Essential Guide to Computing, The: The Story of Information Technology
How computers work: all the fundamentals, without the technical gobbledygook!
- Friendly, accessible, up-to-date explanations of computer hardware, software, networks, and the Internet.
- Perfect for anyone who needs a basic understanding of the key technologies underlying today's high-tech industries -- but doesn't have a technical background.
- Coverage includes: microprocessors, operating systems, programming languages, applications, e-commerce, and more.
The Essential Guide to Computers is an intelligent, thorough, friendly, and up-to-date explanation of computer technology. It's perfect for smart professionals who want to understand the technology -- but don't have computer science or engineering degrees!KEY TOPICS:Learn how computers have evolved from early, room-sized monoliths to PCs to tomorrow's "information appliances." Understand each key hardware component of a contemporary computer, including microprocessors, memory, storage, I/O, and displays. Understand the role of systems architecture in the orderly evolution of computing technology; then learn what operating systems are and how they compare. Understand the role of programming languages and what they try to achieve; including the basics of object-orientation, today's leading approach to software development. Next, learn how computers can be organized into many kinds of networks, from LANs to the Internet; and how this enables new kinds of software and applications, including e-commerce.MARKET:For anyone who wants to understand the fundamentals of how computers and networks work.
This book will cover all fundamentals of how a computer works, hardware and software. The audience is technically literate individuals who wish to become comfortable with the basic building blocks of a computer, how they work, and how computers are integrated into every aspect of today's society. End-users include sales and marketing personnel, product managers, and anyone else who needs a basic understanding of the key technologies behind today's high-tech industry and economy.
For courses in Introduction to Computers and Introduction to Computer Science.
The Essential Guide to Computing demystifies the digital society we live in with an intelligent, thorough, and up-to-date explanation of computer, networking, and Internet technologies. It's perfect for smart professionals who want to get up to speed, but don't have computer science or engineering degrees. You'll find up-to-the-minute coverage on all of today's hottest technologies.
Product Author Bios
E. GARRISON WALTERS is Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs with the Ohio Board of Regents. He led initial development of OhioLINK, a statewide computer system for academic library users, and helped plan the expansion of Ohio's Internet-connected statewide computer network to link all public and most independent colleges in the state. Dr. Walters resides in Columbus, Ohio.
- The evolution of computing—From the room-sized “monoliths” of the 1950s to today's global Internet.
- Historical and evolutionary coverage provides a solid foundation and prepares students to delve into technical information. Ex___
- Preview of the next revolution—“Pervasive computing.”
- Computer hardware—Microprocessors, memory, storage, I/O, displays, and architecture.
- Windows®, Macintosh®, UNIX®/Linux®, DOS, NetWare®, Palm—What operating systems do, and how they compare.
- Programming languages—From machine language to advanced object-oriented technologies.
- Key software applications—Databases, spreadsheets, word processing, voice recognition, and beyond.
- Microsoft® and the software industry—Where they stand, where they're headed.
- How networks work—LANs, WANs, packet switching, hardware, media, and more.
- The Internet, e-commerce, and security.
- Enterprise applications—Data warehousing, Web-centered development, and groupware.
- Thorough, intelligent, detailed coverage of every aspect of computing provides students with a wide-ranging background.
- The complete, easy-to-understand guide to ITnow and in the future!
- Computers, networks, and pervasive computing
- Hardware, operating systems, and software
- How networks work: LANs, WANs, and the Internet
- E-business, the Web, and security
The guide for ANYONE who needs to understand the key technologies driving today's economy and high tech industries!
