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HIS 134 — The History of Computers

Quarter: Winter
Day(s): Mondays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 6 weeks
Date(s): Jan 23—Mar 6
Time: 6:00—7:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Jan 25
Unit: 1
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Tuition: $385
Instructor(s): Len Shustek
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
Please Note: No class on February 20
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
6:00—7:50 pm (PT)
Jan 23—Mar 6
6 weeks
Refund Date
Jan 25
1 Unit
Grade Restriction
No letter grade
Len Shustek
Please Note: No class on February 20
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
The computer ranks with the wheel and the printing press as one of the key inventions of civilization. The story of its invention and development is an important part of the story of humanity.

This course will broadly examine the technical, people, and company stories of the development of computer hardware and software, from the earliest pre-computer mechanical aids for calculation to the first invention of the computer and its reinvention during World War II to mainframe computers of the 1950s and 1960s, real-time computers, supercomputers, minicomputers, personal computers, mobile computers, networking, and the World Wide Web. We will also examine the simultaneous evolution of computer languages and software. Without a program, the computer is a universal machine that does nothing. But with a billion lines of code, it can do anything. We will also note the importance of the Computer History Museum, located in Mountain View, California, which is home to the world’s largest and most significant collection of computing artifacts.

A basic understanding of how computers execute instructions is helpful but not required. Students will have the opportunity to attend some of the class sessions at the Computer History Museum. Please see the syllabus for more details.

Cofounder, Computer History Museum

Len Shustek has been an entrepreneur (cofounder of Nestar Systems and Network General), a professor (Carnegie-Mellon and Stanford), and a seed-round venture investor (VenCraft). He cofounded the Computer History Museum in 1996 and was chairman of the board there for 25 years. He received an MS in physics from the Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn (now NYU) and an MS and PhD in computer science from Stanford.

Textbooks for this course:

There are no required textbooks; however, some fee-based online readings may be assigned.