This is the syllabus of HST2600: History of High Tech at Bemidji State University, Fall 2019:


Bemidji State University

History 2600 – 3 credits

History of High Tech: Computers and Communication

Fall Semester 2019

Z-course: Zero Textbook Cost


Professor:                 Dr. Dan Allosso

Office:                        Bensen 225

Office Hours:           MWF 7:30-8:55, 10:00-10:55,

MW 11:00-1:55

Tu 7:30-11:30

Walk-ins welcome, appointments available using Starfish

Phone/text:              218-755-2806/218-766-1207


Class meets:             MWF 11:00 to 11:50 in D263


Course Description and Goals:

An exploration of the technological revolutions in computation (hardware and software) and communications that to a large extent have created the world we live in today. Our goal will be to understand the technical and social changes involved in the late-20th and early-21st century high tech revolution and their implications, in order to be prepared to live in the information age and make informed decisions as citizens in a connected world. Because information technology facilitates space exploration and because space applications often push the limits of technology, we will also occasionally discuss developments in space.

As a 2000-level course in the History Program, HST 2600 will build your understanding of the elements of the historical profession, including research methods, effective use of primary and secondary source evidence in historical interpretation, and the ability to present your ideas in both oral and written forms. Since most of the events we will be covering are relatively recent (most happened during my lifetime if not during yours), you will also become familiar with how historians use popular accounts, artifacts like business documents, and journalism to understand the past and build narratives. And you will practice using citations, quotes, and bibliographical references correctly and appropriately.


Required Reading (Zero Textbook Cost):

There will be a draft textbook that will be the source of lectures, and it will be available for you to read and annotate throughout the semester. This textbook is a work-in-progress, so you will have an opportunity to participate in its creation through reading, highlighting and annotating, commenting, asking questions, and discussing its content. There will also be several book chapters or articles covering topics from a variety of perspectives, which will be made available online or posted as pdfs in D2L. We will use an online annotation tool called to highlight, annotate, and begin discussing these texts, and then we’ll continue these discussions in class.



Reading the texts in the weeks they are assigned is vital, so you will be prepared to discuss the material with me and your classmates both online and in person. Responses to assigned readings will be due at the end of the week when you use them as a basis for discussion. Late submissions will not receive full credit.


Course Requirements:

Because this course emphasizes critical thinking and effective communication, our focus will be partly on learning the details of particular events inventions or product introductions, and partly on interpreting the impacts these events. Although there will be quizzes on facts, this is primarily a reading, discussion, and writing course. You will be graded for annotations of readings that will be the basis of our online discussions. There will be a Midterm and a Final Exam in which you will write analytical, interpretive essays discussing the material we’ve covered. The Final Exam will not be cumulative, although it will be given during Finals Week. In addition, there will be a short term paper (~1,500 to 2,000 words) on a topic you find particularly interesting, due at the end of the semester. I’ll provide more information on the paper as the semester develops.


Points and Grades:

Points:                                     Grades:

Quizzes (10):                           200                                          900-1000 points: A

Exams (2):                               200                                          800-899 points:  B

Reading Annotations:             150 (5 pts each)                      700-799 points:  C

Discussion Participation:         150 (10 pts each)                    600-699 points:  D

Term Paper:                            300                                          0-599 points:  F

Total:                                       1,000

There will be roughly 30 assigned readings, split between chapters of the draft textbook and outside articles and monograph chapter excerpts. The total available points may be slightly above or below 1,000. If that’s the case, D2L scores will determine what percentage of the available points you’ve earned. There will also be several opportunities for Extra Credit, including bonus questions on exams and opportunities to respond to a few optional readings which I’ll make available as the semester progresses. Since there is Extra Credit available, it is technically possible to get more than 100%, which would result in a grade of A+. Aside from the potential A+, the rest of the grading will be on a full letter-grade basis, without plusses and minuses.


Schedule and Reading Assignments:

Most weeks will begin with a lecture to set the scene for our discussions, then you will have two reading assignments that we will discuss. I will sometimes suggest topics and themes to pay close attention to as you read, but you are free to focus your annotations, comments, or questions on what you find most interesting or striking about each reading. I will provide more information separately about how to create a free account and use the app. The Midterm and Final Exams will allow you to expand on the themes we uncover in reading and discussion. I will provide a number of interpretive prompts, and you will have the opportunity to choose the questions you wish to answer and prepare your argument ahead of time. What follows is a tentative schedule and the “Live” schedule in D2L wins in case of discrepancies.


