University College for Interdisciplinary Learning

The Information Age

Course Code

UCIL20282 (10 Credits)

UCIL20782 (10 Credits)

Course Details

  • Level: 2
  • Credit load: 10/20
  • School/s: Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine


How did information-processing equipment come to dominate so many areas of human life? Who are the winners and losers in a computerised, automated, data-driven world? And what about users? Even now that computer technology is on tap all around us, there are still identifiable kinds of 'computer people': have the 'boffins,' 'nerds' or 'code junkies' always been a breed apart? This course unit deals with these questions through the histories of a range of technological developments, from the mechanical calculating machines of the nineteenth century to today's global networked systems. The course unit is suitable for any historically engaged student, with or without particular expertise in computing.


Summary of Learning Outcomes

By the end of this unit, it is expected that a student taking the 10 credit version will:

  • have a good working knowledge of major developments in the history of information technology, particularly from the Second World War onwards
  • have developed skills in critical reasoning and analysis, understanding the different motivations of historical characters in the history of information technology, and the differences in the ways they interpret and describe events
  • be able to appreciate, and display the ability to analyse and discuss, the different factors - social, technical, sometimes accidental - which shape the history of computing, and the definition of the computer and its users

In addition, a student taking the 20 credit version will:

  • have defined (in consultation with the lecturer) a research project in the history of computing
  • be able to find, and assess critically, relevant primary and secondary sources
  • have produced, with full scholarly apparatus, a report (or alternative piece of work, subject to the lecturer's approval) based on this research.



10 credit unit (HSTM20282)

  1. 1500 word essay (50%)
  2. 2 hour exam (50%)

20 credit unit (HSTM20782)

  1. 1500 word essay (25%)
  2. 2 hour exam (25%)

extended project of around 3000 words (50%)


This course is only open to undergraduate students.

University College course units are available to take on programmes which have 'free choice' options available to them, (i.e. programmes which allow you, as part of the degree programme, to take a number of credits from subject areas outside of your home school). As these courses are credit bearing, you must enrol by following the standard procedure for your school when adding units outside of your home school.

If you are not sure whether you will be able to enrol in University College courses, please contact your School Undergraduate Office to find out whether these options are available for your degree programme.


Dr James Sumner

Teaching and Learning Methods


1 - 12Thurs16:00 - 18:00

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