Recent proposals for a model MIS curriculum recommend that all business students be exposed to an introductory course. It is assumed that this course is a survey course, covering the spectrum of hardware, software, personnel, data, and information. In taking for granted that readers know the nature and purpose of a survey course, curriculum authors are tapping into ideas and experiences so common that no one feels the need to examine them. This article focuses on the history and philosophy of the survey course. Survey courses have played an integral role in the business curriculum since the advent of collegiate business schools. However, we shall show that the development of such a course and the way it plays in the MIS curriculum is an unsettled issue. We see that it is far from settled how to develop such a course and the role it plays in the broader curriculum. Two ideas concerning the survey course emerge and are in continual tension: the survey as the introduction to the field for future specialists and the survey as transmitter of fundamental ideas and skills to all business students. The broader implications for information systems education are discussed.