The foundation of The Computer Triangle rests on the interconnections between the three main elements that make up computing: hardware, software, and people. From Charles Babbage's invention of the Difference Engine in 1822, to the punch card tabulating machines used for the 1890 Census, to the primitive computers created for military work in World War II, to the commercial mainframes of the 1950s, to the introduction of the microprocessor and the Internet about 1970 -- people have continuously improved hardware and software to better serve the needs of society. Hardware got better, smaller, and less expensive as software got more sophisticated and easier to use. Network connections developed to link people and places throughout the world. The most significant addition to the Second Edition of The Computer Triangle is the full treatment of the widespread impact of the Internet in all areas of modern technology. The personal computer of the late twentieth century has become the machine for everyone. Today the world cannot do without the computer -- in the workplace, the school, and the home.
Applications of computers abound in all areas of modern life. Yet with all the benefits that computers offer people have come new worries associated with the spread of technology: impersonalization, government snooping, automation and downsizing, on-line pornography on the Internet. Hardware and software innovation brought both good and bad consequences for society. This interconnectivity of the three elements, the interdisciplinary nature of the machine and its effects on those who use it -- these are major focuses of this book.
The computer constitutes a powerful educational tool for imaginative creativity and insight in all areas of the arts and sciences. The machine offers a variety of efficient methods of data analysis to probe records of human experience from the world around us in the humanities and social sciences, just as they do in the sciences and professions. Indeed, the computer is integral to study in all areas of college and university education. With the phenomenal growth of the Internet in the last few years, even people who have never turned on computers have sensed that they are missing out on its great potential of an information source. The Computer Triangle was written to reach this audience with the following goals in mind:
All of the preceding emphases from the first edition are kept in this revision. In addition, new topics have been introduced in every chapter, including multimedia and World Wide Web materials in education, the role of computers in downsizing, rapid applications development tools, voice command systems, caller ID services, QuickTime VR, commerce and security on the Internet, implications of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and the possibilities of network computers. The importance of the Internet in all sections is featured by a new marginal icon in the text, described below, and self-paced student exercises exploring the World Wide Web and included with the CD-ROM Web transparencies which accompany this new edition.
The metaphor of the Computer Triangle also fits well with the themes that are woven throughout this book -- social relevance, historical insights, and the growth of the Internet. Distinctive icons appear in the margins to indicate where each of these themes is exemplified in the text narrative.
The book contains a strong emphasis on societal implications of computers in modern life, both positive and negative. Underlying this treatment is the truism that technology brings with it changes in the lives of its users, not all of them planned or anticipated. Issues of privacy and personal service, computer viruses, and freedom of speech on bulletin boards suggest the many societal connections of modern computing. To emphasize points where this people side of the Computer Triangle is important, an icon for societal relevance is placed in the margin. Further exploration into the societal implications of computing is encouraged by including experiential and critical thinking questions at the end of each chapter and a list of further readings at the end of the book.
A second icon focuses on the history of computing, which is interspersed throughout the text at appropriate points rather than being set apart in a special chapter or appendix on history. Throughout the book, historical references arise naturally out of the discussion, with a special focus on computing milestones in the 25 years of the personal computer revolution. A number of famous documents of computer development are discussed in the text and included in the bibliography. Classic articles, such as Alan Turing on artificial intelligence, Edsger Dijkstra on the need for structured programming, and E. F. Codd's definition of relational databases, are presented in the context of the conditions that led to them and their implications and outcomes for the future. More recently, the successful search for the most notorious hacker by one of the world's computer security experts and the highly publicized victory of a computer chess program over Gary Kasparov bring the fascinating history of this machine up to date.
A third icon highlights the growing importance of the Internet, certainly the most visible computing topic in the last several years. The multifaceted Internet, which combines computers and communications, is more than twenty five years old. When it spawned the World Wide Web in the 1990s, suddenly its possibilities for worldwide distribution of multimedia on the personal computer were apparent. The Web expands the interdisciplinary nature of computing in ways not envisioned 10 years ago. From distance education to on-line businesses to diagnostic medicine via teleconferencing, the Internet today collects and distributes for its users the world over a wide spectrum of information in many different media: texts, sounds, graphics, digitized photography, and video. The book includes many examples of how the Internet is changing how we think of computing as a primary source of information. Because Internet developments are so widespread in modern computing, the icon shows up in many unexpected places throughout the text.
