Since computer terminology can often be one of the biggest stumbling blocks to understanding the world of personal computers,I've tried to make things a bit easier by defining new terms at the beginning of the chapter in they first appear

Thursday, 19 January 2012


As noted earlier, data processing has a large vested interest in personal computer technology. The arrival of these machines means that computers themselves no longer belong exclusively to the data processing fraternity. Where the control of computing power was once centralized and managed within specific boundaries, it is now available to just about anybody.
It is not unusual to find large companies purchasing hundreds, if not thousands, of personal computers. This places computing power in the hands ol each person who has access to one. This not only extends the power of one system, as when people are given terminals that provide limited access to the central computer, but provides the potential for hundreds and thousands separate systems. Many of these systems may have the capacity to communicate with each other directly, or by networking through small computer systems established within departments, or through direct access to the mainframe computer. The arrival of all these systems also means that data processing has lost the battle to keep them out of most organizations. Having failed in that mission, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that data processing departments are ready to throw in the towel and make personal computers an integral part of ongoing operations. As we have already seen, personal computers pose some very real problems that many data processing departments aren’t prepared to address. Add to that the fear of losing a power base, and you have .what amounts to a minimum commitment in more than just a few organizations. In 1985, for example, studies of data processing budgets conducted by the Data Processing Management Association showed that while. 40 percent of expenditures went for salaries, 24 percent for large systems hardware, and 14 percent for software; less than 5 percent was expended for training and for Support of personal computers. Data processing managers projected that these figures would hold at about the same rate for personal computer expenditures through the balance of the decade. * Caught up in the crunch of developing and supporting programs that run on the large systems, data processing management seems to have relegated personal computers to second—class status. Issues of territoriality, however, keep many data processing managers from relinquishing total control of personal computers to other organizational areas. Often, training and support are assigned to an information or office systems’ center responsible for “end user computing.”
Not all organizations have such centers, however, nor does data processing always play as active a role in the personal computer process. In some organizations, there may be a void when it comes to making decisions about personal computers and their ultimate care and feeding,

For example, it’s not unusual to find organizations in which the only criteria for buying a personal computer system are a department head’s signature or the approval of the purchasing department. In organizations like this, there may be a multitude of different operating systems and software, none of which may be compatible. An engineering company that conducted an internal audit of its personal computer systems discovered that it had 51 systems representing 11 different manufacturers. Of these 51 personal computers, only 11 shared the same operating system and could run the same programs.
Everyone is on their own in environments like this, and training and support is very much dependent on employees’ abilities to learn things for themselves or from a user expert. User experts are called on whenever there is a void to fill, whether or not an organization has formal programs in place.
User experts have taught themselves how to use a particular hardware or software package, and now serve as a type of internal consultant, providing their own brand of training and advice. In some cases these people have developed the expertise necessary to be a real value. More likely than not, however, they have learned just enough to be dangerous. In one company that has a formal support program, and that keeps records of the problems worked on, 48 percent of all service calls were traced back to the efforts of user experts trying to help someone out.
How personal computers are viewed can also play a role in deciding who controls them. In many organizations, personal computers are viewed primarily as report writing machines that make financial and administrative planning considerably easier. Since the range of activities they perform is rather narrow, responsibility for their placement and control is often vested with financial departments or executives. So, who really owns the technology? In the overall analysis, it probably belongs to the person who is really using it. Control of just who gets their hands on the technology and what they do with it will probably end up with data processing or one of its offshoots, such as management information. This will become increasingly true as people demand more access to 11w information contained on the large mainframe computers. Since personal computers lack the power to process complex applications, it’s only a matter of time before people begin asking to have their work done on the large systems and the results downloaded to their personal computers.
The arrival of the personal computer marks a dramatic shift in how data processing will have to deal with the rest of an organization. In the past, access to the system was mainly in the hands of clerical staff, which sat for hours at terminal keyboards processing information into the system, or requesting certain types of information back. As more management and professional workers explore the power of the personal computer, they in turn are demanding more access to .other forms of financial or strategic information that goes right to the heart of an organization’s database. In the interest of security, most data processing departments will find themselves very involved with these new users, and will have to develop new strategies for dealing with them. In all likelihood these strategies will require a closer involvement and working relationship with human resources professionals.

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