Between its pages of memory there is a lot of learning to be had.
The purpose of getting your own real live textbook is so that you are not afraid of opening it up, and getting to know how its microprocessor works. You will learn how to install an operating system on it, connect things up to it, and you will learn how to extend the operating system so that it will see those new things that you connect to it.
Later in the course, your textbook will also be used to program a smaller textbook (the Atmel AVR).
Each lab group (of 2 persons) should purchase at least one of these live "textbooks".
The minimal requirements are that it has at least 500Mb hard drive and runs the 486 CPU. You are encouraged to try to get a stronger machine (something in the order of P75Mhz or P90Mhz) with a bigger hard driver (1Gb).
However, don't spend more than you would on a paper textbook (e.g. the same $100 to $150 or whatever a typical paper textbook costs).
You may purchase a live text from various vendors. Make sure that you mention that you are from the Professor Mann's ece385 class at the University of Toronto in order to get the best price possible; because we know there will be a number of people coming in, we were able to negotiate a better price for you. Also, be certain that your textbook comes with the network support: the textbook should either have an on-board ethernet or you could buy the network card (they are anywhere between 5 and 20CA$).
You will quickly discover that an online living (living as in running programs) textbook is much more conducive to learning than a dead-tree textbook.
Make sure you purchase a live textbook that's in good working order.