CACS/Preface

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The Wikibook Introduction to computers and communications technology.

Scope and Audience[edit]

This textbook is intended to provide a comprehensive overview of the field, useful to those who will practice in it, and those who need to deal with it peripherally. While it is not a technical work it does deal with technology and describes its structure, background, content, and business in some detail. This means that it while it can be a general survey, it cannot be necessarily simple. Every attempt is made to add no more complex details than are necessary to place a part of the field in context. But context here also means having a general understanding of the internals of an area, and so some complexity is unavoidable.

Thus there are three goals established:

  1. To be comprehensive and complete in terms of the areas covered.
  2. To provide enough detail for each area so that the reader can understand what work is accomplished by its practitioners and how that area relates to the rest of the field.
  3. To avoid enough technical detail so that a reader who isn't involved in an area does not get trapped in it.

These goals may at first seem contradictions, but they are not mutually exclusive. Instead they serve as boundaries to identify the material included for each topic. Another limit is imposed with respect to large or mainframe computers. The mainframe environment and history are briefly discussed in the introducyion to each part, but most material is based on the now ubiquitous personal or desktop computer environment.

Professional Readers[edit]

Those who actively work in computers and communications tend to increase the depth of their knowledge and skills within a limited domain. As they accumulate greater experience and skill, their viewpoint tends to become increasingly that of a single role or area within the discipline. While this text can serve them for an initial survey of the field, its greatest value will be as a continued reference and context to provide a higher level view of those areas outside of their specialty.

An online, collaborative text may be particularly valuable in this second role. All of the areas, disciplines, roles, and uses of this technology are changing. Indeed, the rate of change seems to increase geometrically, while the number of areas or specialties increases exponentially. Unlike a paper text, an online one can be maintained rapidly and constantly. Once the reader is familiar with the format and content of the work, future reference is easier. So when presented with a new feature, function, or technology there is an updated textbook that's just like the one they used before. While some may prefer a paper copy for initial use, an updated copy may be continually available.

Non-Professional Readers[edit]

Very few professions today escape being affected by the application of computers and the related communication technology. For those who work in other disciplines an up to date survey and reference may also be valuable when they must deal with the impact of the technology within their own field. When forced to interact with the high priests of technology, they need not compete to get their viewpoint recognized while ignorant of the goals, practices, and terminology of the ordained. When a piece of these technologies interacts with your own business, this will not replace a user manual, or even the level of the Topic X for Dummies. What it does is to provide the background and context that make those materials more useful.

Terminology[edit]

There are four words used in this work that require some explanation. The words platform, entity, element, and component are used loosely, but with some intent. Generally the term entity is used to describe the thing being considered or addressed by a topic, element is used to describe a feature or function of the entity being discussed, and component is used to describe a unit that is considered as a whole, and stands alone for some functions, while platform refers to the group of components that are prerequisite to the entity under discussion. Each term frequently represents the specific being discussed and its peers or similar units that operate at the same level.

A specific area or topic may be treated at all four levels. Consider a single Web Page as an example. When describing the Client–Server model of the Internet, it is a component. When considering HTML it is a part of the platform. In a part of the discussion of Web Site Construction it is first an element of the site, and then an entity since there are several topics that directly discuss Web Pages.

Structure[edit]

The question of how to organize a comprehensive technology overview is both fundamental and complex. You can probably think of ways to improve the organization chosen (I know I do every time I look at it). This section outlines of the survey's major organization into parts and breiefly identifies the main subject for each part.

The overview is organized into a decomposition hierarchy. The hierarchy is presented two layers at a time. Subject definitions are always presented twice, once with their parent subject and again in their own introduction.

For full detail, see the: CACS:Contents

Subject areas and major parts are listed below:

  • Hardware – The machines that are computers and their supporting attachments.
    • Computing Machines – The fundamental engines of the revolution.
    • Peripherals – The things that tie the computers to worthwhile work.
    • Architectures – The structure that ties things together.
    • Communications – The hardware that couples computers and components.
  • Software – The program components that make the computer world accessible.
    • Platforms – Operating Systems and basic Tool Suites.
    • Middleware – The attachment layer.
    • Construction Tools – Languages, Environments, and builders of all kinds.
    • Applications – Tool sets that are used to do real work.
    • Architecture – Structures for coupling components.
  • Communications – Things that let computers and people connect to each other.
    • Architecture – In communications, the Structure comes first.
    • Networks – Computers and users coupled to gain processing power and leverage.
    • Internet – The virtual structure that ties networks together.
    • Content – The information that makes the structure worth having.
  • Applications – Applying the computer world to get things done.
    • Desktop – Direct support of human efforts.
    • Departmental – Those applications that support a single function or functional area.
    • Process – Applications that support a broader work effort.
    • Platforms – Generic applications, structures, and architectures for all kinds of work.
    • Vertical – Organizing applications by Industry Group.
  • Services – How work gets done.
    • Skills, specialties, and expertise.
    • Methods and Life Cycles.
    • Analysis and Programming – Specialties, Languages.
    • Education and training, certification.
    • Related functions: project management, business planning, consulting.
  • Business – How computers, software, and applications are bought and sold.
    • Manufacturers –
    • Software Vendors –
    • Support Structures –
    • Service Providers –
    • Newly Enabled Functions – Call centers, knowledge base, Supplier-company-customer integration.
    • Packaging – Retailing, OEM, Integrators, Alliances.

Some things fell off this hierarchy, and are contained in other areas of topics. These are:

  • History –
  • Miscellaneous Topics – Stray interesting topics that affect multiple areas.
  • Lists –
    • Glossary – An industry full of buzzwords, a consolidated glossary.
    • Reference Data –
    • Companies –
    • Organizations –
    • Index –

Authors[edit]

Any work with the broad and inclusive scope proposed cannot succeed without the contributions of many individuals, both experts and generalists. If this text is to be useful to the general audience, it also needs a lot of amateurs to insure that it stays readable. Thanks in advance to all contributors.

As in any good Wiki, details of contribution will be kept for each subject on the page history. Major contributors who wish to be identified will be acknowledged on the CACS/Authors page.

There is to be a separate page about writing sections of this book, and it is kept on the CACS/Author Guidelines page. To comment on direction or structure please use the Talk page of the part, chapter, section or topic.