The Word Processing Book: A Short Course in Computer Literacy by Peter A. McWilliame. Prelude Press, Los Angeles. 1982. $9.95
In its 5th edition since May 1982, Mc Williams' three-part book, The Word Processing Book: A Short Course in Computer Literacy, is informative, accurate, and witty. Part I reviews what word processors can and cannot do and introduces the computer novice to jargon such as ROM, byte, dot matrix, scrolling, CPU, etc. Mc Williams writes, "Word processing machines are tools that serve the word processing that goes on in the ultimate word processor, the human mind" (p. 22). He argues that if you use your human mind to write two hours or more per week, you should investigate purchasing word processing equipment.
Part II continues to convince the student and author that they might profit from a word processor. The potential increase in productivity is discussed and a thought-provoking analogy is drawn. Manuscript preparation was greatly enhanced with the production of typewriter. McWilliame contends that the development of word processing equipment will foster an even greater increase in productivity!
Entering text on a keyboard and video screen of a word processor is quiet and as quick as typing. There is no need for retyping manuscripts in their totality. Manuscripts may be "magically" edited, revised, reformatted, reprinted and in a short period of time. My personal experience illustrates this capability. One evening I edited a 75-page grant application and gave these modest revisions on 40 separate pages to a staff person the next morning for revision. By noon, the text was revised, repaginated and printed in time for the afternoon mailing thro ugh the wonder of word processing.
As calculators eliminate the need to calculate square roots and long division by hand, spelling dictionaries in word processing programs can remove typographical and spelling errors from manuscripts. These spelling programs match words in a manuscript against its own dictionary and highlights those which deviate from the dictionary. The author then decides whether the highlighted spelling of letters is accurate.
Part III provides concrete suggestions for purchasing word processors by reviewing equipment (hardware) and authoring/editing programs (software). This section will be particularly helpful to someone with minimal hardware or software experience. Although no recommendations for specific types of equipment are presented, the reader is urged to consider purchasing a detachable keyboard and an 80 character video screen. New portable equipment suitable for field interviewing in the home or clinical setting are also reviewed. Imagine the luxury of not having to type interview field notes before beginning analysis of them!
Whether novice or expert, you will enjoy McWilliame' book because of its humor, clarity, and factual data. However, one concept mentioned by McWilliame ought to be emphasized. Don't believe promises you read about computer equipment or software until you have seen it operate with your own eyes. There are many unfulfilled promises in the dynamic, unstable microcomputer industry. In summary, this book is an excellent place to begin the quest for computer literacy.