, to see what can be computed and how easily it can be done.

He concludes with the human side of computing, from two different perspectives: artificial intelligence, which explores the possibility that computers might eventually be capable of human-level intelligence, and human-computer interaction, which is about the ways in which computers can enrich our lives-and the ways they fall short. Computing, after all, is a very human activity, at its core, built by us and for us.

Synopsis:

Computing isn't only (or even mostly) about hardware and software; it's also about the ideas behind the technology. In Computing for Ordinary Mortals, computer scientist Robert St. Amant explains this "really interesting part" of computing, introducing basic computing concepts and strategies in a way that readers without a technical background can understand and appreciate.

Each of the chapters illustrates ideas from a different area of computing, and together they provide important insights into what drives the field as a whole. St. Amant starts off with an overview of basic concepts as well as a brief history of the earliest computers, and then he traces two different threads through the fabric of computing. One thread is practical, illuminating the architecture of a computer and showing how this architecture makes computation efficient. St. Amant shows us how to write down instructions so that a computer can accomplish specific tasks (programming), how the computer manages those tasks as it runs (in its operating system), and how computers can communicate with each other (over a network). The other thread is theoretical, describing how computers are, in the abstract, machines for solving problems. Some of these ideas are embedded in much of what we do as humans, and thus this discussion can also give us insight into our own daily activities, how we interact with other people, and in some cases even what's going on in our heads.

St. Amant concludes with artificial intelligence, exploring the possibility that computers might eventually be capable of human-level intelligence, and human-computer interaction, showing how computers can enrich our lives--and how they fall short.

About the Author

Robert St. Amant is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at North Carolina State University

Table of Contents

Introduction

Chapter 1. Getting Started

Chapter 2. From Mechanical to Electronic Computers

Chapter 3. Computer Architecture: The Nuts and Bolts

Chapter 4. Algorithms and Structured Data: Solving Problems

Chapter 5. Programming: Putting Plans into Action

Chapter 6. Operating Systems: Working Together

Chapter 7. Computer Networks: Making Connections

Chapter 8. Theoretical Computer Science: Pushing Boundaries

Chapter 9. Artificial Intelligence: Being Smart Chapter 10. Human-Computer

Interaction: Thinking About People

Appendix

Information management: The file system

Information management: Databases

Computational Science

Graphics

Security

Product Details

ISBN:
9780199775309
Author:
St. Amant, Robert
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Author:
Robert St. Amant
Subject:
PSYCHOLOGY / Cognitive Psychology
Subject:
Psychology-Cognitive Science
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20121031
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Pages:
256
Dimensions:
6 x 8.5 x 1.2 in 0.85 lb

Related Subjects

Computers and Internet » Computers Reference » General
Computers and Internet » Computers Reference » Social Aspects » General
Computers and Internet » Personal Computers » General
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Medical Specialties
Health and Self-Help » Psychology » Cognitive Science
History and Social Science » Law » General
Humanities » Philosophy » General
Science and Mathematics » Popular Science » Computer Science

Computing for Ordinary Mortals New Hardcover
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Product details 256 pages Oxford University Press - English 9780199775309 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Computing isn't only (or even mostly) about hardware and software; it's also about the ideas behind the technology. In Computing for Ordinary Mortals, computer scientist Robert St. Amant explains this "really interesting part" of computing, introducing basic computing concepts and strategies in a way that readers without a technical background can understand and appreciate.

Each of the chapters illustrates ideas from a different area of computing, and together they provide important insights into what drives the field as a whole. St. Amant starts off with an overview of basic concepts as well as a brief history of the earliest computers, and then he traces two different threads through the fabric of computing. One thread is practical, illuminating the architecture of a computer and showing how this architecture makes computation efficient. St. Amant shows us how to write down instructions so that a computer can accomplish specific tasks (programming), how the computer manages those tasks as it runs (in its operating system), and how computers can communicate with each other (over a network). The other thread is theoretical, describing how computers are, in the abstract, machines for solving problems. Some of these ideas are embedded in much of what we do as humans, and thus this discussion can also give us insight into our own daily activities, how we interact with other people, and in some cases even what's going on in our heads.

St. Amant concludes with artificial intelligence, exploring the possibility that computers might eventually be capable of human-level intelligence, and human-computer interaction, showing how computers can enrich our lives--and how they fall short.

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