Monday, September 26, 2011

Review - Introduction to Computer Information Systems by Geoffrey Steinberg

Short review: A very introductory textbook about information technology systems.

Computer systems
Explained in one single book

Full review: I used this book as the text of a basic computing class I took to satisfy an admission requirement for graduate school. Because I earned my undergraduate degree almost twenty years ago, I had never taken a formal course in computer information although I have been using computers since I was twelve. Introduction to Computer Information Systems is a basic general text about information technology. It is not a programming guide, and it doesn't give much more than a basic working knowledge of how computers, computer networks, and other technology related issues.

Because I have been using personal computers since I was in sixth grade, I was familiar on an informal basis with most of the concepts presented in the book. But most of what I know I had learned on my own via trial and error. Some of the information provided in this volume is so basic that it will probably only be useful to someone who has never even pressed the "on" switch on a PC. That said, the information is presented in a systemic manner that will probably fill in the gaps that being self-taught leaves for most people who have never studied the subject in an organized manner.

The book starts with the basics - introducing what information systems are, giving a brief explanation of what computers are and then moving on to an overview of the internet and World Wide Web, explaining in very basic terms how they are structured and how they work. The book then moves on to a description of basic computer hardware, software, and computer network structures. Later chapters start to get into applications: systems analysis, the rudimentary basics of programming, database management, and HTML. Most of these sorts of technical aspects of the book are fairly well-done, although the subjects are treated at only the most basic level. Later chapters on topics like e-commerce, security, ethics, and privacy, and the societal impact, are much less useful. In most cases, the basic nature of the information presented coupled with the rapidly changing nature of the subject matter results in a chapter that is not particularly informative and likely to become outdated in short order.

These quibbles aside, Introduction to Computer Information Systems is a serviceable text that will do an able job of informing someone new to computing about the basics of the field. While much of the information contained in the book will likely be material that someone who has bought themselves a PC and ventured out into the internet will already know, having it all presented in a comprehensive manner will probably still be useful for filling in the knowledge gaps of people who know the broad strokes already.

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