6.S897 Classics of CS


Graduate level
Units: 3-0-9
Prereqs: none
Instructor:  Professor Harry R. Lewis, Visiting Professor
Schedule: MW10-11:30, room 32-044
This subject examines papers every computer scientist should have  read, with an emphasis on the period from the 1930s to the 1980s. It  is meant to be a synthesizing experience for advanced students in  computer science: a way for them to see the field as a whole, not  through a survey, but by reliving the experience of its creation,  relating the original work to the field as it exists today. The aim is  to create a unified view of the field by replaying its entire  evolution at an accelerated rate, giving students the opportunity to become sophisticated generalists.
 Learning occurs mainly through reading and discussion. For a typical class day, students will read two papers (possibly in excerpted form)  and prepare a short diary entry summarizing points they wish to  remember, discuss, or clarify. Class meetings begin with brief remarks from the instructor, followed by structured small group discussions, with students taking turns leading and documenting the discussions,  ending with a full class discussion. We expect that no student will be familiar in advance with all the material, but every student will know some of it, so that by the end of the term everyone will have learned  from everyone else. Some of the authors may visit the class to discuss the circumstances surrounding their early work.
Assessment is based on class participation and a final video project in which students will argue for the importance of a paper that was not included in the readings.
Harry Lewis is spending sabbatical at MIT Spring Term 2020.   Professor Lewis is known for textbooks in theoretical computer science, and writings on computing, higher education, and technology. He is the Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science at Harvard University, and was Dean of Harvard College from 1995 to 2003.