Literary references

What do computing educators read? What movies to they use when teaching their classes? How do they use other types of materials in class? This page hints at the answers to these questions using quotes from the CEOHP collection.

Each reference includes a title and source information, the quote from interview that mentions the item(s), and line numbers from the interview transcript and the audio snippet. Because Wikipedia often includes fairly extensive reference lists, we have provided a link to the relevant Wikipedia article in many instances, despite advice in many educational settings to avoid Wikipedia. We also link to sources such as Amazon if the link provides additional information, such as electronic versions of the text.

The book Women Becoming Mathematicians

[Speaking to the interviewer and an observer (Greg)] Oh, have you ever read — I don’t think you were the one that told me about it — that book of women in mathematics? [I just went through it today.] It’s quite something, isn’t it? The thing … this is the book, Greg, that was published a long time ago and, apparently — I didn’t remember it had been published or something — but this woman who did it, Margaret Murray [McMurray? one or the other] took women from the age … from the year 1945 … got their PhDs between their 45th and 59th years [between 1945 and 1959] — in that range — and wanted to show that women were getting into the professional field. And so it happened that I was just starting computers and getting ready to do the battle with Vassar, which took me ten years to get the first one. And so, the … I’m the first one in the book that she started with and picked out for what I was doing. But in the middle of the book — and then she has loads of them from up to … up through the year 1959 — and takes each one and what they’re doing — I am the only one that is … what I was starting to say — we have a slew of pictures in the book and I’m the first one, because I’m the oldest of that group, and also the only one … my picture is with the computer. […] And everybody else is … cites the papers that they’ve written. And I had not written any paper I cited, but I was this first one. And, so … really started the computer revolution. And certainly among women and the colleges such as ours. And I hadn’t realized that … what a different kind of creative life I’ve had after … than most of the women of that age […] And I doubt that anyone read … many of them have papers as old as that, that are read very much, indeed. Whereas everything we do about computers and how we’ve learned and think is read constantly.

From the interview with Winifred (Tim) Asprey

How to say No without feeling guilty

  • How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty And Say Yes to More Time, and What Matters Most to You by Patti Breitman and Connie Hatch; Broadway (1st Edition), 2001.

[F]or me, there are several things that I think have really helped me. One is my husband got me a book called How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty. And I wish they had a Cliff Notes version of the book, because there’s a lot of … you have to wade though a lot of crap to get the diamonds, in my opinion. But one of the two things that I took away from the book is that when I get asked to do something professionally, the person who is asking me just wants to have a job done. They don’t care who does the job, they just want the job done and they want it done well. So if you can give them somebody else who can do the job and do the job well, then there’s not going to be any hard feelings — because all they want is their job done! They don’t care if you do it, just as long as someone does it. So I’m able to say “No” to a lot of professional requests much easier now. Because I say “No” with a suggestion of who can do the job and do it well. And sometimes I’ll give two or three suggestions, just in case they get a “No” from someone on their next request. So I have found that helps me to say “No” professionally a bit more.

But also the book talked about social requests, you know, social invitations. We have such little free time in this world that you really ought to step back and think about the social invitation and whether that invitation or that event will give you energy. If it will draw energy, then don’t go. And all you have to do is, “Wow, that sounds like a lot of fun; unfortunately, I already have plans.” You don’t have to explain what your plans are; your plans could be to take your kids to the park. Who cares? You have plans! Your plans could be to take a hot, bubbly bath. So that, I think … both those tips have helped me to say “No” a little easier.

Quote from interview with Tracy Camp

Living by the Four Ds

  • Making Work Work: New Strategies for Surviving and Thriving at the Office by Julie Morgenstern, Fireside (1st Edition), 2004.

The second thing that helped me was I heard about this woman who wrote a book on the four Ds. I don’t know if you’ve heard of this: Delay, Delegate, Diminish, or Delete. And she said that in everything that you have on your to do list, if you need to find some time, you ought to try and figure out one of these D’s to use. Delete: maybe it’s not all that important; maybe you can delete it and it’ll be okay. Delay it: you know, maybe it doesn’t need to be done this week; let’s push it back for a couple of weeks. Diminish it: maybe you don’t have to do the A+ job on it, maybe you can get away with the B- and that’s good enough. Or Delegate. And I’m a queen of delegation. I delegate a lot of stuff to my students, which helps me be even more productive. So, yeah, so I live by those four Ds.

