CONFLUENCE1. a coming or flowing together, meeting, or gathering at one point (a happy confluence of weather and scenery);
2a: the flowing together of two or more streams; b: the place of meeting of two streams;
c: the combined stream formed by conjunction
Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Electronic Edition
When powerful forces come together, change is inevitable. As we enter the 21st century, we're standing at the confluence of three powerful technological forces: computers, telecommunications, and electronic entertainment. The computer's digital technology is showing up in everything from telephones to televisions, and the lines that separate these machines are eroding. This digital convergence is rapidly-and radically-altering the world's economic landscape. Start-up companies and industries are emerging to ride the waves of change, while older organizations reorganize, regroup, and redefine themselves to keep from being washed away.
Smaller computers, faster processors, smarter software, larger networks, new communication media-in the world of information technology, it seems like change is the only constant. In less than a human lifetime, this technological cascade has transformed virtually every facet of our society-and the transformation is just beginning. As old technologies merge and new technologies emerge, far-fetched predictions routinely come true. This headlong rush into the high-tech fixture poses a formidable challenge for all of us: How can we extract the knowledge we need from the deluge of information? What must we understand about information technology to successfully navigate the waters of change that carry us into the fixture? Computer Confluence: Exploring Tomorrow's Technology is designed to aid travelers on their journey into that future. What Is Computer Confluence?
Computer Confluence is more than a textbook; it's the confluence of three powerful information sources: an illustrated textbook, a multimedia CD-ROM, and a dynamic World Wide Web site. This integrated learning package takes advantage of the unique strengths of three media types:
Computer Confluence, the book. In spite of the talk about a paperless future, a book's user interface still has many advantages: You can read it under a tree or on the subway, you can bend the corners and scribble in the margins, you can study the words and pictures for hours without suffering from eyestrain or backache. A well-written text can serve as a learning tool, a reference work, a study guide, and even a source of motivation and inspiration. A textbook is no substitute for a good teacher, but a good textbook can almost always make a good teacher better. This book, which started out as Computer Currents in 1994, has served as an information-age guidebook for hundreds of thousands of students through its first three editions. Computer Confluence, the CD-ROM. A CD-ROM may not be as warm and friendly as a good book, but it can deliver video, audio, animation, and other dynamic media that can't be printed on paper. A well-designed CD-ROM can encourage exploration through interactivity. The Computer Confluence CD-ROM supplements and reinforces the material in the book with state-of-the-art 3-D animation, audio, and video. Unlike many textbook CD-ROMs, this one was designed from the ground up to supplement and expand on the material in the book. The CDROM has a wealth of materials, including interactive explorations, video clips, practice quizzes with printable results, that make it easy to monitor student progress. Students find that it's easy and fun to explore the CD-ROM using its innovative 3-D user interface and its streamlined hypertext interface. The CD-ROM runs on almost all modern Windows and Macintosh machines, so students can use it on their own computerseven computers that aren't the same kind as they use in school labs. It runs without installing any files on the local hard disk, requiring only QuickTime for animations, so it can be used even in the most tightly controlled public labs. Computer Confluence, the Web site (prenhall/beekman). The information in computer books and CD-ROMs has a short shelf life. The Internet makes it possible to publish up-to-the-minute information and link that information to other sources around the world. The Internet can also serve as a communication conduit for on-line discussion and research. An extensive collection of timely, media-rich Web pages keeps the information in Computer Confluence current. The pages include multimedia tidbits, and links to the most important computer and information technology sites, all organized by chapter and topic. The Web site also includes discussion areas where students, instructors, and authors can meet online. Students can also to take practice quizzes and submit answers to on-line exercises.
Students don't need to have access to CD-ROM drives and the World Wide Web to benefit from Computer Confluence; they can easily master the material in the book without using other media. But the additional material on the CD-ROM and the Web can make their learning experiences more interesting, exciting, and timely.
Computer Confluence presents computers and information technology on three levels:
Explanations: Computer Confluence clearly explains what a computer is and what it can (and can't) do; it explains the basics of information technology, from multimedia PCs to the Internet, clearly and concisely. Applications: Computer Confluence illustrates how computers and networks can be used as practical tools to solve a wide variety of problems. Implications: Computer Confluence puts computers in a human context, illustrating how information technology affects our lives, our world, and our future. Who Is Computer Confluence For?