You can't afford not to understand the information revolution that's sweeping the world-but who's got time for all the acronyms and hype most technology books give you? The Essential Guide to Computing demystifies the digital society we live in with an intelligent, thorough, and up-to-date explanation of computer, networking, and Internet technologies. It's perfect for smart professionals who want to get up to speed, but don't have computer science or engineering degrees! You'll find up-to-the-minute coverage on all of today's hottest technologies including:
- The evolution of computing: from the room-sized "monoliths" of the 1950s to today's global Internet
- Preview of the next revolution: "pervasive computing"
- Computer hardware: microprocessors, memory, storage, I/O, displays, and architecture
- Windows, Macintosh, UNIX/Linux, DOS, NetWare, Palm: what operating systems do, and how they compare
- Programming languages: from machine language to advanced object-oriented technologies
- Key software applications: databases, spreadsheets, word processing, voice recognition, and beyond
- Microsoft and the software industry: where they stand, where they're headed
- How networks work: LANs, WANs, packet switching, hardware, media, and more
- The Internet, e-commerce, and security
- Enterprise applications: data warehousing, Web-centered development, and groupware
Whether you're a consumer, investor, marketer, or executive, this is your start-to-finish briefing on the information technologies that have changed the world-and the coming technologies that will transform it yet again!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Computer 101: It Doesn't Get Much Better Than This,
This review is from: The Essential Guide to Computing: The Story of Information Technology (Essential Guide Series) (Paperback)Finally, an IT book for the rest of us. Walters is lucid, concise, engaging, informative, and funny, and manages to do so without insulting your intelligence. He lays out the contours of the development of the computer industry, its successes, its failures, and why, and most importantly, what that means for the the computer systems and software that are available in the market. For me, computer literate, but no computer engineer, the Essential Guide to Comuting helped me determine what kind of computer configuration (memory, chip speed, graphic card, video card, etc.,)best met my needs. I highly recommend EGC.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Great coverage of the IT field,
This review is from: The Essential Guide to Computing: The Story of Information Technology (Essential Guide Series) (Paperback)There is a great breadth of information presented in a very lucid fashion. The material is easy to understand, and the author adds a great sense of humor.
However, with the rapid advancements in technology, the book is a bit dated. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a gain a great breadth of knowledge in the field of Information technology, in a short period of time.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A REMARKABLE FIND !,
This review is from: The Essential Guide to Computing: The Story of Information Technology (Essential Guide Series) (Paperback)THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO COMPUTING is simply an extraordinary achievement. It reflects a breadth of knowledge and clarity of presentation that is remarkable. It makes every effort to distill knowledge about computers and computing in an easy, reader-friendly, memorable way. For computer users everywhere -- in organizations, schools, colleges and universities, and individuals -- this volume gives multiple ways of getting to know more about computing in its fast changing environment. First, you get to know the foundations of how computers and computing works in practical, everyday language. Second, you get a reference book that explains key terms, key workings, and key interconnections among the parts.
The most noteworthy aspect of the book is its superb coherence in presenting vast amounts of computing knowledge arranged in for easy understanding. Information and explanations in one chapter are referenced in subsequent ones, never failing to explain connections among them, with a view... Read more
› See all 11 customer reviews...
The origins of computing
The story of computing's development is as fascinating as anything in history. In just more than 50 years, we have gone from some sketchy ideas and concepts to a world in which the number of computing devices is reckoned in the hundreds of millions and growing fast.
- *Early computing devices
- The concept of a mechanical calculator dates to the Sixteenth Century, and was realized in fits and starts in various ways over the succeeding centuries. By the end of the 1800s, companies were producing devices that were sophisticated and reliable. But, even as businesses and scientists came to rely on these machines, it was obvious that the use of gears and levers would always limit their functionality. Most important, it wasn't practically possible to create mechanical devices that could be programmed. You could add a long list of numbers to get a result, then divide that result, etc. But you couldn't tell a mechanical device to add some numbers, compare the result to some other number, then either divide or multiply depending on the outcome of the comparison. You had to have people make the intermediate decisions, which meant that the operations were invariably slow and error-prone.
The idea of an electronic computer surfaced not long after the appearance of electronics. It seemed clear to creative people (this is in retrospect, of course) that the vacuum tube, or more accurately collections of vacuum tubes, could do what mechanical devices couldn'ttemporarily store the results of calculations and instructions about new ones. The actual realization of an electronic computer occurred in an American university, though which one is the subject of intense debate.
- *The University of Pennsylvania vs. Iowa State
- The University of Pennsylvania vs. Iowa Statenot a football game, but a controversy over where the first electronic computer was developed. While most sources credit the first electronic computer, ENIAC (1946), to two University of Pennsylvania researchers, John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert, there is strong evidence that the first machine was actually built in 1942 by a professor at Iowa State, John V. Atanasoff.