Quote from interview with Tracy Camp

Two books that influenced what to study

There was a short time where in Germany economics, especially mathematics of economics, where you study growth theory, or market theories, in terms of differential equation systems, I was very attracted to do that. I was offered to do a Ph.D. there. But then I ran into a couple of people who gave me two books to read that changed my mind completely. One of them was Herb Simon’s The Science of Artificial and the other one was Gödel, Escher, and Bach, which I had discovered in the United States but hadn’t had read. As I read those two books, I devoured them. And I decided I would go there. Now, I had to leave in January because I was done. I didn’t want to stay. The only school that accepted me in January was Indiana University. Lucky me — at least I thought so — the author of Gödel, Escher, and Bach was still a professor there. I decided if I wasn’t smart enough for a Ph.D. I could always learn how to write great books from him and then make a living as a book author. The worse thing that ever came to my mind, but that’s my idea of a Ph.D.

Quote from interview with Matthias Felleisen

Will be added once audio is uploaded.

Using The Little Lisper

For the first part, for the first two weeks of this course, he used this book called The Little Lisper. It was a very thin, green book he wrote in two weeks on a typewriter at the University of Texas in Austin.

Quote from interview with Matthias Felleisen

Will be added once audio is uploaded.

Being inspired by Marie Curie

I remember, while in high school, being a teenager — I read the book of Madame Curie. This inspired me a lot. (Oh, I should have mentioned that yesterday [during my keynote talk]!) I dreamt of being Madame Curie. So I thought I would join Weizmann Institute, but then they didn’t have undergraduate studies, they had only graduate studies. So I chose the Tel Aviv University. I lived in Tel Aviv, and this was the most convenient. They had applied mathematics there, so I chose applied mathematics.

Quote from interview with Judith Gal-Ezer

Greenspan’s book as a book club topic

[Q: Are there any other strong outside interests that would help us understand you better?] Well, I left out AAUW [American Association of University Women] among the different membership things that I’ve been involved in, and that’s been helpful to me recently. Mainly as I get older and I fit more into the AAUW demographics in the place where I live, which is largely retired women. And I’m reading The Age of Turmoil, by … the Greenspan book, for my book club tomorrow morning [chuckle] and much more involved in … trying to get involved in … group activities, where I have no particular domestic interest, you know, baking and so forth just did not capture my interest very much, but more diverse intellectual interests.

Quote from interview with Susan Gerhart

On reading Plato as a 5th grader

There was this marvelous program, and I don’t know exactly how it was constructed, but the University of Nevada had someone from the School of Education teaching philosophy. I remember that I read Plato’s Republic in that class. I couldn’t have been … well, since it was before we went to Pakistan, I could be at most in the 5th grade. And I don’t remember which summer it was. But there were students in that class of all ages in pre-college time, so it was an odd mixing. But it was fascinating to hear about all these ideas. To read plays. To read classical philosophy. To read science. I don’t have a good memory of exactly how this came up, but I remember there was an article in the Reno paper about the class and I was listed as reading Einstein. I don’t remember reading Einstein, but knowing that I wanted to be a scientist, it does not surprise me that I was reading something about Einstein.

Quote from interview with Eric Roberts

Creative strengths, Hackers and Painters

And I like computing because I think it’s creative. I think that the skills that I have and that I use are the ones that … they call on the same parts of the brain that other creative people have. I think that when you look at the kind of things that really excite people about any discipline, they have to have that creative strength; Paul Graham’s book Hackers and Painters, it’s an important thing. I think that’s how I feel too, that my work is as painting is to painters in some way.