Computer Confluence: Exploring Tomorrow's Technology is designed especially for the introductory computer class for both non-majors and majors. Computer Confluence is also appropriate for introductory computer science classes, discipline-specific computer courses offered through other departments, high school courses, and adult education courses. Computer Confluence can also serve as a self-study guide for anyone who's motivated to understand the changing technological landscape.
Most introductory computer courses are divided into lecture and lab sections. In some courses the labs cover desktop applications such as Microsoft Office; in other courses the labs cover Internet tools such as electronic mail and the World Wide Web; a few courses include programming with languages such as Visual BASIC, C, and Java. Since this book focuses on concepts rather than keystrokes, it can be used in courses that teach any combination of lab applications and tools. How Is Computer Confluence Organized?
The book consists of 16 chapters organized into five broad sections:
Approaching Computers: Hardware and Software Fundamentals Using Computers: Essential Applications Exploring with Computers: Networks and Gateways Mastering Computers: Issues, Algorithms, and Intelligence Living with Computers: Information Age Implications
Part 1 provides the basics: a brief historical perspective, a nontechnical discussion of computer and Internet basics, and an overview of hardware and software options. These chapters quickly introduce key concepts that recur throughout the book, putting the student on solid ground for understanding future chapters. Part 2 covers the most important and widely used computer applications, including word processing, desktop publishing, spreadsheets, graphics, multimedia tools, and databases. These applications, like those in Parts 3 and 4, are presented in terms of concepts and trends rather than keystrokes. Part 3 explores the world of networks, from simple interoffice LANs to the massive global infrastructure that's evolving from the Internet. Part 4 begins with a discussion of information technology risks and related ethical issues; it then explores the process and the problems of creating software, including the curious field of computer science known as artificial intelligence. Part 5 explores the far-reaching impact of computers on our work, our schools, our homes, our society, and our future.
Throughout the five parts, the book's focus gradually flows from the concrete to the controversial and from the present to the fixture. Individual chapters have a similarly expanding focus. After a brief introduction, each chapter flows from concrete concepts that provide grounding for beginners toward abstract, future-oriented questions and ideas.
Each chapter includes instructional aids to help students master the material quickly. Key terms are highlighted in boldface blue type for quick reference; secondary terms are italicized blue. Terms are defined in context, in a glossary at the end of the text, and in the CD-ROM's hypertext glossary. Each chapter opens with a summary of the key content that can be found in the chapter, on the Web site, and on the CD, and a list of objectives. Each chapter ends with a chapter summary; a list of key terms; collections of review questions, discussion questions, and projects; and an annotated list of sources and resources for students who want more information or intellectual stimulation. Special Focus Boxes Human Connection boxes at the beginning of all chapters feature stories of personalities who made an impact on the world of computing, and in some cases, people whose lives were transformed by computers and information technology. How It Works boxes are designed to provide additional technical material for courses and students who need it. How does the CPU execute a program? Why does a color image look different on the screen that on a printout? How does compression make files smaller? How can messages be encrypted? Students will find answers to these kinds of questions in the How It Works boxes. For classes where this kind of technical detail isn't necessary, students can safely skip these boxes without missing any critical information. How It Works boxes are numbered to make it easy for instructors to create customized reading assignments by specifying which are required and which are optional. The User's View boxes show the reader, through screens and text, what it's like to work with computer applications without getting bogged down in the details of button pushing. Featured applications are the latest versions of applications used by professionals, including Microsoft Office 2000, Quark xPress, and Adobe Photoshop. These applications are available in similar versions on both Windows and Macintosh platforms. Rules of Thumb boxes provide practical, nontechnical tips for avoiding the pitfalls and problems created by computer technology. How can you use graphics effectively and tastefully in a computer document? How can you minimize the health hazards of extended computer use. How can you protect your data from viruses and other software risks? What's the best way to communicate effectively with electronic mail? These are the types of questions that are answered in Rules of Thumb boxes. Crosscurrents boxes at the end of each chapter provide thought-provoking, timely, and sometimes controversial essays and articles by respected writers, analysts, and industry insiders. How is this technology changing our lives? What have we given up in return for a high-tech future? Who stands to gain the most, and who stands to lose the most, as we move into an information-based economy? How will future generations experience your digital works of art and literature? Is personal privacy history? Are digital implants in our medical future? These and other questions are raisedand wrestled within Crosscurrents boxes. New to the Fourth Edition
Each edition of Computer Confluence is written, in part, by professors and students like you. We receive hundreds of email messages and Web responses commenting on the book, the CD-ROM, and the Web site, and the way they workand don't worktogether to provide an integrated learning experience. Your comments and suggestions are important to us; many have a direct impact on the content of future editions. For this edition, as with previous editions, we've systematically surveyed professors and incorporated many of their ideas in the new edition. This edition also reflects rapid and significant changes in the technological landscape brought on by the Internet explosion. Here's a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of major changes to this edition:
The Computer Confluence book, CD-ROM, and Web site, when combined with your guidance and instruction, can provide students with unprecedented resources for understanding the technologies that are shaping their future. Hopefully, many of those students will use their knowledge to take an active part in shaping that future. A Word to Instructors
Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit on it.
