Once Upon an Algorithm: How Stories Explain Computing
by Martin Erwig
2018 PROSE Award Honorable Mention, Computing and Information Science
How Hansel and Gretel, Sherlock Holmes, the movie Groundhog Day, Harry Potter, and other familiar stories illustrate the concepts of computing.
Picture a computer scientist, staring at a screen and clicking away frantically on a keyboard, hacking into a system, or perhaps developing an app. Now delete that picture. In Once Upon an Algorithm, Martin Erwig explains computation as something that takes place beyond electronic computers, and computer science as the study of systematic problem solving. Erwig points out that many daily activities involve problem solving. Getting up in the morning, for example: You get up, take a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast. This simple daily routine solves a recurring problem through a series of well-defined steps. In computer science, such a routine is called an algorithm.