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Engineer’s complete guide to PC-based workstations: 80386/80486
Shade G., Prentice-Hall, Inc., Upper Saddle River, NJ, 1992. Type: Book (9780132494342)
Date Reviewed: Jan 1 1993

To come to the point at once, I cannot recommend this book. It is not complete, as the title claims; the writing style is not good; and it is disorganized. The author warns us in the preface that this field is rapidly changing even as he writes. That is certainly true, but it is no excuse for the impression given of excessive haste, as if the author were out of breath. The book contains a number of misspellings (such as “tained” for “tainted”) and incorrect word usages (for example, “proprieties of the design” where I think something about the proprietary character of a design was meant). In writing about a subject where acronyms are everywhere, why does the book have no glossary to assist the reader? I, for one, have trouble with sentences such as this: “If the company’s strategic plan is to use TCP/IP as the net protocol, should XNS be allowed in the technical support department’s LAN?” (p. 154). The index offers some help in finding translations, but that is a clumsy way of going about it. By contrast, for some reason the author considered it necessary to supply a table of ASCII-EBCDIC correspondences.

Such flaws would be forgivable if the book had some structure. The author indicates no pattern in the preface, and I was unable to detect any. The first chapter, “Typical Applications/Developmental Systems,” seems to be a collection of manufacturer’s descriptions of various microprocessors for such purposes as data acquisition, computer-aided design, and signal-to-disk interface systems. The next chapter is entirely devoted to a particular company’s line of erasable programmable logic devices intended for developing circuit designs. The third chapter turns suddenly to an exposition of the principles of computer communications and networking. The treatment is not bad, but I could not understand what it had to do with the earlier chapters. The author makes a rudimentary attempt to present an application example, drawn from his experience, of the way in which an actual local area network system was selected and brought into operation. Such a discussion could have been both interesting and useful; what we are given is neither.

The next chapter offers brief coverage of computer graphics principles, followed by a somewhat better discussion of mass storage and disk drives. In neither case is advice given on how to buy the proper software or hardware. The only chapter that contains anything like a worthwhile treatment of the acquisition and selection process is the chapter on technical publishing. There, the problems of the engineering department of a corporation are presented in more satisfying detail. (The author omits a discussion of cost, however.) If more discussions of this type had been included, the book would have had real substance. As it is, I cannot escape the impression that a collection of articles on tenuously related subjects (plus about 95 pages of manufacturer’s data sheets) has been stitched between covers. To repeat, I cannot recommend this book.

Reviewer:  Melvin L. Tobias Review #: CR116428
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