Week 1:

8/26/19 Course Introduction & Expectations

8/28/19 Computing Prehistory Lecture

8/30/19 Discussion

Week 2:

9/4/19 Early (wartime) Digital Computing Lecture

9/6/19 Discussion (Quiz #1 online)

Week 3:

9/9/19 Analog Telephony, Vacuum tube radio

9/11/19 Cold War and Business Mainframe Lecture

1/31/19 Discussion (Quiz #2 online)

Week 4:

9/16/19 Apollo & Doug Engelbart Lecture

9/18/19 Discussion

9/20/19 No Class

Week 5:

9/23/19 Arpanet & Minicomputers Lecture

9/25/19 Apple & Skylab Lecture

9/27/19 Discussion (Quiz #3 online)

Week 6:

9/30/19 PC & MS-DOS Lecture

10/2/19 Supercomputing Lecture

10/4/19 Discussion (Quiz #4 online)

Week 7:

10/7/19 Networks & Storage Lecture

10/9/19 Discussion

10/11/19 Midterm Exam

Week 8:

10/14/19 Silicon Valley Lecture

10/16/19 Discussion (Quiz #5 online)

Week 9:

10/21/19 UNIX & Workstations Lecture

10/23/19 Biotechnology Lecture

10/25/19 Discussion (Quiz #6 online)

Week 10:

10/28/19 Early Internet & Fiber Optics Lecture

10/30/19 Dot-com Bubble

11/1/19 Discussion (Quiz #7 online)

Week 11:

11/4/19 Streaming & Ripping Lecture

11/6/19 Linux & GNU Lecture

11/8/19 Discussion (Quiz #8 online)

Week 12:

11/13/19 Viz & VR Lecture

11/15/19 Discussion

Week 13:

11/1819 WIFI Lecture

11/20/19 WWW 2.0 & Mobile Lecture

11/22/19 Discussion (Quiz #9 online)

Week 14:

11/25/19 No class

Week 15:

12/2/19 Ecommerce & Stacks Lecture

12/4/19 Filter Bubbles & Algorithms Lecture

12/6/19 Discussion (Quiz #10 online)

Week 16:

12/9/19 Singularity, Wrap up Discussion

Date TBD: Final Exam


Responses to and Discussions of the Readings:

We’ll have thirty readings, which will be split between fifteen draft chapters that will be substantially the same as my lectures, and fifteen short articles or excerpts from books that will be available online or via D2L. Your job will be to read, highlight, and annotate the assigned readings, then read and comment on the annotations of your classmates on. This will prepare us for discussion and get the process started before we meet to discuss in person. The idea of highlighting and annotating your readings is to prepare yourself for discussion. The idea of reacting to the annotations and Page Notes of your peers in the other group is to see other points of view and begin that discussion.

In the past, some students have argued that writing and discussing is redundant, suggesting they were wasting their time by writing a response and then also talking about it in class. I disagree because these are distinct skills: active reading, oral, and written communication. You’ll become a better reader by highlighting and annotating, and you’ll become a better communicator by practicing writing and speaking. Preparing what you’re going to say in front of a group of people makes you sound prepared. To reinforce the importance of both skills, you’ll be graded on both the written and oral forms of your responses.


General Guidelines:

This course consists of lectures, readings, written and oral responses, quizzes, exams, and a short term paper. The quizzes are mostly about facts and in a sense are practice for the exams. You may want to review them prior to exams, figure out what you got wrong using the answer keys I’ll post in D2L, and be prepared to see this material again. On the exams, you’ll be called on to USE the information you’ve learned to offer interpretations, so it’s important to have the facts straight.

Everyone should be aware of BSU’s policy regarding originality and plagiarism. It’s common sense: do your own work. I don’t want to see essay questions on exams with the same answers, word for word (believe it or not, this has happened!), or term papers copied from Wikipedia or online homework sites (I’ve seen that too). If you have any doubts about how (or how much) it’s fair to paraphrase or quote from the texts we read, from online sources, or from your fellow students to make your points or if you need pointers on how to cite sources, see me and I will assist you.

Excessive use of phones, tablets, and computers in class for purposes unrelated to the course material is considered disrespectful of the instructor and of your fellow students. Please remove headphones or earbuds before class begins and set your ringers on silent. If you must make or take a call during class-time, please leave the room (as unobtrusively as possible) to do so. Recording video or audio of lectures or discussions is not allowed without written authorization from the Accessibility Services Office – and shouldn’t be necessary, since I’ll be providing lecture videos in D2L.

If you miss class, you are responsible for acquiring materials and notes from classmates, and for turning in your response to the reading assignments on time. If you must miss a large number of classes, see me (preferably beforehand) to determine how to proceed with the least adverse effect on your performance and grade. There are also resources available and at the Student Life and Success Office (, which is always available to assist you. If you feel you are doing poorly in the class, see me as early as possible in the semester for feedback on how to improve your results – do not wait until the end of semester! The goal of this class is to learn something about the world and build some valuable skills, and my goal is for you to succeed.



We would like to make sure that all the materials, discussions, and activities that are part of the course are accessible to you.  Appropriate and reasonable accommodations will be made for students with disabilities.  If you would like to request accommodations or other services, please contact Disability Services located in Decker Hall #202 Phone: (218) 755-3883 or E-mail  Also available through the Minnesota Relay Service at 1-800-627-3529.



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History of High Tech by Dan Allosso is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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