Introduction to Computers and Programming
Fall 2010
Adam Meyers
Research Assistant Professor &
Visiting Clinical Associate Professor

General Information:

Time and Place
Warren Weaver Hall
251 Mercer Street
Room 109
Tuesdays & Thursdays
September 8, 2010 to December 15, 2010
(excluding holidays)
Final Exam to be scheduled some time between
December 15--23, 2010
Instructor Contact Info
715 Broadway, Room 702
meyers at cs dot nyu dot edu
212 998 3482
Instructor Office Hours
Monday, Wednesday and Thursday 11:00AM--12:00PM or by appointment
Required Text Book Visual Quickstart Guide to Python
Tony Donaldson
Peachpit Press, 2009
ISBN-10: 0321585445
ISBN-13: 978-0321585448

Course Description and Syllabus: This course introduces computer programming using the language Python 3 as a vehicle. The course will cover basic definitions (what is hardware, what is software, etc.), basics of planning programs (flow charts, psuedo-code, algorithm design), variables (initialization, assignment, scope), operators (+, -, ==), control structures (if, else, elif), iteration (using loops), functions, modules, sequences (lists, strings), among other topics (time permitting). While students will learn how to implement these concepts using Python, general principles will be taught which apply to all modern programming languages.

Test Dates: There will be two midterms and one final. The dates of these tests are given below.  Please make a careful note of these times in order to prevent scheduling conflicts.
Date and Time
Sample Problems
Midterm 1
Tuesday, October 5, 2010, 9:30-10:45 AM
Sample Problem Set 1
Sample Problem Set 1 with answers
Test with Answers
Number Grade/Letter Grade Conversion
Midterm 2
Thursday, November 4, 2010, 9:30-10:45 AM Sample Problem Set 1 with Answers
(see talk and python scripts for Class 17)
Sample Test
Programs which give the answers:
(1) Turtle functions; (2) Other Programs
Test Programs (to figure out Answers)
Test Turtle Function (same purpose)

Number Grade/Letter Grade Conversion
Tuesday, December 21, 2010, 8:00-9:50 AM
Sample Test
The input file list-of-quotations.txt
(for one of the questions)
Programs which give the answers:
(1) Turtle functions: (2) Other Programs
Please keep in mind that: 1) This models a test that requires you to answer 7 out of 10 questions in 1:50 minutes.; 2) Extra practice portions correspond to extra credit portions for the real test.

Homework: Read the Donaldson book over the course of the semester and do the assigned programming assignments as the term progresses. This section will be continually updated as the term progresses. Grades on homework contribute 25% to the final grade for the course.

Assignment 1
See Attached.Due Tuesday September 14.                                   
Assignment 2
See Attached. Due Thursday September 23
Assignment 3
See Attached. Due Thursday September 30
Assignment 4
See Attached. Due Tuesday October 12
Assignment 5
See Attached. Due Thursday October 21
Assignment 6
See Attached. Due Thursday October 28
Assignment 7
See Attached. Due Tuesday November 9
Assignment 8
See Attached. Due Tuesday November 30
Assignment 9
See Attached. Due Thursday, December 2
Extra Credit Assignment
See Attached. Due Thursday, December 9
Assignment 10
See Attached. Due Tuesday, December 14

Materials from Class:

Class 1
Administrative Matters Talk
Introduction to Introduction to CS Talk

Class 2, 3, 4
Second Class Talk
(includes discussion of Apple Shell Commands)
Print Statements and Data Types
How Computers Work:
Go to Course Documents
on Blackboard Page
Sample Problems including date-in-future problem (Note: algorithm discussed, leaving implementation to future class)

Idle Output from Class Discussion: Working on Sample Problems
Class 4, 5
Defining Identifiers: Objects with Names
Idle Output for Identifiers Discussion
Class 6
Identifiers: Functions, Variables, etc. Exercises
Program from Class
Idle Output from Class
Class 7
Review for Midterm 1
Idle Output from Class
Class 8
Modules and Scripts
Idle Output1
Idle Output2
2 Similar Python Programs:
(1) (2)
Class 9
Midterm # 1 (See Above)
Classes 10 & 11
Control Structures (if, elif, booleans)
Decision Trees (Talk about diagnosis program)
Idle Output Class 10
Idle Output Class 11
12 & 13
For Loop Checkerboard and related functions
Idle Output Class 12
Idle Output Class 13
Classes 14 &  15

(1) Imperfect Program for converting number words to numbers;
(2) Program for adding plural -s in English
Idle Output Class 14
Idle Output Class 15
Class 16
Midterm # 2 Review
and more about Strings
Python Functions corresponding to sample midterm questions.
Idle Output Class 16
String Functions for Testing in Python (not on midterm)
Class 17
Finish Strings and Start
String Manipuation
(not on Midterm)
string matching functions

