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Introduction William C. Rosser* The headline of an advertisement in the September 1983 issue of Scientific American asked, "Can a Computer Make You Cry?" The intent of the ad was not frivolous. It was placed by a company that described itself as an association of electronic artists united in a common goal to fulfill the potential of the personal com- puter. Its goal is to take the computer beyonc} its use as a conven- tional facilitator of unimaginative tasks and use what it calls the wondrous nature of the personal computer to learn more about ourselves. The company sees the personal computer as more than a processor. It can also be a communicator, a communications medium, an interactive tool. It can illustrate our own interest, as human beings, in imagination rather than in predictable proce- dures, in learning by direct experience rather than by rote or mem- orization. Finally, the company sees the computer as a transmit- ter of thoughts and feelings. Perhaps the question, "Can a Computer Make You Cry?" is not yet very relevant to large organizations. But there are human as well as technological aspects to the personal computer that need attention. After all, personal computers are microcomputers used by individuals. It is this personal side that has particular rele *William C. Rosser is vice-president and director of small systems for the Gartner Group, Inc., Stamford, Connecticut. 69
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70 MANAGING MICROCOMPUTERS Vance for management. Because of their potential impact on a signif- icant portion of employees, microcomputers may be a uniquely im- portant issue for the large organization anc3 its management. Considering the rate of growth and popular enthusiasm for per- sonal computers, along with the potentially serious problems they raise, the biggest risk management can take is to wait and clo nothing. If the personal computer is an agent for inevitable change, how do we prepare for it? Management has a responsibil- ity to aciciress the potential improvement in the performance of the organization's primary asset people. Alastair Omanc! identifies a whole range of important issues raisect by the presence of microcomputers in large organizations. Only a few of these, he says, deserve the attention of top manage- ment. The rest are better hancIlecI at other organizational levels. For contributor Roger Sisson, the most important issues are how encI-user computing affects the quality of decisions ant! how microcomputers can be usecI to facilitate better ant! more creative · · · . · ~ c Epson ma sing In organizations. Thomas Conrad offers a personal perspective on a set of control- relatecI issues that are especially critical for very large organi- zations such as the military: procurement, stanciarclization, anct centralization.
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