15.564 | Spring 2003 | Graduate
Information Technology I


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Recitations: 1.5 session / week, 1 hour / session

Course Description

Information Technology I helps students understand technical concepts underlying current and future developments in information technology. There will be a special emphasis on networks and distributed computing. Students will also gain some hands-on exposure to powerful, high-level tools for making computers do amazing things, without the need for conventional programming languages.

Teaching Staff

Instructor: Prof. Chris Dellarocas

Audience and Prerequisites

15.564 is an introductory course. It is assumed that students know how to use Macintosh or IBM PC word processors and spreadsheets. No knowledge of how computers work or are programmed is assumed. Students who have recently completed courses in computer architecture, operating systems, and telecommunications probably should not take this course, because most of the course consists of highlights of those topics. Student backgrounds vary considerably, however. Students with some background in electrical engineering or programming will breeze through certain topics, though it is hoped that the discussion of current eBusiness application classes as well as the term project (see the assignments page) will benefit them as well. Those with no background will have to work harder, but mastery of this material is within reach of every MIT student regardless of background. Talk to the instructor if you’re not sure whether your background is appropriate.


Lectures: Twice per week for 1.5 hours each.

Recitation: Once per week for 1 hour. The purpose of recitation is to:

a) review material covered in class during the week;
b) provide additional examples and exercises that aid understanding;
c) cover additional topics related to the material of the week.
Due to the intense pace of this course, we strongly recommend that you try to attend as many recitations as possible!

Other than office hours, the Professor may be contacted by appointment. Email is strongly encouraged!

Readings, Lecture Notes and Textbooks

One of the unusual aspects of this course is the diversity of student objectives, backgrounds and previous exposure to the subject matter. To accommodate this diversity we propose that each student select his or her individualized sets of supplementary study materials from the list below. We will describe the recommended study materials and the strategy for choosing between them in the first session of the course. Please feel free to send us email if you have questions related to the best study materials for you. Required materials

Lecture notes are preprints of Microsoft PowerPoint slides used by the instructor during lectures. They are fairly detailed and comprehensive (typically between 20-30 slides per lecture). In the past, most students found that the slides were the primary resource they used for reviewing the class material. Suggested study strategy: skim the lecture notes before class, then read carefully after class. We will be distributing lecture notes in class at the beginning of each lecture.

Photocopied readings contain textbook chapters and magazine articles whose main purpose is to supplement the lecture notes and serve as a reference for the topics covered in class. Since this is a new course, we will be distributing readings in class as we go.

Recommended materials

There are two recommended textbooks:

  • PriceWaterhouseCooper’s Technology Forecast: 2002-2004, Vol. 1: In addition to a concise technical introduction to the various topics covered, it provides excellent surveys of the marketplace, including pointers to leading vendors and products, as well as assessments of trends and directions. Our recommendation: Students with no previous exposure in IT might find this a bit heavy. On the other hand, students who have had some previous IT exposure and especially graduate students who are interested in connecting the technological principles we will learn in the lectures with the marketplace will find this an excellent reference.
  • White, Ron et. al., How Computers Work, 6th ed., Que, 2001. Good introductory text on the internals of computer hardware and system software. Recommended if you don’t have a background in science or engineering. Science and engineering majors might find this book too elementary. You may purchase this book from an online bookstore.
  • The PC Webopedia is a Web site that serves as an encyclopedia of Information Technology terms. It provides excellent explanations of Information Technology terms, together with links to additional web pages related to them. For each lecture, the course Web page contains pointers to the relevant category of the PC Webopedia. We strongly encourage you to use this valuable resource to clarify unanswered questions and to go beyond the material covered in class, according to your own personal interests.

Finally, for students who would like to learn Microsoft Access in depth, the following is a recommended textbook (you may choose either):

  • Viescas, John L., Running Microsoft Access 2000, Microsoft Press, 1999. One of the best and most detailed “bibles” on Microsoft Access. Coverage is way beyond what will be covered in this course. This is an excellent reference book for students who are interested in becoming Microsoft Access experts. If you are looking for something more concise, you may consider the Byrne textbook.

Assignments, Exams, and Grading

The course assignments consist of 5 problem sets, two in-class exams and a term project. Grades will be determined on the following basis:

Problem Sets 35%
Midterm Exam 20%
Final Exam 20%
Term Project 20%
Class Contribution 5%

Assignments are due in class during the due dates. In special circumstances (e.g., illness, religious holidays) we’ll try to be accommodating, if you make arrangements with us in advance. Late assignments will be penalized by 10% per 24 hours if you have not made arrangements in advance, and will not be accepted at all 48 hours after the time due.

There are several ways to earn “Class Contribution” points. First and foremost is to come prepared for class, ask questions that other students want to know the answer to, and give clear, brief answers to questions I ask. Second is to locate magazine or newspaper articles that are relevant to the class and to bring a photocopy to me for distribution to the entire class. Third is to do follow-up research in order to answer an interesting question that comes up in class. In short, if you help other students learn, you get class contribution points.

Class Web Page

The 15.564 Web page will contain a wealth of information related to the course, such as the course syllabus, downloadable copies of the lecture notes, problem sets and various course-related announcements. For some sessions, it also provides links to additional (optional) reading material found on the Web. Our web page will be updated frequently during the term. You are required to join the class server and encouraged to visit it often!

Computer Facilities

This is a course about Information Technology and several assignments require use of a PC. Students can use either their own PC or the facilities of the School Computer Center. If you do not have a lab account, we will provide one after the first week of classes. You are responsible for getting your own email account.

Collaboration Policy

You are encouraged to discuss material from the class with other students, including material related to problem sets. You must, however, write solutions independently. The time to stop collaborating is when you start writing. In addition, you must write on your problem sets and machine problems the name of anyone with whom you collaborated.

Do: discuss general concepts and techniques for performing the hands-on assignments; compare and discuss answers after you get the problem sets back.

Don’t: copy or compare answers before you turn them in; debug each others’ programs; sit together while you are writing up your solutions.

Consequences: If you copy or allow copying in violation of these rules, both parties get 0 on the entire assignment. If you do it again, you go to a discipline committee.

Finally, it is strictly forbidden to consult and/or copy your answers from solution sets of past terms. Students who violate this rule will be asked to drop the class.

If you’re stuck on a particular problem and need help that would violate the collaboration policy, contact the TAs or the instructor. We’ll help.