3.649 DOSslander, DOSpraise, and so forth (185)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Fri, 27 Oct 89 20:00:30 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 649. Friday, 27 Oct 1989.

(1) Date: Fri, 27 Oct 89 12:39:14 BST (28 lines)
From: Donald Spaeth 041 339 8855 x6336 <GKHA13@CMS.GLASGOW.AC.UK>
Subject: The fuss of DOS

(2) Date: Fri, 27 Oct 89 07:01:34 EDT (24 lines)
From: David.A.Bantz@mac.dartmouth.edu
Subject: Re: The Fuss over DOS (158)

(3) Date: Fri, 27 Oct 89 17:15 CDT (34 lines)
From: Alvin Snider <ASNIDEPD@UIAMVS>
Subject: Uno DOS

(4) Date: Fri, 27 Oct 89 10:25 EST (75 lines)

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Fri, 27 Oct 89 12:39:14 BST
From: Donald Spaeth 041 339 8855 x6336 <GKHA13@CMS.GLASGOW.AC.UK>
Subject: The fuss of DOS

The problem isn't commands like ERASE or COPY. It's knowing
that the right syntax to copy from a hard disk to a floppy
might be something like COPY C:›master›document A:master.doc
And far more.

Two other points. There are two reasons for teaching DOS. (1)
Software you wish to use may be only available in that format,
e.g. WordCruncher, MicroOCP, SPSS/PC, Nota Bene and many others.
(I echo a comment someone made yesterday here.)
I like Macs but DOS has a wider range of specialised software.
(2) IBM-lookalikes control around 90% of the commercial market,
so if part of the purpose of computer literacy is to prepare
students for the real world then DOS will do a better job.
DOS may be awful but then so are most operating systems students
may encounter. (One aside: all this MAY change with OS/2
Extended Edition, which will be Mac-like. But OS/2 could flop.
(OS/2 is IBM's new system intended to replaced DOS. It means
"Operating System 2". How do they think of these names?!))

Don Spaeth
Computers in Teaching Centre for History
University of Glasgow
d.a.spaeth @ glasgow.ac.uk (JANET)
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------35----
Date: Fri, 27 Oct 89 07:01:34 EDT
From: David.A.Bantz@mac.dartmouth.edu
Subject: Re: The Fuss over DOS (158)

--- "Kevin L. Cope" <ENCOPE@LSUVM> wrote:
A grammotist recently argues on HUMANIST that DOS is hard,
time-consuming, and perhaps not the appropriate language for novice
users of humanities computing equipment. But what is so darned hard
about it? Is it learning strange words like COPY, ERASE, or RENAME? I
thought HUMANISTS would already know words like these. KLC.
--- end of quoted material ---

Interestingly, COPY, ERASE and RENAME are themselves not legitimate
commands! Isn't it something like:
a:copy b:home/wksm7/trnsfr/jkmsde.* c:text/archiv/nov
assuming you've remembered that drive a has the command.com file, that
you've got your temporary storage file name letter with 8 letter
abbreviations letter perfect, and that you've remembered to format drive
c with the proper format command? Of course, since humanists can and do
learn Urdu and Chinese, they can learn DOS. They could learn assembler
as well, and have much greater power at their disposal. The possibility
of learning these things, if one is sufficiently motivated, seems
somehow to miss the point.
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------41----
Date: Fri, 27 Oct 89 17:15 CDT
From: Alvin Snider <ASNIDEPD@UIAMVS>
Subject: Uno DOS

Kevin Cope raises two interesting questions. The common practice
of downgrading MS/DOS for its difficulty and "unnaturalness"
rests on the dubious assumption that iconic representations are
somehow semiotically transparent or more intuitive. Some of us
who mainly use character-based applications find the process of
decoding, dragging, and clicking less attractive than the crude-
but-efficient command line. I confess myself guilty of a linear
bias and to the crime of grammocentrism. But I do not look
forward to the prospect of mousing around under compulsion. When
I logged onto this mainframe a short while ago, I saw little
evidence of glitzy graphical interfaces rendering line commands

The second argument against DOS, its antiquatedness, seems no
more convincing as a reason for abolition. Mac users pride
themselves on technology developed by Xerox (correct me if I'm
wrong) years ago. The future lies in maximum flexibility not
uniformity. The introduction of OS/2 seems to me a cynical
attempt to capture an upscale market for vastly expensive
versions of existing products. By contrast, the announced
introduction of Unix V 4.0 next week (see _NYT_ 25 Oct., p.29),
which will run on all classes of computers, might be just the
thing to shake up current hegemonies.