Quote from interview with Eric Roberts

Relative responsibility of individual and state

I learned it [my teaching philosophy] at my father’s knee if you will. He’s also taught as I have — broadly. He uses many, many different resources in his classes. He teaches courses where, in looking at public administration, they read plays. Because he thinks that, in fact, the best place to look at the way people treat each other is not in … of course he assigns analytical texts by people who do public administration or political theory or sociology; those are part of the reading. But to really have a sense of how someone responds to power without — his course on plays reads Antigone, either in Sophocles’ or Anouilh’s version, and Ibsen’s Enemy of the People, and Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo, to look at the question of the relative responsibility of the individual and the state — and Antigone is probably just a classic in that. And so I remember in high school reading those books when he would assign them because I’m fascinated by that and he would talk about them at home. And so I think that the notion that a broadly-based education is essential pre-dates even my teaching in high school by a lot. I grew up with that.

Quote from interview with Eric Roberts

Fumbling the Future

I don’t know if you know the book by Alexander and Smith called Fumbling the Future: How Xerox Invented, then Ignored the First Personal Computer. A very interesting historical time and interesting too — I know economists and business leaders who think that Xerox did exactly the right thing. They didn’t commercialize that technology successfully. They tried to market the Xerox Star, which was the commercial version of the Alto. And it didn’t work; the price point was completely wrong. No one thought that this was going to be on individuals’ desks. Rather, this would be a workstation that would be used in a company. And so the whole PC revolution missed. The timing was just wrong for Xerox to commercialize it. But Apple succeeded.

Quote from interview with Eric Roberts

Readings related to views of Utopia

The course that I taught, with — mostly with a professor in the German department, but also with a professor in the English department one year — is a course called Technological Visions of Utopia, in which the question … the overarching question that we are asking is, “How do people perceive in literature writ large the changes in our lives that technology promises or delivers?” And so in the early years of Utopian writing, Plato and [Sir Thomas] More, who are sort of the classical Utopists, don’t really talk about science and technology at all. And then you recognize it’s easier to find in Plato than it is in More. But by the time you get to Bacon and his New Atlantis, technology and science are going to liberate humanity.

But you get into the 20th Century and writers start thinking about technology as being much more dark. For instance, among the readings that we’ve taken during those — it’s changed a fair amount over the years that we’ve done this — Metropolis and R.U.R. [Rossum’s Universal Robots] as a sort of base. The Time Machine, the late 19th Century, it isn’t 20th, but the same idea of the possibility that technology might even bifurcate the species. The mid-century dystopias of Brave New World and 1984, both of which have technology, or at least biology in science, being critical components of their social control that each society puts in place. Modern cyberpunk fiction, when you read Neuromancer, for example, this is a dark world. It happens to have a particular fascination for a lot of people that are technology-focused, but no one could really like that world.

Quote from interview with Eric Roberts

The 1908 short story The Machine Stops

So what is technology holding out for us? The single reading that my students have found most compelling is the 1908 short story by E. M. Forester called The Machine Stops. It is absolutely wonderful. It is more prophetic. You know, last year was its centennial and so when we are reading it we could point that out: A hundred years before the present day this very accomplished, particularly in later years, English writer who would provide the Merchant Ivory film series with most of their stories, had a prophetic vision of a world in which we live in a room in which we communicate on screens and all of our lives are mediated through the machine. It is probably far more accurate than anything else written before 1975. It is just amazing how close he managed to nail it.

Quote from interview with Eric Roberts

Two novels: Snow Crash and Diamond Age

But there was one year that our reading list included Neal Stephenson’s Diamond Age. Neal Stephenson is a modern, very creative cyberpunk author. We’ve tended to use his more famous Snow Crash novel in most years. The trade-off is that Snow Crash is certainly more popular with students, and we can say a lot about it. There’s no shortage of interesting points to make in terms of the course history. Diamond Age is less fun for most readers, but certainly closer to the theme of the course. There’s a lot more to say, and it has a female protagonist. Snow Crash arguably has too, but the person whose name is Protagonist, and therefore you couldn’t possibly miss who he is supposed to be, Hero Protagonist is the name of the hero. And protagonist of the story is male. So particularly if we are trying to encourage more women to think about this field, Diamond Age is a little better. But that story, the second half of it, is in the land of Turing. And knowing about Turing machines helps you understand the novel. So I talked in that year about Turing machines and had people program some. That’s programming — it really is — but it was in the service of learning to read that particular novel.

Quote from interview with Eric Roberts