When Computer Currents was published in 1994, most introductory computer classes were taught using command-line software on hardware that couldn't support any form of multimedia. Few introductory books even mentioned the Internet, few students used email, and the World Wide Web was a well-kept secret. Today's computer user takes the graphical user interface for granted, new software is delivered on CD-ROMs or on line, and multimedia computers are the norm. The Internet is everywhere, email is part of daily life for many students, and Web addresses are commonplace on business cards and in television commercials.
The pace of change threatens to make even the most successful introductory computer classes irrelevant. How do we provide timely information on a subject about which last years's news seems remarkably old? How can we be sure that an Introduction to Computers class won't seem like a History of Computers class by the time students graduate? How do we design courses that provide students with practical, expansive, lasting knowledge about computers and information technology?
It's no longer enough to teach students the fundamentals of programming and call them "computer literate." Nor can we assume that students who know word processor and spreadsheet keystrokes are adequately equipped to survive and prosper in the information age. Even today's email programs and Web browsers will look like antiques in a few short years. In fact, any hands-on experience is likely to have a short useful life unless it's accompanied by material that provides a broader context.
Computer Confluence, Fourth Edition, is designed to provide that context. Like the first three editions, the book emphasizes big ideas, broad trends, and the human aspects of technologythe critical concepts that tend to remain constant even while hardware and software change. But even big ideas and broad trends change over time. For example, the past few years have seen the Internet and interactive multimedia move from the fringe to the center of our collective computer consciousness. Computer Confluence has been rewritten and restructured to reflect those changes. A Word to the Student
If you're like most students, you aren't taking this course to read about computersyou want to use them. That's sensible. You can't really understand computers without some hands-on experience, and you'll be able to apply your computer skills to a wide variety of future projects. But it's a mistake to think that you're computer savvy just because you can use a PC to write term papers and surf the Internet. It's important to understand how people use and abuse computer technology, because that technology has a powerful and growing impact on your life. (If you can't imagine how your life would be different without computers, read the vignette called "Living without Computers" in Chapter 1.) Even if you have lots of computer experience, future trends are almost certain to make much of that experience obsoleteprobably sooner than you think. In the next few years, computers are likely to take on entirely new forms and roles because of breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, voice recognition, virtual reality, interactive multimedia, networking, and cross-breeding with telephone and home entertainment technologies. If your knowledge of computers stops with a handful of PC and Internet applications, you may be standing still while the world changes around you.
When you're cascading through white water, you need to be able to use a paddle, but it's also important to know how to read a map, a compass, and the river. Computer Confluence: Exploring Tomorrow's Technology is designed to serve as a map, compass, and book of river lore to help you ride the information waves into the future.
Computer Confluence will help you understand the important trends that will change the way you work with computers and the way computers work for you. This book discusses the promise and the problems of computer technology without overwhelming you with technobabble.
Computer Confluence is intentionally nontechnical and down to earth. Occasional mini-stories bring concepts and speculations to life. Illustrations and photos make abstract concepts concrete. Quotes add thought-provoking and humorous seasoning.
Whether you're a hard-core hacker or a confirmed computerphobe, there's something for you in Computer Confluence. Dive in!
George Beekman --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.