Significant Bits

Each of you will present one brief (5-minute) overview/preview/review/inside view of a recent development in the broad area of computer systems. As lifelong learners, you will need to follow technological developments in the popular and technical press as well as research publication venues. 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 textbook.


Your presentation should include what the development is, why it is important, a bit about how it is/was done, and a bit on who did it. (We assume that when is within the last few years.)

You are asked to do just one during the semester, so find something interesting and share it with us!


The presentation schedule can be found as a Google spreadsheet.

You must be absolutely ready to go at the beginning of class on the day you present. This means coming in early (5-10 minutes before class) to prepare yourself and any visual or technological aids you are using.

E-mail your selected topic/news story/article/etc. to the instructor as soon as you decide, but no later than one class week (akin to "one business day") before you are to present. Thus, if you are presenting in week 8, you must submit your selection by the corresponding day in week 7. I will let you know within 24 hours whether your topic is approved. If you are not sure whether your preferred topic is relevant to the computer systems theme, I encourage you to suggest a backup topic.

No two Bits will be allowed on the same topic. Thus, selection is first come first served. There are always lots of things happening, though, so I don't foresee any problems.


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 in the afternoon doldroms, we have a lot of things to cover, and your peers are likely to need some perking up, so the expectations are quite high for an exciting five minute tour of some interesting work.

Significant Bits will count as an additional homework assignment, and I expect a reasonable amount of time will be spent preparing and researching your newsworthy topic. Your presentation (remember, it is brief!) will therefore be evaluated on the following criteria:

Is the material relevant to course subjects?
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?
Is the presenter engaging? Does the presentation generate interest?

To check that your presentation fits within the alloted time, and to increase your preparation, clarity, and appeal, I suggest that you practice at least once, if not twice. (It is only five minutes, after all.) And try not to be nervous! We're all here listening with eager ears.  

John Stratton ( with thanks to Janet Davis

Created January 17, 2016
Last revisedFebruary 07, 2018, 01:29:29 PM PST

Acknowledgments: The text above is largely borrowed from a similar assignment by Jerod Weinman.

CC-BY-NC-SA This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.