The book is organized somewhat differently from many other computer literacy texts, which tend to relegate the societal implications of computing to a back chapter. The Computer Triangle balances the human side of computing with the more technical issues of hardware and software. Consequently, the book begins by introducing the interdisciplinary nature of computers through multimedia and the World Wide Web. The second and third chapters then consider positive and negative aspects of modern computing in a variety of settings before moving to a detailed treatment of hardware and software. These topics precede presentation of word processing, spreadsheets, databases, and graphics applications. The final two chapters treat future prospects, including artificial intelligence, for all three sides of the Computer Triangle.
In the process of developing The Computer Triangle, the publisher commissioned reviews by many academics to evaluate content and presentation in the book. Also, a focus group of faculty who teach a computer literacy course provided further suggestions for refining the manuscript to meet their classroom needs. In response to their perceptive comments, some distinctive features have been incorporated into the text.
Individual instructors may wish to take different approaches to the computer literacy course. Therefore, all chapters are designed to stand alone, so that materials can be taught in a different order, after the introductory chapter. Chapter 1 opens with the World Wide Web, which is treated with other aspects of the Internet in a later chapter. The first chapter also offers an orientation to computer fundamentals in the discussion of an advertisement for a personal computer system so that instructors who wish to move hardware and software forward for earlier discussion can do so. Each of the chapters on applications software are totally independent. Their discussion can be easily reordered to parallel instruction about various software packages in a different sequence in a computer laboratory. In fact, at our university we regularly rearrange the discussion of chapters as we modify the laboratory software assignments from semester to semester.
Reviewers suggested keeping the explanation of major applications software as generic as possible. Therefore the sections on word processing, graphics, and data communications single out no particular brand of software. Even for spreadsheets and databases, where an actual commercial package is used to develop a practical example, features that different software vendors include in their products are also discussed. The generic approach fits naturally with the interdisciplinary orientation of the book.
The hardware and software discussions include the three major families of computers and operating systems in common use today: Intel/Windows, Macintosh, and Unix machines. Where appropriate, one of these may be featured to make a point about the evolution of personal computing with comparative comments to other machines. The last chapter looks at the current scene in personal and workstation computing as a means of forecasting where the next few years will lead. In addition, other kinds of computers for special needs are covered, such as supercomputers in weather research, parallel processing for genetic decoding, and inexpensive network computers for Web access. The focus is on broad and inclusive coverage of hardware in all phases of modern computing.
Focus group participants identified the fresh perspectives on social, evolutionary, and technological topics as one of the book's most distinctive features. Highlighted in shaded boxes, these perspectives serve to investigate a subject of particular interest in more detail. Critical Thinking Questions at the end of the chapter encourage further study of perspective topics.
Social Perspectives zero in on the positive and negative aspects of a subject like government databases or address an application like artificial intelligence in medicine with special focus. Evolutionary Perspectives tend to examine a development over time, for instance, the growth of early electronic networks into today's Information Superhighway.
Since the book is designed for the average undergraduate student, technical topics in computer science like binary coding and the storage requirements of different media files are discussed so that the nontechnical student can understand the point. Often analogies from other areas are used to clarify technological information. Some technical topics are given their own more detailed Technological Perspectives -- for example, Boolean searches and problems with automatic spelling checkers. The text is designed to give leeway to instructors to discuss the nuts and bolts of hardware and software at several levels of detail and coverage.
A frequent complaint about textbooks is that the illustrations have only a general relevance to the text. Visual elements in The Computer Triangle have been carefully chosen to enhance the understanding of the concepts and applications presented in the text. The author and publisher have made a conscious effort to make the photographs and diagrams fit naturally with the text narrative. Descriptive captions refer the picture directly to the discussion in the text.