Whatever the verdict, we know that the American university has been a critical part of the initial and continuing development of computing. The first computer was built in an American university, and the first computer company was a direct university spinoff. Universities soon created an entirely new discipline to support the fast growing industry, and their classrooms and labs supplied the educated people as well as much of the actual knowledge that has driven an extraordinary pace of change. The university role, however, has always been in partnership with business and government.
- *The partnership of IBM and the Department of Defense
- IBM was already a mature and well-established company when the first electronic computer was created. Under the leadership of the indomitable Thomas J. Watson, Sr., IBM had taken a position of leadership in office machinery, including devices that performed calculations. The company was caught flat-footed by the advent of the electronic computer, but Watson quickly divined its importance and made an all out effort to secure leadership. There were several ingredients to IBM's rapid success, but none is more important than its understanding of the kind of businesses that would use computers. Even though the technology was new and fragile, IBM appreciated that potential customers, the kind that could afford computers, were not interested in new technology or experimentation. In fact, they were generally risk-averse. A typical IBM customer was a utility company that needed some way to deal with the huge task of calculating, printing, and reconciling its customers' bills. To companies like these, the computer presented an enormous opportunity. As the nation's population grew, and as society experienced a new level of prosperity, the challenge of hiring and housing a vast army of clerks was increasingly difficultperhaps at some point impossible. On the other hand, the computer was a danger. If just one billing cycle was screwed up, the company would face a disaster of enormous proportions. The company would survivepeople would still need electricitybut the executives surely wouldn't. IBM understood this environment perfectly, and provided systems that were amazingly secure and stable given the precariousness of the technology. This ability allowed IBM to dominate its many competitors.
Another dimension of IBM's relationship with its large and conservative customers was that there was no need for dramatic improvements in the technology. If IBM could regularly provide more for less, which was easy to do with a technology that was in its earliest stages, its customers were satisfied. Competitors could and did offer more, but their chronic inability to provide IBM's rock solid reliability and service kept them at the margins. Progress in computing might have continued at a glacial pace were it not for the Department of Defense, which was far more interested in seeing rapid advances incorporated into weaponry and related systems. The Pentagon liked IBM as a partner for the same reason as did the large corporations, and IBM obliged in advancing technology by building, in partnership with US universities, a very strong research capability. As a result, whenever competition forced IBM to pick up the pace on the commercial side, it was ready with something from the lab. This cozy relationship continued until it was broken by the accelerating pace of technological development. To understand why this happened, we need to review the development of computer "generations."
Five generations of computing
Counting computer generations is necessarily controversialmachines don't have the same pedigrees as people. But, the five generations that are described here comprise close to a consensus. We'll characterize them briefly, then discuss the fundamental changes in economics that have resulted.
- *The mainframe
- The structure of the mainframe hasn't changed a lot since the earliest computers. Its primary characteristic is that all intelligence (computing power), as well as all storage of data and programs, is at the center; kept in the cabinet or cabinets that are the main frame(s). Users get access to the mainframe's intelligence and resources through terminalsdumb devices that are little more than a keyboard and a display.
- *The minicomputer
- This is probably the most controversial of the generations since it is just a variation on the mainframethe same basic centralized organization just on a smaller scale and with lower production costs. The reason that the mini is described as a generation is that its lower prices sharply increased access to computing beyond the large corporations that could afford mainframes.
- *The microcomputer
- The microcomputer, generally synonymous with the personal computer, really is a generation since it offers a dramatic contrast to its predecessors. Where in the past individual users all shared the resources of a single machine, now a single user had direct and personal access to significant computing power as well as to stored programs and data. Eventually, this contrast was blurred as single-user machines were connected with each other over local area networks (LANs), which were then often connected back to mainframes and minis. But, even when all computer users were linked to the big systems, the relationship was fundamentally different. Now, the user had a great deal of independence, and could share with others only as desired, not as required.
- *The Internet and the Web
- The advent of the Internet provided another dramatic shift. Suddenly, there was an all-enveloping network that meant that all users could connect to all computers. Where the evolution of the previous generation had moved toward aggregation of resources, but only within a defined groupthe corporation, organization, or service such as CompuServe now the Internet, and its graphical offspring the World Wide Web, meant that there was a universal link. With relatively trivial effort, now everyone everywhere could exchange information.
