The Evolution of Technology (TEC154 2004S)

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Welcome to the Spring 2004 session of Grinnell College's TEC 154, The Evolution of Technology, which is described briefly in the official blurb and the unofficial goals distributed by faculty who previously taught this course.

My own take on the class is that we will consider the nature and effect of technology from several perspectives. Rather than simply considering a history of technology, we will instead reflect on a small number of technologies, their design, their context, and their impact. To help us reflect, we will rely on a number of guest lecturers from across campus.

In an attempt to provide up-to-date information, and to spare a few trees, I am making this as much of a paperless course as I can. Hence, materials will be in a course web, available at


Meets: MWF 8:00-8:50, Science 1021 (I drop my children at school right before class, so some classes may start a few minutes late.)

Instructor: Samuel A. Rebelsky (, Science 2427. Office hours: MWF 11:00-11:50, MWThF 2:15-3:05. I also tend to follow an open door policy: Feel free to stop by when my door is open or to make an appointment for another time. Check my schedule for more details.


My experience shows that students who turn in work late learn significantly less than students who turn material in on time. (I'm not sure about cause and effect.) Hence, I strongly discourage late assignments. Unless prior arrangements have been made, assignments are due within five minutes of the start of class. After that they are considered late. Late assignments are penalized one letter grade per day late (or fraction thereof).

Throughout the term, I may suggest forms of extra credit.

Books and Other Readings

Norman, Donald A. (2002). The Design of Everyday Things. Basic Books.
A classic reflection on the way in which things are designed and how those designs effect the way in which we use the things.
Petroski, Henry (1992). The Evolution of Useful Things. Vintage.
An engineer's reflections on how technology evolves. Emphasizes the role of failure in successful technology.
Rebelsky, Samuel (2004). The TEC154 2004S Course Web.
The hypertext that you are currently reading.
Teich, Albert H., Ed. (2002). Technology and the Future, 9th ed. Wadsworth.
A broad range of articles on technology.

We will also rely on a number of articles, some of which you will identify as part of your subject stewardship.



Tuesday, 13 January 2004 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]


Disclaimer: I usually create these pages on the fly, which means that I rarely proofread them and they may contain bad grammar and incorrect details. It also means that I tend to update them regularly (see the history for more details). Feel free to contact me with any suggestions for changes.

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Samuel A. Rebelsky,