The pedagogical structure of the book has been planned to promote ease of learning. Various study aids have been included to help students understand and apply basic computing concepts.
With the Second Edition comes an extensive complement of instructional aids available on a companion CD-ROM for instructors teaching this course as well as their students. The highlight of the CD-ROM is a set of multimedia World Wide Web transparencies for each chapter, prepared by the author and his development team. These annotated notes for the chapters include illustrations and photographs from the text as well as many additional addresses to Web sites that illustrate and reinforce key concepts covered in the text, a glossary of all terms in the book, student Web exercises, and topical updates about current trends in computing.
The Web transparencies have two purposes. With an overhead projector attached to their computer, teachers can display them in class with browser software from the CD-ROM or from the Internet directly from a Web server at Wiley in New York. After class, students can review the materials in these transparencies anywhere that provides Web access to the Internet server at Wiley: in the computer laboratory or perhaps in their dorm rooms on their own machines.
Another unique resource available on the CD-ROM is a full- featured multimedia authoring package called MediaLink (InterEd) and written by the author's development team at the University of South Carolina for both Macintosh or Windows computers. With MediaLink, students and teachers can create multimedia assignments incorporating all the computer media -- text, sound, graphics, digitized photography, and video -- without the heavy learning curve of most multimedia software. The key is flexible drag-and-drop linking of resources without the need of scripts or flowcharts found in other packages like HyperCard, ToolBook, and Macromedia Director. Included on the CD-ROM are the MediaLink software, an instruction manual, and sample lessons created with the software in a variety of disciplines. As far as we know, no other computer literacy text comes with a multimedia authoring package ready for teachers and students to use with about two hours of preparation. Instructors may find MediaLink an appropriate multimedia software application to add to laboratory components of their computer literacy courses.
Among other resources included on the CD-ROM available to teachers are the following:
Besides the materials on the CD-ROM, John Wiley & Sons makes available to instructors:
In addition, Wiley offers the Getting Started series, an extensive selection of applications manuals. These concise, yet complete, manuals offer readers a step-by-step, hands-on introduction to popular DOS and Windows applications programs. Most come with a data disk containing sample files and all with a wealth of exercises and screen dumps. When packaged with this text, the manuals are offered at a discounted price. Contact your local Wiley representative for specific information.
I would like to acknowledge the extensive help and advice that I have received at all stages of preparation for this new edition. My editor, Beth Lang Golub, strongly agrees with me that there is a place for this kind of up-to-date "computers and society" textbook in the literacy field and has been foremost in making helpful suggestions in carrying out the revision. In-house Wiley people -- Hilary Newman in photo research, Jeanine Furillo in production, Anna Melhorn in illustration, and Leslie Hines in marketing -- are due special thanks for shepherding the project through its several stages in record time.
At South Carolina, Robert L. Cannon, Chair in Computer Science, has always supported my efforts in computer literacy and offered release time for manuscript preparation of the Second Edition on an incredibly tight deadline. Dean Jerome D. Odom assumed his post as the first edition came out and has enthusiastically supported its current revision. Members of the MediaLink development team, especially Reginald A. Riser and Jay A. Waller, have done superior work in the planning and execution of the CD-ROM supplement. Other members, including Mark Bloemeke, Clif Presser, and Michael Williamson, have helped over the years to get computer illustrations ready for publication. My graduate assistant and teaching colleague Christopher Eason has worked closely with me this time around on an improved Instructor's Manual and Test Bank. My children, current students at Rice and Williams, helped with some of the early revisions, especially to the new instructional Web pages. Thanks are also due to colleagues at other colleges and universities who provided useful suggestions for improvement in the revision, including:
Finally I owe my family an apology for another six months of putting up with piles of books and articles on the study floor and a lot of hours monopolizing the home computer. If our experience is any guide, every family needs to have at least two computers, for personal work and schoolwork at home, and two phone lines, for personal calls and access to the Internet.
Robert L. Oakman