Friday, November 5, 2010

Review: A Balanced Introduction to Computer Science, 2nd ed. by David Reed

Have you ever been curious how exactly your computer works? Maybe you’d like to learn a little HTML to have more control over your blog or website? Are you a tiny bit intimidated to learn anything “technical”? Fear no more! Computer Science introduces the basics of computers and computer language and is geared for beginners. You won’t need anything extra, no fancy software, just your computer with a Web browser like Internet Explorer or Firefox. Having Internet access will help but isn’t completely necessary.

This is a textbook so expect each chapter to read like a lesson. There are exercises, some explained and some which challenge you to put new concepts to work on your own. I liked the hands on approach of the textbook and really, diving in and doing the assignments is the only way to really know how to use HTML and JavaScript in your Web Pages. Instead of memorization this book encourages experience.

What will you learn from this book? 
  • The basic architecture of modern computers (like how on earth a computer “remembers” anything) 
  • HTML basics to create Web Pages 
  • The history of computers 
  • The history of the Web (which is not the same thing as the Internet) 
  • JavaScript basics for creating interactive Web Pages
  • Algorithm basics – what are they and how they are used in computers
I don’t think this text makes a great reference book. It’s really for instruction. There are only a few times I felt the instructions weren’t very clear. In these cases the assignments began to assume great familiarity with the material already covered. So, keep up with the exercises! I did like the online resources available, for free, to supplement the text. Often, Reed asks you to access Web sites he's created for instruction so you can see the HTML/JavaScript and build off it.

I’ve used the word “basic” many times. If you’re looking to roll up your sleeves and become a Web designer or computer scientist this text may be too simple for you. But, if you’re a beginner like me, A Balanced Introduction to Computer Science is a good place to begin.

Publisher: Pearson, 2008     Pages: 342 (380 to the index)
Rating: 3.5 Stars     Source: Purchased on Amazon 
P.S. I read this book for a MLIS class.

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