In this first lesson about computing systems, you will focus on what sets these devices apart from other purpose-built machinery: it is their ability to execute programs that allows them to modify their operation and perform different tasks, and thus become our most versatile ‘tool for thought’.
To develop an understanding of this unique characteristic, learners will compare calculating machines from the past to modern general-purpose computers. After that, they will connect the important but perhaps abstract idea of a program to the applications that they use every day. Finally, they will execute a program themselves, playing noughts and crosses with a human opponent.
This is a gentle introduction to a broad and technical subject. There is as yet no mention of how programs are represented, or the hardware that is required to execute them in practice. This lesson lays the foundation for introducing these concepts.
This lesson is the first in a six session teaching unit provided by the National Centre for Computing Education.
These teaching resources are published under the Open Government License v 3.0