In this collection of videos from Crash Course: Computer Science, the fundamentals of computers and computing are covered including central processing units, RAM, and Boolean logic.

Collection Contents


Hello, world! Welcome to Crash Course Computer Science! So today, we’re going to take a look at computing’s origins, because even though our digital computers are relatively new, the need for computation is not. Since the start of civilization itself, humans have had an increasing need for special devices to help manage laborious tasks, and as the scale of society continued to grow, these computational devices began to play a crucial role in amplifying our mental abilities. From the abacus and astrolabe to the difference engine and tabulating machine, we’ve come a long way to satisfying this increasing need, and in the process completely transformed commerce, government, and daily life.
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So we ended last episode at the start of the 20th century with special purpose computing devices such as Herman Hollerith’s tabulating machines. But as the scale of human civilization continued to grow as did the demand for more sophisticated and powerful devices. Soon these cabinet-sized electro-mechanical computers would grow into room-sized behemoths that were prone to errors. But is was these computers that would help usher in a new era of computation - electronic computing.
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Today, Carrie Anne is going to take a look at how those transistors we talked about last episode can be used to perform complex actions. With the just two states, on and off, the flow of electricity can be used to perform a number of logical operations, which are guided by a branch of mathematics called Boolean Algebra. We’re going to focus on three fundamental operations - NOT, AND, and OR - and show how they were created in a series of really useful circuits. And its these simple electrical circuits that lay the groundwork for our much more complex machines.
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Today, we’re going to take a look at how computers use a stream of 1s and 0s to represent all of our data - from our text messages and photos to music and webpages. We’re going to focus on how these binary values are used to represent numbers and letters, and discuss how our need to perform operations on larger and more complex values brought us from our 8-bit video games to beautiful Instagram photos, and from unreadable garbled text in our emails to a universal language encoding scheme.
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Take the 2017 PBS Digital Studios Survey: http://surveymonkey.com/r/pbsds2017. Today we're going to talk about a fundamental part of all modern computers. The thing that basically everything else uses - the Arithmetic and Logic Unit (or the ALU). The ALU may not have to most exciting name, but it is the mathematical brain of a computer and is responsible for all the calculations your computer does! And it's actually not that complicated. So today we're going to use the binary and logic gates we learned in previous episodes to build one from scratch, and then we'll use our newly minted ALU when we construct the heart of a computer, the CPU, in episode 7.
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Today we’re going to create memory! Using the basic logic gates we discussed in episode 3 we can build a circuit that stores a single bit of information, and then through some clever scaling (and of course many new levels of abstraction) we’ll show you how we can construct the modern random-access memory, or RAM, found in our computers today. RAM is the working memory of a computer. It holds the information that is being executed by the computer and as such is a crucial component for a computer to operate. Next week we’ll use this RAM, and the ALU we made last episode, to help us construct our CPU - the heart of a computer.
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Today we’re going to build the ticking heart of every computer - the Central Processing Unit or CPU. The CPU’s job is to execute the programs we know and love - you know like GTA V, Slack... and Power Point. To make our CPU we’ll bring in our ALU and RAM we made in the previous two episodes and then with the help of Carrie Anne’s wonderful dictation (slowly) step through some clock cycles. WARNING: this is probably the most complicated episode in this series, we watched this a few times over ourselves, but don't worry at about .03Hz we think you can keep up.
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Today we’re going to take our first baby steps from hardware into software! Using that CPU we built last episode we’re going to run some instructions and walk you through how a program operates on the machine level. We'll show you how different programs can be used to perform different tasks, and how software can unlock new capabilities that aren't built into the hardware. This episode, like the last is pretty complicated, but don’t worry - as we move forward into programming the idea of opcodes, addresses, and registers at this machine level will be abstracted away like many of the concepts in this series.
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So now that we’ve built and programmed our very own CPU, we’re going to take a step back and look at how CPU speeds have rapidly increased from just a few cycles per second to gigahertz! Some of that improvement, of course, has come from faster and more efficient transistors, but a number hardware designs have been implemented to boost performance. And you’ve probably heard or read about a lot of these - they’re the buzz words attached to just about every new CPU release - terms like instruction pipelining, cache, FLOPS, superscalar, branch prediction, multi-core processors, and even super computers! These designs are pretty complicated, but the fundamental concepts behind them are not. So bear with us as we introduce a lot of new terminology including what might just be the best computer science term of all time: the dirty bit. Let us explain.
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