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Title: USDA Farmers' Bulletin No. 2277: Computers on the Farm
Author: Smith, Deborah Takiff
Language: English
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                         Computers on the Farm



                    Farm Uses for Computers, How to
                   Select Software and Hardware, and
               Online Information Sources in Agriculture


                            [Illustration]


                            [Illustration]

                             United States
                             Department of
                              Agriculture


                               Farmers'
                               Bulletin
                              Number 2277


Cover Photo: Fran and Brian Schnarre, a farm couple from Columbia,
Missouri, working at their computer. _Photo by Duane Dailey, University
of Missouri_.


Affairs


=Issued March 1984=



Contents


  Purpose of This Bulletin                                   5
  What a Computer Can Do for You                             5
      Recordkeeping                                          6
      Farm Management Analysis                               6
      Process Controllers                                    6
      Telecommunications                                     7
      Other Uses                                             7
  Computers on the Farm                                      7
  How to Choose a Microcomputer System                       8
  Strategies for Getting into Computers                      9
  Alternatives to Buying a Microcomputer                    10
  Information Available from Your County Extension Agent    10
  How to Select Software                                    11
      Checklist for Evaluating Software                     11
      Where to Look for Good Software                       13
  Compatibility Counts                                      13
  How to Select Hardware                                    14
      Checklist for Evaluating Hardware                     14
      Where to Look for Good Hardware                       16
      Types of Hardware                                     16
  Components of a Microcomputer                             17
  Try It Out                                                18
  Computers Need an Investment of Time and Money            19
  Information Available Online from USDA, State, and
    Private Sources                                         20
  Other Computer Development at USDA                        30
  Learning More about Computers on the Farm                 32
  Glossary of Computer Terms                                34



=Computers on the Farm=


=by Deborah Takiff Smith=



=Purpose of This Bulletin=


How can a computer help you operate your farm better?

How do you select useful computer programs (software) and equipment
(hardware)?

If you have a computer or plan to get one, what information can you
obtain with your computer that will be useful for your farm operation?

This publication will help you answer such questions. It will help
you evaluate and select a new system, or get more out of the one you
already have.

The key components of computer systems you may want to know about are:

 Hardware--the physical equipment itself.

 Software--the computer programs on tape or disk, and

 Online sources of information--such as current market and weather
 information and technical reports.

This publication offers guidelines to help farmers select hardware,
software, and online information. (See the glossary at the end of this
publication for definitions of specialized computer terms.)



=What a Computer Can Do for You=


You can use a microcomputer to help you--

Determine the most economical feed ration for dairy cows and other farm
animals.

Schedule irrigation,

Get quick access to records,

Keep machinery inventories and depreciation schedules,

Help with tax records and making out income tax returns,

Keep livestock breeding and production records,

Keep a record of loans and cash flow to meet interest and principal
payments,

Determine levels of earnings by working through a profit and loss
statement and by calculating a percentage return to capital and a
percentage return to equity,

Decide the optimum production choice for a particular farm in a given
year, and the optimum combination of inputs to grow the crops or
livestock chosen,

Store large amounts of data, and

Get current market and weather information if the microprocessor
is connected via the telephone to data bases (see section on online
services).

Software programs are also available in such areas as financial
management, crop and field records, mailing lists for customers of
certified seed and breeding stock, machinery purchase versus custom
hiring, investment feasibility of building and livestock facilities,
commodity price charts and tables, income taxation, marketing, soil
conservation, and integrated pest management.

The computer and its associated software packages can help you do four
kinds of work: (1) store and manipulate records, (2) provide analyses
for management decisions, (3) control machines or monitor production,
and (4) communicate faster with other people through their computers
and data bases.


=Recordkeeping=

Many experts recommend that you start on a small scale, computerize
one thing at a time, and learn as you go along--rather than trying to
put information on your entire farm operation into the computer all at
once. A good place to start is with farm records.

You can use microcomputers to keep track of financial records--such as
cash flow, bank balances, accounts payable, accounts receivable, net
worth statements, costs, and returns--as well as other records--such as
livestock breeding and production reports, crop and field records, and
mailing lists.


