Introduction to Computing


  • History of Computing
    An outline of the history of computing from 3000 B.C. to present. Shows dates and important events, with hyperlinks to additional information on the World Wide Web.
  • Portable Apps List
    How to set up and use portable applications programs to run independently from a USB drive, including lists of required/recommended programs to install.


  • Portable Apps, a suite of software tools that run from a USB drive without the need for installation on a computer.

Key Terms

  • Algorithm: Informally, an ordered sequence of instructions that is guaranteed to solve a problem; formally, a well ordered collection of unambiguous and effectively computable operations that, when executed, produces a result and halts in a finite amount of time.
  • Analytic Engine: A machine designed by Charles Babbage in the 1830s. Many consider it to be the first computer, although he never completed it.
  • Computer science: The study of algorithms, including their mathematical properties, hardware and linguistic realizations, and their applications.
  • Computing agent: The entity (machine, robot, person, or thing) that executes the steps of an algorithm.
  • Conditional operations: Algorithmic operations that ask a question and select the next step based on the answer to that question.
  • Difference Engine: A mechanical calculator that could do addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division to six significant digits and could solve polynomial equations and other complex mathematical problems as well.
  • Effectively computable: There exists a method for actually carrying out the intent of the operation.
  • ENIAC: The first fully electronic general-purpose programmable computer, completed in 1946; it contained 18,000 vacuum tubes and nearly filled a  building.
  • High-level programming language: A programming language that uses both natural language constructs and mathematical notation.
  • Infinite loop: The repetitive execution of a block of operations that will never end. This is a fatal error when it occurs in an algorithm.
  • Iterative operations: Algorithmic operations that repeat a block of instructions.
  • Luddites: People who fear and are opposed to the use of new technologies.
  • Microcomputer: Desktop computer that uses integrated circuit technology, developed in the mid-1970s, smaller than a minicomputer.
  • Minicomputer: Smaller than mainframe computer, less expensive, developed in the mid-1960s.
  • Primitive: When an operation is unambiguous for the agent carrying out the algorithm.
  • Sequential operation: An algorithmic operation that carries out a single task and then moves on to the next operation in sequence.
  • Stored program computer: A model of computation in which the instructions to  be executed are represented as binary strings and stored in the memory of the computer.
  • Unambiguous operation: An operation is unambiguous if it can be understood by the computing agent without having to be further defined or simplified.
  • Virtual machine (virtual environment): The computer system as perceived by the user as opposed to the hardware that actually exists; the set of services and resources created by the software and seen by the user.
  • Von Neumann architecture: The computational model designed by John Von Neumann and first implemented in the EDSAC computer of 1947; the structure and organization of virtually all modern computers.
  • Well-ordered collection: Upon completion of an operation we always know which operation to do next.
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