The Best of Creative Computing Volume 1 (published 1976)

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Computers and Society (review, by Stanley Rothman and Charles Mosmann)
Getting Started in Classroom Computing (review, by David H. Ahl, 1974)

graphic of page

Computers and Society. Stanley Rothman and Charles Mosmann. 337 pp. Science
Research Associates, Inc.

This textbook is designed for use in a one-term introductory course on computers
and their impact on
society. Considering the difficulties one faces in trying to decide what such a
book should include, and the level at which it should be presented, the authors
deserve considerable credit for doing as good a job as they have. But if I had
to teach a course on computers and society, there are other books that I would
be happier to teach it from. I would, I think, be hard to find the right kind of
person to teach a course based on this book. The book is not technical enough
for a technologist and not humane enough for a humanist.

The authors are clearly more at home with technical matters than they are with
social implications. Part II,
which explains what computers are, is very well done indeed. In the span of not
much more than a hundred pages
it explains a great deal about computers and explains it well. A student could
find plenty to chew on here. Indeed, he may find too much.

But once the authors turn to the social implications of computers, the material
gets pretty soggy, Part l is short and is intended, the Instructor's Guide tells
us, to stimulate students. But one wonders what sort of student would be
stimulated by such statements as "Morality may be viewed as a body of rules
defining the individual's relationship to the social group," or "Can we have
this freedom within our current system of government and law? Yes! The
mechanisms to control technology and its employers are there."

Part III deals with the applications of computers and with the social
implications of these applications. Part IV asks how we might control the use of
computers and Part V speculates about the future. The book goes downhill as it
gets less technical and focusses more on social implications. By the end of the
course, the students are assumed to have scaled such heights of mediocrity that
they are capable of devoting themselves to exercises like these: "How do you
feel about the relative importance of work and leisure in your future life?"
(Exercise 6, page 232) "Select a press release implicating the computer in a
social mishap and analyze it for sensationalism or biased reporting." (Exercise
5, page 272) "Write an essay giving your opinion about
whether research on computer learning should be pursued?" (Exercise 3, page
319). The teacher who likes to
assign such exercises would probably like this book.

The job that the authors have tried to do is well worth doing and there will be
some who find that the way they have done it in this book suits their tastes.
However, I find this book too bland when it comes to social matters and possibly
a bit too hard (considering the intended audience) when it comes to technical
matters. The technical parts, though good, might be tough sledding because they
coverso much in so few words. On the other hand, the non-technical parts are
thin and seem intended to give the student the warm feeling of learning
something or other without ever having worked very hard to learn it.

It may be that the job the authors have tried to do cannot be done to everyone's
satisfaction. One cannot help
thinking that mixing computer science and social science is a bit like mixing
dill pickles with hot fudge sauce. Though the ingredients are tasty taken
separately, they are not easy to mix well into a single course. The authors have
tried to bring their ingredients together by eliminating some of the strong
flavors of each. While it is true that they have done better in presenting the
pickles of computer science than the hot fudge of social science, the mixture
does not come off well as a single course. One feels the lack of a unifying
concept. One cannot help but ask "Just what is the student of this textbook
supposed to learn?"

Excluding the artwork, which has all the charm of a Bulgarian textbook on
embalming, the book is attractively
put together. It is amply illustrated and, considering how hard it is to
illustrate any book about computers, the illustrations are very apt. The
cartoons and illustrations drawn from advertisements more than make up for the
standard but rather dull, shots of equipment and installations.

The authors claim to have used this book successfully at the college level but
it is written clearly enough to be usable in high schools too. The teacher who
can provide the unifying concept that the book seems to lack, who can lead his
students through the excellent, but difficult, technological parts and who can
beef up the rather weak material on social implications will find many rewarding
things in this text.

Peter Kugel
Boston, MA.


Getting Started in Classroom Computing. David H. Ahl. 29 pp. $1.50. Digital
Equipment Corp., Maynard, Mass. 01754. 1974.

The six games in this booklet are to introduce the newcomer to using games and
computers in the classroom.

You don't need a computer to play the games but it's more fun. The games are
described in the contents as:

Secret Codes - Introduction to the way punched cards and tapes work
Guess - Discover an efficient method of searching for a mystery number
Hurkle - An introduction to grids and coordinate systems
Bagels - An introduction to mathematical logic
Caves - Learn to creatively compare similarities and differences of objects

Each game has clear rules, a sample computer run, and ways to be used in the

I've had 7th and 8th graders play GUESS, HURKLE, and BAGELS - BAGELS is their
special favorite and mine. I feel the games could easily be played and enjoyed
by elementary students too. Easily read in one sitting, I
recommend this booklet for the newcomer to games or computers. For the more
advanced, I would suggest the
companion books: 101 BASIC Computer Games and Understanding Mathematics and
Logic Using BASIC Computer Games by the same author.

Jim Albright
Springfield, OR

[image] Hurkle

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