Nov. 13, 2006

Good Riddance!

In an effort to move on to more compelling projects, last week I ploughed through the last of the computer science tutorials and finally completed my rudimentary education on how computers work on the inside. After reading the module on Operating Systems, I came away with the understanding that systems such as Windows XP and Mac OS are the manage what the rest of the computer is doing by saying what program (such as word processors or internet browsers) can run when and how much memory that program can use. I followed up this module by reading about Machine Architecture. Skimming through this information, I realized two things: first, I already had a good general idea about the pieces that make up the guts of a computer; and secondly, to get too deep into these guts is a job best left to hardware engineers and historians interested in the evolution of the computer chip.

As the reader might have guessed, I found it difficult to be really sink my teeth into these online tutorials; however, I do not want to categorize these tutorials as completely useless. As an individual trying to understand what makes a computer do what it does, the take-home message from this body of tutorials was that computers use explicit instructions in order to solve tasks. The more detailed the instructions are, the more complex a process the computer can carry out. As a historian, this message tells me that if I am interested in having a computer fulfil a specific task, I need only give it proper and precise instructions, and it will be able to carry out that task. Of course, that means learning how to speak a computer language…

A second project that I would like to make some concluding remarks about is my use of del.icio.us. I began using deli.cio.us to collect and tag internet sources that I was using for an essay; however, I found that clicking on tags to see what other websites users had tagged infrequently led to more useful information. Although I originally wanted to keep up tagging websites in order to build up a larger database of links relating to aboriginal archives, in the end this process became more of a hurdle in my research. It slowed me down to have to type in the website title, a description, and tags for each. On the other hand, del.icio.us has become a home for those links that I am not willing to commit to in my own Favourites folder. I find that I still do save and tag the odd website that I want to remember for an immediate project; however, these sites are forgotten as soon as the project is finished. I suppose that I am creating a deli.icio.us junkyard – a place of forgotten websites of lost importance.