=Farm Management Analysis=

After computerizing the farm records, the next step would be to do
simple analyses on the microprocessor. A good place to start is by
analyzing data already stored in the computer or available in the files.

For example, you could use the recordkeeping capabilities of the
computer to record and depreciate equipment, and to decide whether it
is cheaper to lease or buy farm equipment.

General software is available to help you with accounting and
bookkeeping, basic business functions.


=Process Controllers=

Besides analyzing farm management problems and storing data, computers
have another key use--as process controllers. They can control such
devices as pumps and gates, record milk output per cow, and control
grain drying.

To save water and energy, some farmers have switched to sophisticated
irrigation scheduling by programing their computers to read the
moisture in the soil, the weather, and the humidity, and to provide
information on a plant's age and irrigation needs. The computer then
tells the farmer when to water a crop and for how long--and can even
turn the water on and off.


=Telecommunications=

You can also use a computer as an up-to-date source for communication,
linking you to banks of information that are available almost
instantaneously from public and private online information sources.
With the computer hooked up to the telephone, you can get information
quickly, receive it visually, and record it in detail if you wish.

Some key information sources are listed on page 20 of this bulletin.


=Other Uses=

Farm families can use microcomputers the same way other families do--to
plan the family budget, keep an inventory of household furnishings,
keep track of recipes, keep mailing lists, turn lights and heat on and
off, type homework and other documents, learn new skills, and play
games.



=Computers on the Farm=


Most of the computers farmers are getting are microcomputers, also
called home computers or personal computers. They are the basis of the
"computer revolution" that has been occurring since the late 1970's and
they are the focus of this publication.

Many farmers, especially the owners of the larger farms, already
have computers. But you don't have to be a large farmer to afford a
microcomputer. Computers can be useful in almost all areas of a farming
operation--helping you decide what, when, and how to plant; how to
sell; and how to arrange the farm business to be more efficient and
more profitable.

The computer can supplement the calculator, typewriter, and file
cabinet. And it can send and receive written or graphic messages by
telephone (in most areas of the country) that might be too long or
complex to do verbally.

A computer can be very useful when repetitive analyses are needed or
when data storage is important, as with financial records or daily milk
output per cow.

More and more, farming requires sophisticated management decisions and
management of basic resources, including land, water, labor, production
inputs, and capital. These are the kinds of decisions the computer can
help you make faster and more cost-effectively.

Although a computer program for your farm operation could make
recordkeeping and analysis easier and improve your ability to manage,
it might be hard to measure these improvements in dollars. But the
dollars you save by having better information on when to sell a crop,
how to monitor the business, and how to diagnose a problem before it
gets out of control might pay for the computer. Farmers and ranchers
with large feedlot or other livestock operations might find that a feed
formulation program could cut costs enough to pay for the computer
system within a few months.



=How to Choose a Microcomputer System=


Should you buy a microcomputer? How do you decide on a system that's
best for you? Here are some factors to consider in making these
decisions.

The first step is to think about your needs. What would you do with
your computer system? How would you actually use it to help you run
your operation better? List your primary needs, the important things
you want to do right away with your computer. Then, think of secondary
needs--things you might do in the future once you have a computer.

Once you've identified your needs, the next step is to shop around--to
find some software that fulfills your needs and to see some systems in
operation. Go to computer stores or get in touch with the salespeople
in your area. You could decide to have custom programs written for your
operation, but they will be significantly more expensive than programs
that have already been developed.

Talk to other farmers, ranchers, extension and university specialists,
and business people who are using microcomputers. Find out what
software they are using. Do some research (by reading books or
magazines, taking a course or seminar, or visiting a trade show) so
you'll be an informed customer when you shop seriously.

Many computer experts strongly recommend against buying a computer
first and then shopping for the software packages. So identify your
needs and select the software packages or materials that will help you
do what you want to with your computer. Then find the hardware to run
the programs.


                    =The Computer Revolution=

    "The advent of computers to farm management ... is already underway
    and seems likely to have a powerful influence," said USDA historian
    Wayne Rasmussen in 1982. "The computer should lead to more efficient
    management of machines and energy and should help in other farming
    operations such as cost accounting, mixing feed rations and applying
    fertilizers and other resources efficiently. Some farmers now have
    computers of their own, and many others have access to computer
    systems through their county agricultural agents," Rasmussen pointed
    out.

