Everything you always wanted to know about computing . . .
Excellent Introductory Survey
Nell Dale & John Lewis: Computer Science Illuminated (fifth edition),
Jones & Bartlett Learning, ISBN 978-0-4496-7284-3, 650 pages
reviewed by Conrad Weisert, August, 2012
This is a wonderful book, well organized with clear explanations spanning a huge range of
The chapters are:
It can be an ideal textbook for:
Part 1: Laying the Groundwork
- The Big Picture
Part 2: The Information Layer
- Binary Values and Number Systems
- Data Representation
Part 3: The Hardware Layer
- Gates and Circuits
- Computing Components
Part 4: The Programming Layer
- Low-Level Programming Languages and Pseudo Code
- Problem Solving and Algorithms
- Abstract Data Types and Subprograms
- Object-Oriented Design and High-Level Programming Languages
Part 5: The Operating Systems Layer
- Operating Systems
- File Systems and Directories
Part 6: The Applications Layer
- Information Systems
- Artificial Intelligence
- Simulation, Graphics, Gaming
Part 7: The Communications Layer
- The World-Wide Web
- Computer Security
Part 8: In Conclusion
- Limitations of Computing
There's far too much material here for a single-semester course. To cover thoroughly all or most of the chapters
would easily consume a full-year course. For a single semester course, a thoughtfully chosen selection of
ten or so chapters could not only support any of several introductory courses but also stimulate a student's
appetite for the rest of the book.
- An introductory "computer appreciation" course for non Computer Science majors.
- A review/survey course for undergraduate Computer Science majors.
- Independent study (or pleasure reading) by a practicing professional or manager in Information Technology.
The flaws (typos, oversimplifications, trivial exercises, etc.) are minor and should not detract from the
book's value, especially in a course taught by a knowledgeable instructor.
Since much of the content is specific1 to current 2012 technology,
Computer Science Illuminated will unfortunately
grow obsolete in coming years. We can hope the authors will continue putting out new editions, but
even if they don't, I believe the fifth edition will remain interesting and informative reading
a decade from now.
Supplementary material, including program code in various languages, is available from the
publisher's web site.
1—Some examples and exercises are unnecessarily specific to the United States (Fahrenheit
temperatures, "gas" for the fuel we put in our cars).
Last modified July 18, 2012
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