THE IMPACT OF COMPUTERS Computer technology not only has solved problems but also has created some, including a certain amount of culture shock as individuals attempt to deal with the new technology. A major role of computer science has been to alleviate such problems, mainly by making computer systems cheaper, faster, more reliable, easier to use. Computers are forever present in the workplace. Word processors-computer software packages that simplify the creational and modification of documents-have largely replaced the typewriter. Electronic mail has made it easy to send messages worldwide via computer communication networks. Office automation has become the term for linking workstations, printers, database system, and other tools by means of a local-area network. An eventual goal of office automation has been termed the “paperless office.” Although such changes ultimately make office work much more efficient, they have not been without cost in terms of purchasing and frequently upgrading the necessary hardware and software and of training workers to use the new technology. Computer integrated manufacturing is a relatively new technology arising from the application of many computer science subdisciplines to support the manufacturing enterprise. The technology of CIM emphasizes that all aspects of manufacturing should be not only computerized as much as possible but also linked together via a computer communication network into an integrated whole. In short, CIM has the potential to enable manufacturers to build cheaper, higher-quality products and thus improve their competitiveness. Making a telephone call no longer should conjure up visions of operators connecting cables by hand or even of electrical signals causing relays to click into place and effect connections during dialing. The telephone system now is just a multilevel computer network with software switches in the network nodes to route calls get through much more quickly and reliably than they did in the past. A disadvantage is the potential for dramatic and widespread failures; for as has happened. The downside of this technology is the potential for security problems. Intruders can see packets traveling on a network and can perhaps interpret them to obtain confidential information. Computer technology has had a significant impact on retail stores. All but the smallest shops have replaced the old-fashioned cash register with a terminal linked to a computer system. The terminal may require that the clerk type in the code for the item; but more and more frequently the checkout counter include a bar-code scanner, a device that directly reads into the computer the UPC printed on each package. Cash-register receipts can then include brief descriptions of the items purchased, and the purchase information is also relayed back to the computer to cause and immediate adjustment in the inventory data. The inventory system can easily alert the manager when the supply of some item drops below a specified threshold. In the case of retail chains linked by networks, the order for a new supply of an item may be automatically generated and sent electronically to the supply warehouse. In a less extensively automated arrangement, the manager can send in the order electronically by a dial-up link to the supplier’s computer. These developments have made shopping much more convenient. The checkout process is faster; checkout lines shorter; and the desired item are more likely to be in stock. Computer technology has been incorporated into automobiles. Computers are involved (CAD systems) not only in the design of cars but also in the manufacturing and testing process, perhaps making use of CIM technology. Today’s automobiles themselves 18 include numerous computer chips that analyze sensor data and alert the driver to actual and potential malfunctions. Although increased reliability has been achieved by implementing such computerization, a drawback is that only automotive repair shops with a large investment in high-tech interfaces and diagnostic tools for these computerized systems can handle any but the simplest repairs.