    The computer can be seen as the "third revolution" in American
    farming. The first revolution was the use of the horse, which added
    animal power to human power. The second was the switch from the horse
    to the tractor, which again expanded the power an individual could
    wield. But the computer is a different kind of technological advance
    because it adds to the farmer's power to manage.

    By 1990, the computer will probably be as important a part of a
    commercial farmer's operation as the pickup truck. Farmers may flip
    on their computers first thing in the morning--instead of their
    radios--to get the latest market prices. They can get a rundown
    on weather and growing conditions for major worldwide production
    areas; pertinent data on prices, market conditions, credit terms,
    transportation and storage rates, and related forecasts; and finally
    a list of priorities each day to take advantage of these conditions.

    Getting the right system--the combination of hardware (the physical
    equipment) and software (the computer programs)--is the problem
    farmers must solve before they can make the most of the computer
    revolution.



=Strategies for Getting Into Computers=


If you're interested in getting your farm's operations computerized,
and you're just starting, you could choose various strategies for doing
so. One way is to first buy the basic hardware and components you think
you need, and then add memory and other components later. If you do
that, be sure you can add additional disk drives, memory, and a printer
to your computer, all at a reasonable cost.

What can you do with a small computer once you outgrow it, and you want
to get a bigger one? You might want to use your older computer in a
small, specialized farm operation, or keep it to retrieve and analyze
records that you stored on the old equipment. Other alternatives would
be to trade it in on a larger computer, advertise to sell it through
the local want-ads, trade or sell it to a friend or neighbor, keep the
small computer for someone else in the family (perhaps a game-playing
youngster), or donate it to a local school or religious or charitable
group and take a tax write-off.

The farm of the future may have many computers, some for specific
functions such as irrigation scheduling or dairy operations, and one
for financial records. Having several computers would help farmers deal
with the problem of malfunctioning computers, so that the whole farm
would not be shut down if one computer goes down.



=Alternatives to Buying a Microcomputer=


You might consider alternatives to buying a computer. You may be able
to lease one to see what it will do for you, and use it until your
needs make it worthwhile to buy one. Prices keep coming down. The best
time to buy is when you find you can profitably make use of a computer.
Even though it becomes technically obsolete, it will still do for you
what you purchased it for.

A programmable calculator may be an appropriate tool that is much less
costly then a microcomputer.

If you like what a computer can do for your operation but aren't ready
to buy one or to use it yourself, you might hire a consultant to help
you select an appropriate system. Or you might retain an accountant or
computer consultant to run the financial analysis programs you need.
This kind of service gives quick results, and relieves you of having to
do it yourself.



=Information available From Your County Extension Agent=


State Cooperative Extension Services are helping States provide
computers for county offices. Many State Extension Services already
have computers in nearly every county Extension office.

If you are considering buying or leasing a computer system, or want
software or timesharing services to make the most of the system you
have, a good place to go is to your State or county Extension office.
In many States, county Extension offices have terminals connecting them
to mainframe computers; some have microcomputers which give them access
to information on crop management, animal production, and marketing.

The county Extension staff can tell you what is available online in
your area that is tailored to your kind of farming and your region.
The Extension staff will also be able to tell you the software
programs applicable in your State. Many State Extension offices have
publications on computers, and others have or are developing online
information networks linking farmers and other users to the State
university mainframe computer and its data base.

State Extension specialists are a logical place to start when looking
for software that is appropriate to your needs. Many State Extension
computer and agricultural experts have produced software materials that
are available, and the county agent will know about them.

In some cases the county Extension office can lend you software. If
you don't have a computer, the Extension office may be able to run
programs for you, choosing the appropriate software available and
plugging in the precise conditions and problems on your farming or
ranching operation. Or they may be able to use the computer to search
for information you need, perhaps communicating with a large State,
regional, or national data base.

