....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... Computer Science 161 - Spring 2017

Computer Science 161.01
Spring 2017


MWF 1:30PM-2:20PM Bagby 111


Professor Tom Valente
Bagby 123 x6210
email: tvalente

Office Hours:

MTWR 2:30PM-4:00PM, other times by appointment and by announcement


Foundations Of Computer Science, 2nd Edition by Forouzan and Mosharraf

Course Description:

This is a broad based introduction to computer science, using a hands-on approach to learning. This course has no prerequisites except a willingness to pursue the course objectives.

Computer Science is the study of the kinds of problems that computers can solve and how they actually, in the end, solve them. At the heart of computer science is the notion of algorithm . An algorithm is a careful and thorough step-by-step description (or "recipe") of how to solve a problem. The process of programming a computer begins with the programmer expressing (perhaps informally) an algorithm that will do so. The process continues with the programmer then encoding the algorithm in a programming language such as Java or C++. Remarkably, a computer does not understand nor can it execute instructions written in such languages. Instead, the algorithm is executed by a computer's hardware, the circuits of which understand only 0 and 1 (by detecting either high or low voltage).

The first part of the course will focus on how the computer, at its lowest levels, actually processes information. We'll learn how all information, regardless of its type (textual, numerical, audio, video) is represented in binary. We'll then learn how a computer's circuits can perform fundamental tasks such as adding two numbers or comparing two numbers.

After we've understood enough about the behavior of the computer at is lowest levels, we'll "zoom out" to think about what a person (i.e. programmer) must do in order to have the computer solve a problem. We'll study algorithms, both how to express them and how to understand whether or not an algorithm can produce answers in a reasonable amount of time. We'll do this by investigating algorithms to solve problems such as sorting a list of numbers or searching a list of names for some desired name.

Of course, an algorithm must expressed as a computer program in order for a computer to execute its instructions. Thus, later in the course, we will look at how computer programming languages have evolved to the ones that are in use today. We'll use a modern high-level programming language to learn about both procedural and object-oriented programming, the latter being particularly important in modern programming.

Finally, we'll investigate one of today's hot issues - that of secure communications. We'll study a couple of modern methods for encoding secret messages (an area known as Cryptography). In doing so, we'll understand once and for all that computers DO have limitations, and that this is not necessarily a bad thing!


In-class Tests (3 in class - Feb 17th, Mar 31st, Apr 21st) 30% (12-12-6)
Final Exam (Tuesday May 9th at 2PM) 25%
Quizzes 10%
Homework 35%
Tests must be taken at the date and time announced, unless you provide a legitimate excuse prior to the time of the test. Quizzes must be taken when given.


Homework 1 Due Friday January 27th
Homework 2 Due Monday February 6th
Homework 3 Due Friday February 10th
Homework 4 (to be done in class during week of Feb 13th)
Homework 5 Due Monday February 27th at 1:30PM
Homework 6 Due Monday March 6th at 1:30PM
Homework 7 Due Friday March 10th at 1:30PM
Homework 8 (DOWNLOAD)Due Monday March 27th at 5:00PM
Homework 9 (DOWNLOAD)Due Wednesday April 5th at 5:00PM
Homework 10 (DOWNLOAD) Due Friday April 14th at 5:00PM
Homework 11 Due Wednesday April 19th at 1:30PM
Homework 12 (DOWNLOAD) Due Monday May 1st at 1:30PM
Optional Homework 13 (DOWNLOAD) Due by Final Exam time

Solutions to Recent Homework

Homework 8 (DOWNLOAD)
Homework 9 (DOWNLOAD)
Homework 10 (DOWNLOAD)

List Processing Algorithms

Sequential Search
Binary Search
Selection Sort   Insertion Sort and Bubble Sort

JavaScript Worksheet Downloads

Mar 6   Mar 8   Mar 20   Mar 29
Wed Nov 2
Play a game of craps   Simulate MANY games of craps
Some Practice Problems for Test 3


Wednesday Jan 18

Week of Jan 23   Week of Jan 30   Week of Feb 6
Test 1 Study Guide

Week of Feb 20   Week of Feb 27
Mon Mar 6   Wed Mar 8   Fri Mar 10   Mon and Wed Mar 20-22
Test 2 Study Guide (Download)
Wed Apr 5


An ASCII Table

A Scratchpad for doing basic Javascript programming

Our first day attendance experiment as a Javascript program.

Click here for a simulator that allows us to construct circuits that use the logic operations we learned.

Click here to program the VSC-32 in machine language.

Click here to enter a VSC-32 machine language program in hex.

Assembly Language Programming on the VSC-32

A cipher used by Julius Caesar

A Caesar cipher with no word length clues!

A more general substitution cipher