Significant Bits

CSC 211 - Computer Organization and Architecture - Weinman


Each of you will present one brief overview/preview/insight/review of a recent development in the broad area of "computer systems." As lifelong learners, following technological developments in the popular and technical press as well as research publication venues is an important practice. Your job is to inform us, at a high level, about something that relates to the course material. The relation could be more in principle and goal, rather than necessarily a particular topic from the syllabus.


Your presentation should include what the development is, why it is important, a bit about how it is/was done, and perhaps something on who did it. You are asked to do just one during the semester, so find something interesting and share it with us!
You should also make sure you are presenting on real systems, not corporate vaporware.

Topic Requirements

In addition to being interesting, the development reported in your significant bit must be
  1. clearly related to the area of computer systems; Here are a few broad example categories (not an exhaustive list):
    • a development in physics that enables new computational substrates
    • a new algorithm for more efficient computer hardware design
    • a new method for organizing or connecting computer hardware
  2. specific; rather than attempt to cover a general topic, point us to a particular newsworthy item
  3. recent; it must have occurred or been first reported in the last 12 months
  4. concrete; no substance-free corporate advertising or start-up vaporware. We want to see actual results, not promises and plans.


The presentation schedule can be found on the PioneerWeb course Wiki. (You must sign up for a time-slot by Wednesday 25 January.)
No two bits will be allowed on the same (more or less) topic/story. Thus, topic selection is a queue-like "first come first served." There are a plethora of things happening, though, so I don't foresee any problems.

At least one week before

E-mail your proposal for a selected topic/news story/article/etc to the instructor as soon as you decide, but no later than one class week (akin to "business day") before you are to present. Thus, if you are presenting in week 9, you must submit your selection by the corresponding day in week 8.
(Failure to submit a timely propose will negatively impact your grade.)

On the day of

On the day you present, you must be absolutely ready to go at the very beginning of class (10 am or 2 pm sharp!). This means coming in early (up to 10 minutes before class) to prepare yourself and any technology aids you are using. The timer beeper will stop you at 5 minutes past the hour so we can proceed to the rest of the day's material.


You will be asked to make presentations throughout your career, sometimes on your own work, but often on others'. More often than not, you will be very pressed for time. Our class meets before lunch or late in the day, we have a lot of things to cover, and your peers are likely to need some distraction from hunger or excitement to keep them awake. Hence, the expectations are quite high for a stimulating five minute tour of some interesting work.
These types of activities are as important as the homework assignments you do; thus it will count as an aditional assignment and I expect a reasonable amount of time will be spent preparing and researching your newsworthy topic. Using a ternary grading scale, your presentation (remember, it is brief!) will therefore be evaluated on the following criteria:
Is the context for the key ideas clearly established?
Is the presentation made so that the desired content (above) is easily understood?
Is the presentation adequately prepared and the presenter sufficiently knowledgable about the material and its context?
Are the visual aids, clear, correct, and helping to anchor the presentation?
Is the presenter engaging? Does the presentation create interest? Is there eye contact, enunciation, and no distracting mannerisms?
The grading will be on the following scale
Satisfactory and meets basic expectations (3.67, A−)
Check Plus
Far exceeds expectations; excellent, even memorable (4.1, A)
Check Minus
Does not meet expectations or otherwise deficient in some way (2.33, C+)
To check that your presentation fits within the alloted time, and to increase your preparation, clarity, and appeal, I strongly recommend that you practice twice. (It is only five minutes, after all.)
And don't be nervous! We're all here listening with eager ears.


The following resources offer proceedings from peer-reviewed research conferences, professional and technical society news feeds, and reporting targeted at general consumers. You should be able to find many topic ideas here, but please make sure they are recent and focused.

Presentation Tips

Copyright © 2015, 2022 Jerod Weinman.