This program explores the history of computing, with a particular focus on two eras during which there was a particularly strong British role: the mid-1800s, when the first programmable devices were being designed (at the level of blueprints, not actual physical devices), and the mid-1900s, when the first physical programmable computers were built as part of the Allied efforts in World War II. A main focus of the program’s curriculum will be on Alan Turing, the mathematician-turned-codebreaker whose success in deciphering the German Enigma code was a turning point in the war. The program is designed with the intent of helping students to learn not only the cryptographic concepts relevant to the Enigma code and to its decryption, but also to view that cryptographic work in a broader context (historical, cultural, and computational).
Students will take a CS course in cryptography and a World War II history course, both with a British emphasis. They will also take a CS course on the History of Computing, ranging from the mid-nineteenth century (when Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace worked to develop the first design for a programmable device) to the modernization of computation in the latter half of the twentieth century. The program also includes a 2-credit course on computing in context, particularly surrounding gender and sexuality—again inspired by Turing, a gay man who was chemically castrated by the British government as “treatment” for his sexuality. To allow us to study cryptography with appropriate depth, there are two prerequisite courses for the program: CS 201 (Data Structures) and CS 202 (Math of CS). (Math 236 will be accepted in lieu of CS 202.) All students who will have completed those CS courses by Spring 2021 are welcome to apply, no matter their major and no matter their class year. This program fulfills the Formal/Statistical Reasoning and Humanistic Inquiry curricular exploration graduation requirements, along with the International Studies requirement. For CS majors, it also fully satisfies the elective requirements for the major.