As lower cost computers with improved software have become available,
an increasing number of people are turning to their State Cooperative
Extension Services for training in computer fundamentals, equipment
selection, and software evaluation. County agents can help people find
what is available, but they probably will not be preparing software
programs themselves.



=How to Select Software=


The key criteria for selecting good software are the following: Does it
meet your needs? Does it do what it says it will do? And does it have
good support documentation?


=Checklist for Evaluating Software=

Here are some factors to consider when evaluating and comparing
software:

=Documentation.= Look at the "documentation" or the written
(paper) materials that come with your program. These should explain
clearly what the program does and what you have to do to use it.

=Ease of Use.= Is the program fairly easy to use? Does it guide
you through the program?

=Instructions.= Another factor you should consider in evaluating
software is the instructions. Are there instructions in the program or
in the written documentation? Are they readable? You should be sure you
understand how to operate the program.

=Help.= What help can you get if you run into problems? Does the
program have a "help" function? When you don't know how to answer a
question or need help, can you turn to a separate part of the computer
program or to a part of the accompanying documentation to answer your
question? Is there a company phone-in service you can call if you need
help?

Some software programs may come to you with bugs (errors) in them. Find
out what backup services are available. Is there a hotline you can call
for help if the program has a problem you can't solve? Does the company
provide updated versions periodically? Are they free or at nominal cost?

=Compatibility with Hardware.= Is the software compatible with
hardware you already have, or does it run on an operating system you
can use with your hardware?

Some computers use tape cassettes, like audio tape you use on a tape
recorder. The most standard storage medium for programs and data is
the floppy diskette, which looks like a soft phonograph record. The
diskette comes in several sizes--the most common are 8 inches and 5¼
inches. A newer possibility is the 8-inch hard disk. The hard disk may
be used for storage, but you buy the software on a floppy disk and
transfer it.

=Memory.= Does your computer have enough memory to run the program?

=Recommendation.= Does the program come from a reputable source,
or does it come with a recommendation from someone you trust?

=Effectiveness.= Does the program do what you want it to do
correctly and consistently?


=Where to Look for Good Software=

Where do you find good software? Some farmers and ranchers write their
own programs or pay a programmer to write a custom program. But most
get existing programs either from State Extension sources or from
commercial outlets.

Many operations farmers need to perform on a computer can be done
by using generalized software packages readily available through
commercial sources.

Check with your County Extension Agent. He or she may know of the
programs that have been tailored for your operation. The Extension
Service has published a directory of agricultural software programs
produced by State Extension Services, entitled "Updated Inventory of
Agricultural Computer Programs."[A]

[Footnote A: To order a copy, send $3.50, payable to the University of
Florida, to

  Administrative Services
  Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) Bldg. 664
  University of Florida
  Gainesville, FL
]

There are also various private directories of software that is
compatible for particular equipment. You can get these programs at
computer stores or through mail-order sources. Many trade journals
carry ads of agricultural software vendors.

The land-grant university in your State may have computer programs
available for farmers at nominal cost. Many States have produced
extensive computer software. There are also many commercial software
houses that produce computer programs in the field of agriculture. The
best programs are written by people who combine strong expertise in the
agricultural subject matter with the ability to write good computer
programs that are relatively "friendly" or easy to use.

The 1980's have seen a big jump in the number, quality, and
friendliness of agricultural software. But you still need to evaluate
carefully the programs you are considering. Remember that software
selection and evaluation are important factors to consider when
planning a computer system for your farm.



=Compatibility Counts=


Computers and marriages should share one thing in common:
Compatibility. If it's not there, the system won't work.

Not all hardware and software are compatible. In fact, hundreds of
producers of computer equipment and computer programs are in the
market, and there are few across-the-board standards. So it's important
to get hardware and software that are compatible.

Software, or the computer programs themselves, are not like records
that can be played on any record player. They have to be compatible
with the hardware in terms of the programing language used, operating
system, size, format, and other factors.

Try to find a store in your area where you will get the expertise you
need to obtain the right combination of software and hardware to meet
your needs.

When you buy a computer, find out whether it comes with a standard
operating language that will allow you to use a wide variety of
programs written in different languages on your computer. Even then,
you may find that a disk that supposedly works with that operating
language will not work on your machine.



