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Faculty catches glimpse of computing to come

News article written for The Voice (September 1994)
Created: September 30, 1994

By Alan T. Miller | The Voice | Volume 29, Issue 4

In a presentation held in the student union lounge last week many faculty members caught a first hand glimpse of what Oracle products can and will do.

Oracle is the company contracted by MCCD to smooth the transition of the districts new computer networks to be installed over the next few years. The presentation by Susan High, Educational Computer Systems Trainer for the Apollo Project, and David Steele, Programmer of MCCD Financial Records Systems, gave a first hand look at what people can expect from the new computer systems.

Probably the most noticeable improvement over previous systems will be the implementation of GUI (Graphical User Interface) technology throughout the districts computer systems.

Computer users who have worked with a Macintosh computer or a Windows based application will be at home with the new user interface, those who have yet to experience the world of point and click, drag and drop computing, will.

The GUI interface which is akin to the Macintosh and Windows operating environments was well received by those in attendance.

"I have always been a fan of windows.. it's what made computers enjoyable to work with," said Ken bus director of the International Students Center.

Another main component of the new systems will be full integration of data, through utilizing relational database management.

This technology assures that computers "talk" with one another and keep each other notified when data changes have been made.

"Right now our budget system doesn't talk to our human resource system which doesn't talk to our financial records system etc. and now with the implementation of a relational database, we will be able to pull from all of the systems to come up with information that we need in a much more efficiant manner," said Joyce Elsner, Dean of Administrative services.

Aside from the many benefits, the decision to upgrade came out of necessity according to Elsner.

"The reason were doing it is not so much a productivity issue as much as it is an issue that our current software is about to die on us, its been banded and held together with bailing wire and we need it as a system to upgrade all of our software packages," said Elsner.

With the new system will come a different type of hardware configuration as well. Whereas before, a mainframe computer system connected to "dum" terminals was sufficiant, the new systems will utilize the power available in the PC.

This is known as Client server Technology.

"We don't have the big mainframe and the guys in white coats and specialized air conditioned rooms anymore, and this gives us much more flexibility. This is how the district will be going system wide," said Elsner.

Client-server technology does come with its concerns. By utilizing many computers throughout many locations, the issue of added security becomes a factor. This is just one of the many hurdles yet to overcome.

"Data security issues will not be taken lightly" said High after the question was asked.

According to Steele, the solution to security issues will most likely be a combination of data encryption and a strategic use of wires.

For those who are nervous about operating the computer networks both High and Steele recommend that future user acquaint themselves with the Macintosh and Windows environments in order to get a head start.

Those involved with the Apollo project realize, as with any transition period the road ahead will have its potholes and detours. But in the end many are positive about the future.

"It's a major undertaking," according to Elsner, "it will be like moving from the dark ages to the information age."


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