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Book details of 'Computers Today and Tomorrow'

Cover of Computers Today and Tomorrow
TitleComputers Today and Tomorrow
Author(s)Marilyn Meyer, Roberta Baber
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The Virtual Bookcase Reviews of 'Computers Today and Tomorrow':

Reviewer Rob Slade wrote:
Although nothing on the cover or title page does, the preface refers to this as a second edition. The cover also refers to this as an "authoritative explanation of computers and how they work". Part one is basic concepts and vocabulary. Chapter one purports to look at computer literacy, but doesn't say much about that topic. It presents some simple computer terms for the basic hardware and operations, but also ill-defined (and rarely used) slang such as "cyberphobia." Some of the terms are not only simplistic but flatly wrong, such as the statement that Web browsers search for keywords in collections of files. (That entry even contains a grammatical error.) While much of the historical content of chapter two can be technically said to be without error, very little of it is completely reliable. Ironically, one story that is carefully presented is that of Grace Murray Hopper's famous bug--a tale that is frequently misinterpreted. The basic concepts of memory, as expressed in chapter three, are generally acceptable, although the material becomes much more error prone when it gets into specifics. Chapter four's description of files and storage does not present the basic concepts in a straightforward way, and probably would not help new users understand the underlying ideas. For example, a sidebar on the millennium bug mentions two digit date fields, but never explains why that might be a problem. Discussion of input and output devices reads like a collection of sales brochures in chapter five. The review of different sizes of computers in chapter six is much the same. Part two moves into software and applications. The description of software spends a lot of time explaining very few concepts in chapter seven. The depiction of programming in chapter eight is reasonable, although so rudimentary that few programmers would recognize their activities in the text. Systems analysis tends to be pretty free form in practice anyway, so chapter nine is not a problem. Word processing seems to lean heavily towards fonts and presentation in chapter ten. Chapter eleven's coverage of spreadsheets is brief but to the point. The database concepts presented in chapter twelve are very theoretical, not well explained, and not likely to be used by newcomers. Multimedia is poorly defined in reality, so one cannot fault the coverage in chapter thirteen. Chapter fourteen is a grab bag. Part three touches on different types of communications technologies. A general introduction in chapter fifteen presents miscellaneous concepts. Chapter sixteen presents some terms relating to private networks and networking. I suppose chapter seventeen's glossary of the Internet has to mention the information superhighway, and that the Web must have a chapter all to itself in eighteen. (By this point I am not surprised that a section entitled "The Relationship between the World Wide Web and the Internet" doesn't address that topic.) Part four looks at social issues such as ethics and computer use in various sectors. These important issues are almost parodied in the book's treatment. The case study in ethics has nothing to do with computers. Environmental considerations speaks ignorantly of radiation and "pulsed plasma fields." Under security, the entire section on viruses contains seven sentences that are not completely and utterly false. (And, heaven help us, recommends the Microsoft Anti-Virus.) The future is blue sky. The material on computer careers is reasonable, but the content on business and industry, science and medicine, education, transportation, law enforcement, and the arts are all just collections of mentions. A chapter on buying a computer, oddly positioned in the middle of the industry sectors, is as good as the usual magazine article on the subject. After lo these many years I suppose I *shouldn't* be surprised, but I'm still astonished by the poor quality of general computer literacy texts. copyright Robert M. Slade, 1998

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