=How to Select Hardware=


=Checklist for Evaluating Hardware=

Here are some factors to consider when evaluating and comparing
hardware:

=Software.= The first questions to ask are, "What software do you
plan to use?" and "Which computer will run that program?"

Does the computer come with a standard operating system so that it will
be compatible with a range of software programs?

=Memory.= How much memory, or information storage capacity, do
you need? The computer's memory is measured in kilobytes (abbreviated
K), and most computers come in sizes ranging from 2K up to 256K. (A
kilobyte is equal to roughly 1,000 characters.) You need to know the
software program you will use and your recordkeeping requirements to
accurately estimate the capacity of the equipment you need.

Some agricultural programs use 48K or 64K of memory. User friendly
programs, which require little training to use and which guide you
through the program, may be easier; but they may require more memory
for the program itself, leaving you less storage space or memory for
the data.

=Computation.= What kind of computational ability do you want
your computer to have? Will it serve the computing needs you have
identified for now and later?

=Input and Output Devices.= What kind of output do you need? What
additional pieces of equipment or peripherals (such as separate screen,
disk drive, modem, printer) will you need to buy to make this system do
what you want it to?

Most agricultural programs require a printer. A dot matrix printer
(which produces characters made of small dots) may be sufficient.
Another option is a letter quality printer, which is more expensive.

How big a screen do you need? (Screens are measured in characters and
in inches.) Do you need an 80-column or 40-column monitor? Do you need
color and strong graphics capability? What quality screen image do you
need?

Can you add memory and other components later if you need to?

=External Storage.= What kind of external storage does the system
use, floppy disk, hard disk, or tape? Cassette tape storage costs less,
but compared to disk storage, it has several disadvantages.

If the hardware uses floppy disks, is the disk drive included as part
of the computer package or does it come separately? Is a second disk
drive included in the package or does it come separately? What kind of
a disk drive(s) do you need, single or double density? Hard or floppy?

=Training.= What training is available in the use of the new
equipment?

=Backup and Maintenance Services.= What backup and maintenance
services are available from the vendor or other sources, once you've
bought this computer?

What happens when the computer is down (not working)? Does the company
or store from which you plan to buy offer a service contract, and how
much does it cost? Will you have to carry your computer to their site
for servicing, and how long are you likely to be without it? How far
away is your dealer and where will the computer actually be serviced?

It's important to buy something that you can have fixed fairly quickly
and cheaply, since elements of your system, especially the mechanical
parts, may well need repair at some time.

=Value.= What equipment and software programs come with the basic
package, and are these items included in the base price?

Compare prices carefully, considering the components and software you
are getting for a particular price. Do not buy on the basis of price
alone, but consider also the reliability of the equipment and the
vendor, and the service you will be getting to set up, maintain, and
support your system.


=Where to Look for Good Hardware=

Many buyers get their computers at specialty stores that handle
computers and other electronics. Some handle only one brand of
computer. It's worthwhile to shop around and see various systems. The
big national department store chains sell computers, too. Talk to
your neighbors about what they're using, and be sure to get hands-on
practice with systems you are considering.

Try to find a reputable dealer who can offer backup support. Consider
the pros and cons of getting all equipment from a single vendor
versus shopping around for peripherals from different manufacturers.
A reliable dealer who handles several brands can help you make this
decision.

Check with your Extension office. It may have a State publication on
computers or a checklist for buying one.


=Types of Hardware=

Farmers are using several different types of computers. Besides the
microcomputer, which is the most widely used, other kinds of farm
computers include interactive terminals, videotex terminals, handheld
processors, and minicomputers.

A microcomputer can be used as a stand-alone unit, working on its
own with a software disk or tape. Or it can be connected to outside
information sources if it is equipped with a device known as a modem,
which allows the computer to communicate with other computers over the
telephone. The modem turns the computer from an information processor
and storage machine into a piece of communications equipment.

An interactive terminal has no data storage capability but is linked
to a central computer through the telephone. This is called a "dumb"
terminal because it can receive, display, and send information, but it
cannot process that information. Programs and data are stored in the
central computer and the user pays a fee to access the system.

