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Student Ownership Of Personal Computers

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.518.1 - 3.518.5



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Emil C. Neu

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2520

Student Ownership of Personal Computers

Emil C. Neu Stevens Institute of Technology


Objectives for requiring personal computer ownership included implementation of a computer thread in the engineering curriculum and alleviating the overload on the computing facilities. Techniques employed for meeting these objectives are described. The unanticipated benefit of PC ownership facilitating participation in the computer revolution in the future is explored.


In 1983 Stevens Institute of Technology became one of the first colleges in the United States to require personal computer ownership by all undergraduates. A reason behind this move was to further an objective of the new engineering curriculum; namely, that there be a computer thread throughout the curriculum.3 The other reason pertained to facilities. The mainframe was severally overloaded and was not able to accommodate the anticipated additional usage. It was felt that personal computer ownership would do much to alleviate this situation.

Selection of the original computer and the subsequent evolution of the required machine are described. At the outset, relatively few students were computer-literate and hardware, software, and documentation were not particularly user-friendly. Consequently, a crucial element in the success of the plan to require computer ownership was the support mechanism provided to the students. In addition, a strategy was needed to implement the computer thread. Furthermore, the integration of computers and communications has provided an opportunity to take further advantage of student-owned computers to keep pace with rapid technological changes.

The Personal Computer Plan

Initially, the facilities issue was addressed by a pilot project in 1982 that required all entering freshmen in the Systems Planning and Management Curriculum to purchase Atri 800 computers. The success of this project lead to the Personal Computer Plan the following year. Under this plan all entering freshmen were required to purchase a DEC PRO350. This computer used a PDP11 processor and listed for $10,000, but with a subsidy and a discount was sold to the students for $2,000. Faculty participation was encouraged by allowing them to purchase the PRO350 for $1,500.

The subsequent dominance of the IBM PC would appear to have made the PRO350 a poor choice. In 1983, however, a networking facility, a hard disk, language capabilities, price, and lack of acceptable alternatives justified selection of the PRO350. The subsequent dominance of the IBM PC eventually rendered this machine obsolete. Therefore, since 1987 a PC has been the

Neu, E. C. (1998, June), Student Ownership Of Personal Computers Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/1-2--7432

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