Idle Output Class 17
Class 18
Midterm # 2 (See Above)
Class 19
Midterm # 2 Review (See Above)
String Manipulation  (continued)
Idle Output Class 19
Classes 20, 21 & 22
More Data Structures
Python File: collection examples
Future Day Problem Python Code
Turtle Command Problem
Idle Output Class 20
Idle Output Class 21
Idle Output Class 22
Classes 23 and 24
Exception Handling
IO Sample programs (read_story, take_dictation, filter_spam)
Backwards-phonebook(plus program for reading in and printing out phonebook)
Idle Output Class 23
Idle Output Class 24
Classes 25 & 26
Recursion Functions
Royal Family Tree for Recursion Functions (This file belongs in the same directory as
Idle Output Class 25
Idle Output Class 26
Classes 27 & 28
Final Review 
Idle Output Class 27
See Sample Final Above

Installing Software:
  1. Go to
  2. Click on Download tab on left
  3. Download Python 3.1 or greater for Windows, MAC or Linux (as appropriate)
  4. Install Python as per the instructions
    • After installing on an Apple, open up  a shell (aka "console") and type "python --version". If 3.1 (or the version you downloaded) does not print out, then you need to make some further adjustments. See instructions below about "Python 3 on an Apple".
    • After installing on Windows, you need to download the Demos as well. I put them in the attached zip file on the class website. Then, copy the folder in the zip file into the python directory. The directory would be c:/Python31/ if you install python 3.1 on Windows Vista and used all the defaults. If you have trouble accessing the files in the zip file, download and install the free program 7 zip.
Grading: 25% Homework + 20% Midterm # 1 + 20% Midterm # 2 + 35% Final
Other Information:
  1. Python 3 on an Apple: (Includes some corrections) Apples often have Python 2.x pre-installed. This means that, by default, Python 2.x is used to run python programs (file type .py). This is appropriate because Python 2.x is currently more prevalent than 3.x. So, having 2.x as a default works well when you, for example, click on a python program that is on a website somewhere. This is however, kind of inconvenient for purposes of this class which is taught using Python 3.x.  Below, I will provide some information for changing the default once you install 3.x. After this course is complete, you will have the option of reversing these instructions and returning the default to 2.x.  (If you have trouble following these instructions, a graduate assistant, tutor or the instructor should be able to help.)
    1. Type "whereis python" and hit the enter key
    2. Go to the directory containing that file using the command "cd"
      • Type "cd /usr/bin" if the file is "/usr/bin/python"
    3. Find out where python3 is and pythonw3 are
      • which python3
      • which pythonw3
    4. Rename the old version of python (so that way you can change it back if you need to)
      • sudo mv python python-old
        • enter your password when prompted
    5. Create two symbolic links to the current versions of python 3
      • sudo ln -s /usr/local/bin/python3 python
        • enter your password when prompted
      • sudo ln -s /usr/local/bin/python3w python3w
        • enter your password when prompted
    6. Go to any python file in any folder (using the normal Windows or Apple GUI)
      • e.g., Applications/Python3.1/Extras/Demo/turtle/
    7. Change the default program to open it. (Go to File/Open with/Other)
      • Select Applications/Python3.1/Python Launcher
      • Click on “always open with” and enter
  2. Python 2.x versus Python 3.x: This course will use versions of Python 3, the version of Python that is expected to be prevalent in the near future. Currently, however, most Python code available on the web and most Python text books assume some version of Python 2, including some of the free textbooks described below. Therefore, it may be necessary for students to understand some of the differences.
    • See for the full details
    • The most important differences for this class are:
      • The print statement. Python 2 allows you to omit the parentheses. Thus the statement print('Hello') in Python 3, would be rendered as: print 'hello'
      • Python 2 has two functions input and raw_input corresponding to Python 3's function input. Python 2's function raw_input is essentially equivalent to the Python 3 function input, whereas raw_input is a special case for dealing with integers. A Python 3 statement like my_number = int(input('What is your favorite number')would simply be my_number = input('What is your favorite number') in Python 2 (coersion of the input string to integer is incorporated into the Python 2 input function).
      • Integer division in Python 2 yields an integer rather than a float as in Python 3. In Python 2: 100/40 = 2 In Python 3, 100/40 = 2.5. Python 3 has an additional operator // that functions like / in Python 2.
Additional Resources:
  1. Python Resources using Safari online at Bobst (note differences between Python 2 and 3 above):
  2. Online Python Resources:
  3. Online Free Python Textbooks (note differences between Python 2 and 3 above)
  4. Introduction to Machine Code, Assembly Language, etc. (the Professor and Pat series):
  5. Computer History