A videotex keyboard terminal can be connected to a telephone jack
and any television set. The user can request and receive any kind of
information stored in the central computer. Some of the online services
use this type of equipment (see section about online information
systems on page 20).

Many farmers are also using handheld programmable calculators. These
are convenient to use in the field, and can record often repeated data,
such as daily milk production. They have little memory (usually 2K) and
their output can be printed on 2-inch paper tape. They are much cheaper
than the microcomputer.

Farmers use them to record daily milk production, formulate dairy
and beef rations, estimate value of dairy forages, estimate cost of
operating farm machinery, and calculate depreciation and investment tax
credit.

Some very large farm operations use minicomputers, which are larger,
have more memory, can do more functions than the microcomputers, and
can support multiple users. However, the newer microcomputers have more
memory and more functions, and the difference between minicomputers and
microcomputers has narrowed.


=Computer System Components=

[Illustration: Printer; Display Screen; Telephone/Modem; Disk Drive;
Floppy Disk; and Central Processor with Keyboard]



=Components of a Microcomputer=


One way to understand how a microcomputer works is to see its key
components.

The =central processing unit= (CPU) is the silicon chip that is
the "brain" of the computer. It does all the computation and controls
all the other processing.

The CPU stores =memory= of several kinds. Part of the memory
is wired into the computer permanently by the manufacturer. This is
called Read Only Memory (ROM). It contains such things as the operating
system and program language. Random Access Memory (RAM) is the memory
bank that includes the computer program or instructions, as well as
the data. Your storage devices--tape cassettes, floppy disks, or hard
disks--that store computer programs and data, are sometimes called
external memory.

The computer system also needs =input devices= and =output
devices=. Your keyboard is an input device; disk drives and tape
drives are also input devices. The output will probably be a cathode
ray tube (CRT), which looks like a video monitor. The printer is the
other output device you may choose to include in your computer system.

Make sure the microcomputer has an adequate number of input and output
ports for future needs.

If you use your computer for communications, you'll need a telephone
=modem=.

Here is a possible shopping list of hardware for a farmer's starting
microcomputer system:

CPU (computer) with 48K or 64K of memory.

CRT or monitor with adequate character width for the programs you plan
to use.

One or two disk drives, either 5¼ or 8 inches in diameter.

Dot matrix printer (optional).

Modem for communication with large computer (optional).



=Try it Out=


Be sure you try the system you plan to buy. Test run on a sample
problem the hardware and software combination you are considering
using. See if you think the solutions the computer puts out are what
you need.

If you insist on a thorough demonstration of the material you are
considering buying, you can evaluate it in terms of its ease of use and
the usefulness of its analysis.

If you're thinking of buying a new software package for a computer you
already have, ask to try it out first. Some software distributors in
the public sector will give you a trial period to make sure the program
is satisfactory and runs on your equipment. Or you may be able to
obtain a demonstration disk. At least, try out new programs with the
same microprocessor, printer, and screen you use to make sure they will
work on your equipment.

It's useful to have software evaluated by a reputable source--for
example your local county Extension agent, State Extension specialist,
or a neighbor who has had experience.

"Let the buyer beware" is a good motto to remember as you shop around
for a computer system.


                 =Getting Comfortable with Computers=

    If you can use a typewriter, you can use a computer. Most
    agricultural program's do not require particular math or technical
    skills, just a knowledge of your farming operation and the ability
    to think in a logical, orderly way. Most new programs are user
    friendly; they ask you questions in plain English, and you type the
    answer on the keyboard.

    A good way to feel comfortable with computers is to try one out at
    your local computer store, or at fairs, conferences, or workshops
    at universities.



=Computers Need an Investment in Time and Money=


In addition to considering the cost of a computer system, consider the
time and effort it takes to learn the equipment and the programs, and
to keep records. Who will be operating the microcomputer? Does he or
she have the patience and skills to learn to operate the computer, and
to enter the large amounts of data that will be required initially?

The computer may save time and money. Many farmers find that they don't
save time but they accomplish more in the time they do spend. Don't
underestimate the amount of time and effort it will require to collect
data, make sure it's accurate, enter the data, and run the analyses.

