Years ago, businesses began replacing their computers with large word processors. These dinosaurs, made by companies such as DEC, Lanier and Wang quickly were replaced by versatile micro computers, which could do more than simple word formatting.
But although dedicated word processors are a thing of the past, most personal computer users are still living in the dark ages; they use their computers only for writing papers and letters. The Happy Hacker certainly regrets this. The Happy Hacker regrets a lot of things recently, but he especially hates to see things with a lot of potential wasted over misunderstandings.
It's not that computers are bad word processors. Actually, they do a much better job than the older, single-use machines. But, with so much potential, it's a shame that students don't take advantage of their computers' potential.
Transforming a computer into something more than a glorified electronic typewriter can be expensive. Software packages from databases, spreadsheets and statistical programs cost money. Lots of money.
And, before plunking down hundreds of dollars for a new regression analysis disk, it might be a good idea to make sure the program meets your needs. Even better would be a library that loaned useful programs.
Once again, the Office of Information Technology, home of several laserwriters, Macintoshes and IBM PCs (previously called term paper heaven) comes to the rescue. The OIT program and book library is located on the second floor of OIT's 1730 Cambridge Street headquarters.
The OIT library includes a well-stocked collection of software for Mac and IBM computers, and a set of reference books. It also subscribes to most of the main computer-related publications such as Byte, MacUser, MacWorld, PC Journal and Computer world.
The major limitation is that all materials must be used within the OIT complex. With a standard ID card, students can borrow material from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (library hours), although arrangements can be made to use the software until 9 p.m.
Software can be used on the IBM PC or Macintosh in the library, or on one of the eight Macs or two PCs in the first-floor computer room.
Almost Endless Possibilities
The library's software collection is strongest in IBM-compatible software. Most of the Macintosh programs, such as MacPaint, MacDraw and MacWrite are available in the first-floor computer room. Other programs, such as Jazz and Pagemaker, are available in the library.
The PC software collection offers much greater potential. Statistical packages such as Statpro and SPSS-PC provide almost all the number crunching/manipulating possibilities of a mainframe statistics package. Rather than spend several c-notes for a program which might be used only for one chapter of a senior thesis, students can simply use the program in OIT.
There are some cute utilities available, such as Sideways, a program which prints spreadsheet and other files sideways on a printer, allowing an unlimited number of columns. Another helpful program is the Norton Utilities, which is useful for recovering lost files or fixing messed-up disks.
The library also offers a wide variety of languages. People tired of BASIC can try Microsoft Fortran or C. A Pascal compiler is also available. Database programs include Savvy, File Express and Perfect Filer, all of which are useful for keeping track of anything from mailing lists to record collections.
If you still want word processing
Not surprisingly the largest number of programs are the word processing packings; there are more than eight different ones available. Thus students can try out Microsoft Word, PC Write, Readwriter, Volkswriter and several others before deciding which one to buy.
The library has many other programs and books, and even contains items such as a Lotus 1-2-3 tutorial on cassette. As with any library, there are a lot of materials that seem pretty pointless to the Happy Hacker. But some programs, and especially the reference manuals and books can be especially useful. Check it out!
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