- *Pervasive computing
- The fundamental shift in pervasive computing is away from the desktop. As advances in technology make possible devices that are both smaller and smarter, we no longer have to sit in a chair and look at a monitor to use a computer. The components of pervasive computing are a very diverse and rapidly evolving groupcell phones, personal digital assistants (like the PalmPilot), television set-top boxes, the control systems of automobiles, and more. Like the microcomputer, these devices were originally independent, but there is tremendous momentum behind the effort to get them to talk to each other, and to the world of machines on the Web, seamlessly and effortlessly.
- *The changing economics of computing
- The economics of computing have changed with the technology. In the mainframe and minicomputer generations, because hardware was extremely expensive, programmers had to focus on the most efficient use of system resources. This meant that software development was quite conservative. Certainly, there was innovation, but it appeared in a steady, almost predictable stream.
The appearance of the microcomputer changed the dynamics in a fundamental way. The availability of cheap hardware meant that the number of computers expanded from the hundreds of thousands to hundreds of millions. This necessarily wrought an explosion in software. The first wave offered an enormous variety of choices in the basicsthe operating systems that manage the computer's work and the core "productivity applications" such as word processing, databases, and spreadsheets. After a time this part of software stabilized, largely under the hegemony of Microsoft, but the shift to the Internet and the Web has produced a second wave of software that looks beyond a single desktop to all of the computers in the world. Fueled by the fact that hardware just gets cheaper and cheaper, allowing the connection of more computers holding more information, this development is changing not just the economics of computing, but the economics of society.
Objectives of the Essential Guide to Computing (EGC)
As I described this book project to friends and colleagues, a typical reaction was something like, "It can't be done. Things change too fast to be captured in a book. It will be out of date before it's printed." The part about things changing fast is certainly true. In the three to four months since the last edits were completed on the manuscript and until the first printed copies appear, some of the technologies mentioned will be on their way to obsolescence, and other new and exciting ones will appear. But, if the world of computing was really changing too fast to understand, the knowledge base of the people who provide the engines of innovation would be too small to sustain the rate of change. In fact, the number of people who really understand the full sweep of issues in computing and telecommunications is very small. If you read this book you will have a breadth of knowledge that is very rare.
And, whatever the critics say, it is possible to catch the train of technology and climb aboard. If you view this book as a reference to all that is new and current, you will be disappointed. For that, you need the Web, newspapers, and magazines. The real question is how do you get the foundation of knowledge that allows you to understand what the media are saying about technologynot just comprehend it, but put it in the perspective needed for employment, education, or investing? The situation for the average person with technology today would be analogous to that of an untrained person suddenly placed in a football game as a coach (the first and last sports analogy in the book, I promise). This coach doesn't know the rules, much less have any sense of how to develop a strategy, and things are changing so fast that he can't infer them from watching the game. To maintain the analogy then, the purpose of this book is to put you in the stands, and give you a rule book and a TV for instant replay (if I could choose, I would like the comparison to be with John Madden's analysis). This experience should give you the knowledge and perspective you need to be a coach, a referee, or even a player.
Companion Web Site
There are a variety of paths you can pursue when you complete the EGC. If you only want to continue to be far more informed than all but a handful of people, you simply need to use the Web, the newspapers, and magazines to keep current. To make this easier, we've provided a Web site,
www.prenhall.com/walters, that both provides direct information and offers links to some of the best sources for breaking knowledge (the Web site also includes answers to the questions provided at the end of each chapter). Alternatively, if you want to go deeper, this book is a foundation for more focused study. To learn in depth, you really (still) need books, and the Suggestions for Further Reading includes an array of choices. The EGC Web site updates these on a regular basis. Needless to say, there are a variety of other directions you could choose. Whatever your decision, I hope this volume launches you in a productive and pleasant direction.
Table of Contents
(NOTE: Each chapter concludes with a Conclusion and Test Your Understanding.)
I. COMPUTER HARDWARE.
III. NETWORKS AND THE INTERNET.
Downloadable Sample Chapter
Click here for a sample chapter for this book: 0130194697.pdf
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