Programming with
Data Structures and Algorithms

This course is an accelerated introduction to college-level computer science. We assume you already have significant programming and some computing background, at the level of an AP computer science student. The concrete pre-requisite is a score of 5 (the highest) on the AB (advanced) AP Computer Science exam, or equivalent preparation. This means you know

  1. programming in Java,
  2. object-oriented software design (not the same as the previous item!),
  3. basic algorithms and data structures, and
  4. techniques for their analysis.

If you aren't comfortable with this list, this class may not be for you. Brown CS already offers two outstanding introductory sequences, headed by cs015 and cs017, which are designed to accommodate such students. Therefore, cs019 will not offer any “remedial” help; if you don't have the background for this class, please take one of those two classes! Note also that the rest of the Brown CS curriculum assumes you know Java, but this class won't teach you any, so any valor now may prove to be foolhardy later.

Instead of Java, we'll be using a programming language called Scheme, in which we will practice functional programming. We will actually use only a tiny sliver of Scheme, not exposing you—much as we'd love to!—to all the really powerful features it has (of which there are many) because this isn't a course about Scheme. Rather, it's a course about software construction, which means: being able to design programs, and being able to translate designs into implementations. Designing software means making wise choices about data structures, algorithms, and program organization. Implementing means more than just writing code: it means making wise decisions about systems and interfaces.

We use Scheme for many reasons. First, linguistically, it is a strong counter-point to Java in terms of both syntax and semantics, so it exposes you to a diversity of ideas. Second, its idiomatic style is spartan where Java's is baroque, so you learn to approach programing differently. Third, lots of smart people think it's valuable for you to know more than just Java:

Fourth, if all we did was repeat what you learned in high school, what would have been the point of attending college? Finally, getting accustomed to programming functionally will help you cope with the upcoming “multicore revolution”.

Spartan doesn't mean we won't have fun! We will write programs with images and animation; we'll write games; we'll even program cell phones. Indeed, it is precisely by engaging with these real-world computing platforms and phenomena that you can best study the important ideas of computer science.