Still, we should remember that from the corporate standpoint, all
such developments simply aim at blowing one's competitors out of
the water. We shouldn't let the discussion take on the urgency
of doctrinal warfare or willingly play the role of True Believers.

(4) --------------------------------------------------------------81----
Date: Fri, 27 Oct 89 10:25 EST

Although I am a hardcore DOS user (the hard disk on my MAC is
named C:), the recent quarrels about DOS and MAC and humanists
seem to be arguments about the wrong things. Kevin Cope is right
in saying that the words copy, erase, delete, etc. shouldn't
cause any trouble, but those are only minor DOS features. How
many humanists know how to write batch files? I am leaving aside
such esoterica as creating a virtual external drive in order to
format a 3.5 disk at 720K. And try and understand how to do it
reading the PC-DOS manual! Everyone would agree that the PC- and
MS-DOS manuals are among the most abstruse documents ever
written. On the MAC side, if, like me, you have poor hand-eye
coordination, you have more trouble getting the little icon on
top of a little icon for copying than writing the word copy at
the DOS prompt. I am not happy with the eight character
limitation in DOS filenames, but I can hardly approve of finding
MAC files listed under the program icon.
But the faults are not in the operating systems, but in the
folks who write the programs. For all the praise I hear on
HUMANIST of WordPerfect, does no one complain of the three deep
nested function keys? You have to buy an add-on program to get
pull-down menus for DOS WordPerfect. And installing a printer to
WordPerfect takes skills far beyond the ability of many of us. A
much more sensible word processing program is PC-Write but of
course, since it is costs so little, few computer users will
consider it. And that is a program in which the ordinary user
can learn to modify print files (they're written in ASCII code).
The same problem is true of the hardware manufacturers.
Everyone complains that the cursor on the laptops is too small.
Do the manufacturers of these expensive machines do anything to
cure this? No, you have to buy an add-on for c. $35 to get a
larger cursor. It's like buying an American car -- everything is
an additional option. So don't blame the operating systems, blame
the folks that sell you the programs and the machines. For
starters, we probably need to get a few humanists (who can write
English and who know how to teach) to write the program
documentation. Second, we should train our future users to
figure out what they need and want. Many couldn't care less
about a plethora of fonts, or for a program that allows you to
use ten different printers at the same time, or one that can put
six windows and five columns on a page. Nor do we care to have a
program that allows us to print envelopes on a laser printer or
create mail merge files.
And we can only accomplish this by teaching beginners, in the
way most people have had to learn to drive and to type.
Unfortunately, every course I have ever taken at a computing
center (and I began in the 60s with a course in FORTRAN) has been
simply TERRIBLE. None of the people had the slightest skill in
oral presentation, did not know how to produce good handouts or
other illustrative materials. Many of them were more intent on
showing off their expertise than in explaining. Perhaps it's
because many of them are scientists or engineers, like those
organic chemistry professors and lab assistants of mine at
Columbia who prided themselves on giving disorganized lectures
and failing as many students as they could.
Instead of arguing the merits of the operating systems and
programs we should spend more time in considering not requiring
students to use computers, but in seeing to it that they can have
a decent opportunity to learn how to use the equipment properly.
Maybe industry can do a better job. I know that I learned more
about proper chemistry techniques when working for the Mobil Oil
Co. than I did in all my courses in college. Or perhaps what we
need are more computer specialists like Jan Eveleth (Yale), whose
comments on HUMANIST are models of explanation.
James W. Halporn, Classical Studies/Comparative Literature,
Indiana U, Bloomington, IN (HALPORNJ@IUBACS or