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By A. J. Smith (auth.)

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Information is encoded as patterns of magnetic dots across all tracks. e. to find a specific piece of information it is necessary to begin at the beginning of the tape and read each record in turn until the required information is found. This obviously means lengthy (at least by computer standards) search times if the required information is near the end of the tape. Computer Hardware 35 Magnetic disk units The most widely used backing storage devices are magnetic disk units. Each disk consists of a flat platter coated on both sides with a magnetic recording medium.

Unfortunately the electronic transmission of information is still not so easy as it sounds since both the source computer and the target computer need to have the relevant software loaded in order that the data can be successfully transferred; the process is analogous to a telephone call which requires the attention of both parties if a successful transfer of information is to take place. Local Area Networks (LANs) Sooner or later an organisation which uses large numbers of stand-alone desk-top computers will begin to consider the possiblity of connecting them together, eitheno allow data to be transferred from one machine to another, or to allow a number of computers to access common central facilities such as high capacity disks or perhaps high speed laser printers.

It is not the kind of work which can be tackled on a 'part-time' basis in addition to existing duties. If however: (i) the problem is very complex in that it affects a range of activities across the organisation or (ii) a range of different problems is evident which may necessitate a co- ordinated solution The Selection and Management of an Office Computer System 45 then an external consultant may prove to be the better choice although the cost is likely to be high. Hunt (1982b) identifies the qualities which an 'in-house' analyst should possess as: A suitable candidate for the task must start with an open mind, must have an analytical approach and sufficient knowledge of quantity surveying procedures to enable extraction of all relevant information'.

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