McGraw-Hill encyclopedia of personal computing /

Main Author: Gibilisco, Stan.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: New York : McGraw-Hill, c1995.
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Review by Booklist Review

Finally a no-nonsense PC encyclopedia that is well written, easy to use, and intended for the layperson but also invaluable for the professional. There has been a tendency to talk down to users in books on personal computing, especially in manuals and handbooks, resulting in frustration and confusion. This encyclopedia, by well-known technical writer Gibilisco, provides articles that will make the user comfortable. It is arranged in alphabetical order from Abscissa to Zooming, with a multitude of terms and phrases in between, including Computer Addiction, Filename Extension, and Magnetic Tape. If you want to know what a third-generation computer is or the history of Intel microprocessors, the answers are here. The entry for the phrase spell checking provides insight into how it works and its assets and limitations and ends with a straightforward recommendation that it is the users' choice to have it on his or her PC. The entry Internet is one of the best concise discussions available, explaining what it is without going into high-tech terminology. It covers e-mail and the various information servers, including gopher, Telnet, WAIS, and the Web. A good bibliography of seven items is included for this entry. Line drawings illustrate many entries. For example, the entry Disk Capacity has a drawing showing the relative capacity of diskettes, hard disks, and CD-ROMs. An appendix lists abbreviations and acronyms with their meanings. Acronyms are not used in the main alphabetical sequence of the encyclopedia, so the meaning is necessary in order to locate the entry. A good index helps the user to get to a term when it is not a main entry. This is a welcome addition to computer reference collections and a highly recommended purchase for all libraries, high school and up. Here's another title that attempts to sum up the twentieth century, this time in electronic form. It is based on the book, Our Times: The Illustrated History of the 20th Century (Turner, 1995), and also contains the fifth edition of The Columbia Encyclopedia. The initial screen is a time line where the reader can click on a decade or a specific year. Each decade has an essay by a distinguished author, such as Stephen Jay Gould or Stephen Spender, that puts significant events of the decade in perspective; audio tours treating culture, science, and world affairs; and a video segment. Each year has a series of essays, accompanied by illustrations. Each year also has an "Infograph" with facts shown on charts, tables, and graphs. Buttons at the bottom of the screen allow the reader to access lists of events for the year, including newsworthy births and deaths. All the essays have hyperlinks to appropriate entries in The Columbia Encyclopedia; there are hyperlinks within the encyclopedia and Our Times, too. There are no links, however, from the encyclopedia to Our Times. It is possible to search the entire database by word. There are no Boolean operators to narrow the search, but results are ranked for relevancy. Of course, there is much in Columbia that predates the twentieth century, so here one can search on topics such as Middle Ages or St. Thomas More that one would not be able to access through the time line. Columbia can also be searched through a table of contents and Our Times by broad category such as "Arts and Literature." The Mac and Windows versions of Our Times are on the same disc. The Windows version requires a 486 computer with 3MB available RAM and 2MB free on the hard drive. The Mac version requires system 7.1. It is possible to bookmark and print but not to save to disk. With more than eight million words and 2,500 images, this CD-ROM compares favorably with other popularly priced electronic encyclopedias. However, coverage emphasizes this century, and all the multimedia elements are for the twentieth century. Browsers will enjoy the Our Times part of the database; librarians will appreciate having The Columbia Encyclopedia in electronic form. The Concise Columbia is available on Microsoft Bookshelf, but the unabridged version is only available on Our Times and the Canadian Encyclopedia on CD-ROM. Columbia University Press will be issuing a CD-ROM version of the encyclopedia this fall. (Reviewed May 15, 1996)0070237182Sandy Whiteley

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