Think about the definition of technology used in this chapter. Does this accurately reflect what it is, or does it capture everything that it is? Repeat this for information technology specifically.
In today's popular press, technology is often equated with information technology. What are some examples of technologies that don't fall into the category of information technology? Why does the popular press confuse this issue? Does this confusion lead to significant problems?
Consider the economic implications of representing information by a common form that can be supported in a common IT infrastructure. What if this were not possible and different infrastructures were required to support different information media (for example audio and video)?
While a digital representation of information can be precisely and cheaply replicated, it may not capture all aspects of the original creation. Consider for example, a musical concert as compared to a digital recording of that concert. What are the implications of this to the economic properties of information and the manner in which information is bought and sold?
Considering the last issue, software is represented in digital form even in its original creation. What are some significant differences between software and information as to their economic and business properties that flow from this observation?
What substantive differences are there, if any, in the mechanisms that overcome the "experience good" property that applies to both information and software? Consider all the mechanisms you can think of that are commonly used for either, such as metadata, hyperlinks, indexes, recommendations, and free trials.
Consider the atoms versus bits metaphor for material versus immaterial goods. Specifically, what constitutes these goods beyond atoms and bits?
Think about the ability of a single processor to support a plethora of software programs at different times. Are there analogies to this form of sharing elsewhere in the economy? What are all the ramifications you can think of to the economic and business properties of hardware (both programmable and nonprogrammable) and software?
Reconsider the last question in light of the ability to change and upgrade software in the field even without replacing the programmable hardware it depends on.
Identify a few other examples of layering in industries outside information technology, and consider in depth what similarities and differences they display to IT.
Given that computers are increasingly able to recognize spoken speech and also generate speech, do you think that literacy (the ability to read and write) will be as important in the future as it has been in the past? What specific functions might benefit from or require literacy in spite of these speaking skills on the part of the computer?
Consider a software application that you are familiar with, one where performance issues are important. Discuss the relation between delay and throughput performance measures for processing and communication on the one hand, and the characteristics of the application as you observe them on the other.
Compare information technology and other situations (like transportation) where congestion is an important phenomenon. What differences can you discern in the effects of congestion on users or other people?
There is always some uncertainty as to how long Moore's law will apply. What if its observations no longer described actual progress accurately? What would be the lasting effect on the software industry? This is one way to approach the role that Moore's law has in continuing progress.
Discuss in more detail the considerations that an implementer would take into account in choosing between a customized hardware solution and writing software for a standard programmable device.
Discuss the detailed considerations that a manager of a semiconductor manufacturer must take into account in determining R&D and the capital equipment investments required for a new generation of electronics technology scaling.
Can you construct a financial model that predicts (or at least explains) the time interval for each generation of scaling in electronics, and the scaling factor, based on revenue and internal investment models? Alternatively, can you develop a model that quantifies the limits on R&D and capital expenditures that are consistent with responsible fiscal management?
Discuss some alternative mechanisms that could be used to coordinate semiconductor equipment manufacturers, chip makers, equipment makers, and software suppliers as Moore's law plays out. What are their advantages and disadvantages? Why do you think the mechanisms currently in place have been chosen? Can you recommend improvements?