5.0761 Humanist Toolkit (1/80)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Thu, 12 Mar 1992 16:17:14 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0761. Thursday, 12 Mar 1992.

Date: Wed, 11 Mar 92 12:40:59 CST
From: Paul R. Falzer <mfprf@ECNUXA.BITNET>
Subject: Humanist's Toolkit

I was struck by Professor Hesla's thoughts regarding the humanist's electronic
toolkit. He asks, "Is there a core curriculum, an essential body of knowledge,
[that should be] required of all humanists working in the age of the computer
and electronic communication?" I believe the answer is "yes," and would like
to offer a couple of suggestions.

Perhaps we are most likely to accumulate our gear and attain the knowledge to
use it by incremental means rather than by making a bold leap into state of the
art. But there are times in which it may be wise to begin with a blank slate,
if only to envision what eventually can become a premium toolkit. Were I to
start from scratch, I would want the following gear:

1. at least 40 Mh 386-class personal computer with at least a 200 MB caching har
drive, 2 HD floppy drives, a tape drive for backup, a CD-ROM drive, and a
minimum of 8 MB of memory, preferably 16 MB.
2. at least a 16 inch non-interlaced color monitor with at least 1 MB of memory
and an accelator board.
3. a laser printer with at least 2 MB of memory that operates at least at 6 ppm.
4. a V32.bis 9600 baud modem that includes Z-modem and Kermit transfer protocols

_System Software_
1. MS- or PC-DOS 5 or DR-DOS 6, together with Microsoft Windows 3.1 and/or
Desqview _or_ OS-2 (which includes DOS and MS Windows).
2. an extended/expanded memory manager, possibility Microsoft's Himem, but more
likely QEMM version 6 because it has the ability to copy ROMs into RAM.
3. a software cache such as PC-KWIK that includes advanced support for floppy- a
hard-disk transfers and integrates disk caching with a ram disk.
4. diagnostic and maintenance software such as Norton version 6 or PCTools 7.1.
5. a first-rate file manager.
6. a scalable font program such as Adobe Type Manager.

_Application Software_
1. a graphical word processor such as Ami Pro 2.0 or MS Word 2.0.
2. a first-rate text editor such as V Edit Plus.
3. a gradebook.
4. communications software that enables full and efficient utilization of e-mail
BBS, ftp, and internet services, and the ability to upload and download in the
5. information storage, indexing, and retrieval software such as ZYIndex,
Magellan, or Folio Views.

_Why this?_
The deceptively innocent question, "why" raises several matters; among these
are why _all_ of this gear? (e.g., why a 386 rather than an 8088?), and why
_this specifically_ ? (e.g., why a graphical rather than character-based word
processor?). In the interests of precious time and space, I'll confine myself
to one piece of application software--a graphical word processor.

Someone writing in a letters to the editor column of a PC magazine recently
made a curious remark: he said that he didn't know what all the fuss is about
when it comes to graphical word processors, since word processing is inherently
a character-based activity. Really. Remember the freedom and flexibility you
lost when you moved from pen to typewriter, and worse, to an electronic
typewriter or elementary word-processor? The most advanced character-based
word processing programs (such as Word Perfect 5.1) are no less constraining
than the old horses and buggies--they just have more features. But with a
graphical program, you recover the ability to express yourself; you can see
what you are actually doing; you are looking at the product as you are
producing it. Moreover, you can work with words, graphics, tables, charts, and
drawings. By embedding and linking, you move seamlessly between one
application and another. In short, you can work much like you _used_ to work
before you made that fateful decision (which you may have regretted ever since)
to trade-off creativity and flexilibity. But you can work with all the power
and efficiency that father technology has bestowed on us.

But even the best graphical word processors are notoriously slow. Teamed with
low-end hardware, they can be more trouble than they're worth. To run them
effectively, you need high-end, powerful, hardware: something like the
configuration suggested above. So the answer to the question, why _all_ of
this? comes down to, what is it that you need in order to run what enables you
to do what you want to be doing? If you want to do graphical word processing,
you've got to have the hardware that will do your work justice.

The question initially posed by Professor Hesla is: "is there a core
_curriculum_, an essential _body of knowledge_? (em. added) By focusing on
the tools in the tookbox, I have sidestepped his question about the knowledge
and expertise needed to use them properly, if not expertly. I'll leave this
question to others, and I'm looking forward to reading what you have to say.