Earth scientists and engineers are well advised to consider their long-term repetitive needs for computer support before making a heavy financial commitment in computer hardware. Powerful work stations can now be designed around a personal computer (PC) or microcomputer.

Success with microcomputers results from development of VLSI (very large-scale integrated) circuits and the 5¼-in. diskette (floppy) drive. The latter allows computers with limited memory to swap data rapidly and economically between memory and a storage diskette. Microcomputers benefit from advances in electronic technology and are approaching capabilities of mainframe processors. Equally important to the success of these hardware improvements is the acceptance of common operating systems between machines assembled by different manufacturers and the implementation of compilers for major computer languages. Accompanying compiler development is the development of more powerful, multi-tasking, multi-user operating systems.

Examples of powerful PC and super-micro systems that are of particular interest to those working in the earth sciences and mineral resource assessment will be presented, as well as improved peripheral equipment such as graphic printers, communication modems, digitizers, and specific software programs.

Such developments in hardware and software, which offer improved speed and responsiveness, are the real keys to improved productivity when microcomputers are used. They permit better management and analysis of data, more meaningful formatting of information, greater alternatives for problem-solving, and with a well-designed system, time and money saved.

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