CSC 171
Introduction to Computer Programming

Spring, 2006

Syllabus Calendar Homework Assignments PSP Recipes Language stuff Coding examples Daily Survey


In the first week of class, I'd like you to fill out this pre-term survey, so I know what your backgrounds are.

Subsequently (ideally every few days), I'd like you to fill out the daily survey to help me keep track of what people are finding easy, and what people are having trouble with.

Getting Help

My office hours are

Who should take this course?

This is a first programming course; it doesn't assume that you have done any computer programming. If you have, however, you may still learn a lot from it; talk to the instructor to decide whether you should skip it and go into CSC 172.

The course is open to CS/CMIS majors, minors, and people who just want to learn what this "computer programming" thing is all about. CS and CMIS majors should take this course in their first or second semester, as it's a prerequisite for many other CS courses. For math majors, this course counts as your programming requirement. For students majoring in something other than CS, CMIS, or math, this course counts towards your math/science distribution requirement. Such students are welcome, but may wish to consider taking the less-intense CSC 160 instead.

Although the course has no prerequisites, it is nonetheless hard work. Lectures will not cover everything you need in order to complete the homework assignments; you need to read the textbook too. There will be five to eight homework assignments, most of which will require hours of programming, either in a computer lab or at your home computer.

Schedule and Attendance

This course meets five (5) times a week: lectures on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, and labs on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. You must register for both section 1 (lecture) and section 10 (lab). You are expected to attend both lectures and labs; we'll have new material to cover in both. This is a 4-credit course, which means you should expect to spend 12 hours/week on it: 3 in lecture, 3 in lab, and another 6 on homework and reading.

My experience teaching various beginning programming courses over the years has shown the importance of keeping up with the schedule. Students who fall behind tend to stay behind, and either drop or fail. I don't want anybody to drop or fail; if you fear that you're falling behind, talk to me as soon as possible and I'll work with you to solve the problem while it's still solvable.


For the first few weeks of the semester, we'll work in the Scheme language, using the textbook How to Design Programs, which has been ordered by the bookstore; however, if you don't want to spend money on it, that's OK because the entire text of the book is available for free online.

After that, we'll switch into the Java language and use the textbook How to Design Class Hierarchies, which has not been ordered by the bookstore because it's so new it's not in print yet.

A supplementary text is Introduction to the Personal Software Process, by Watts Humphrey (Addison-Wesley 1996, ISBN 0-201-54809-7). This book isn't about how to program in Scheme or Java (or any other specific language, for that matter), but rather how to be a programmer: how to study your own capabilities, productivity, strengths and weaknesses in programming, in order to produce better results more quickly, without staying up until dawn the night before the program is due.

Once we switch to Java, we'll also be using an on-line Java tutorial system named CodeLab. It consists of a bunch of short coding exercises that can be graded automatically, so you can try something, see whether it's correct, and if not, keep improving it until it is, all while I'm asleep in bed.

Recipes and Syntax Rules

You'll get through this course a lot more easily if you follow the design recipes! Here are the recipes and syntax rules we've seen so far.

Software support

To do programming assignments on your home computer, you'll need to download and install the development environment DrScheme. Despite the name, this program will actually carry us through both the Scheme part and the Java part of the semester.

I've set up some forms for entering and viewing PSP data. You may use these forms to record defect and time information. To use the forms successfully, make sure your browser accepts JavaScript and cookies. (For those with a moral opposition to cookies, I assure you that they're all "temporary" -- they disappear as soon as you quit the browser.) (For more information about PSP, read Watts Humphrey's Introduction to the Personal Software Process.)

Reading List

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