It's important to consider how user-friendly the computer is, and how
much the computer's software will do to guide you through the analysis.

A computer will do calculations very quickly, perhaps saving hours of
laborious figuring. A computer will store information from one time
period to the next, and recalculate alternatives quickly. By making the
information available, it will help you identify strong and weak points
in your operation.

However, these functions will depend on your data. If the records you
use in making a computation are incomplete, for example, the computer
cannot fill in the gaps for you nor overcome inaccuracies in the data.



=Information available Online From USDA, State, and Private
Sources=


You can transform your own microprocessor or other computer into
a powerful communications device by adding a modem to it and
communicating over the telephone.

This will help you gather information on news, weather forecasts,
emergencies or disasters, crop and livestock production, and marketing
(including current and future prices).

Online computer services also include buying and selling farm products;
purchasing farm and home supplies, including teleshopping; banking
services; business management advice; ordering theater tickets;
information concerning farm and public policy; and personal education
and entertainment.

Many farmers who are computerizing their operations, as well as others
in agriculture, can use some form of online information. There are
more than 1,300 public and private information sources available
on computer. New ones seem to come out every week. The following
selected list of information you can receive on computer includes some
of the major private online information services with agricultural
applications, as well as the main ones available from USDA and the
State land-grant institutions.

Most of these information networks are paid for by the user based on
the amount of use. Many charge an initial fee, and then most charge the
user by the amount of time he or she spends on the system.

No one computer system or online system may be adequate for everyone.
There are many good systems, and different systems are good for
different tasks.


=1. AGNET=

AGNET is a major online information and problem-solving service for
farmers, ranchers, agribusinesses, and homes. It is sponsored jointly
by five State Cooperative Extension Services--Nebraska, Montana, North
Dakota, South Dakota, and Washington--and operated by the University of
Nebraska. County Extension offices in several States participate, and
farmers in nearly all the 50 States and Canada subscribe to AGNET.

It helps people make marketing and production decisions and solve
agricultural management problems, and it provides current information
on market conditions and news items. It offers cash and futures
market reports, international market reports from the U.S. Department
of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), reports
and report abstracts from the USDA's Economic Research Service and
Statistical Reporting Service, and market comments by Extension Service
economists. Also available are electronic mail service and electronic
conferencing, which allows groups of users with similar interests to
share ideas and information.

Farmers and ranchers who have computer terminals with communication
capability can access AGNET. Others can tap into AGNET through their
county Extension services. AGNET subscribers are typically agricultural
lenders and bankers. Extension specialists, farm managers, home
economists, agricultural consulting firms, farmers and ranchers, and
exporters of agricultural commodities.

  ADDRESS: AGNET
           University of Nebraska
           105 Miller Hall
           University of Nebraska
           Lincoln, NE 68583


=2. AGRICOIA=

AGRICOIA is an online information service produced by the National
Agricultural Library (NAD of USDA), and is available commercially from
a number of sources (including DIALOG and Bibliographic Retrieval
Services). It provides comprehensive access to information on published
literature pertaining to agriculture.

AGRICOIA is the catalog and index for NAL and covers materials
published since 1970. It includes about 1.5 million citations.

AGRICOIA contains citations to worldwide published books, serial
titles, and journal articles on agriculture and related subjects. In
addition to bibliographic citations of published literature, the system
offers information through several specialized subfiles; these subfiles
include brucellosis (BRU), environmental impact statements covering
1977 and 1978 (ENV), and the Food and Nutrition Information Center,
which emphasizes human nutrition research and education and food
technology (FNC).

Librarians are the main users of this system.

  ADDRESS: To find out more about AGRICOIA, contact:
           Educational Resources Staff
           National Agricultural Library
           Room 1402
           Beltsville, MD 20705


=3. AgriData Network=

AgriData is a private information and computing network specializing in
agriculture. It offers immediate access to more than 10,000 pages of
continuously updated business, financial, marketing, weather, and price
information, as well as analyses and recommendations from its own and
other reporters, analysts, economists, meteorologists, and researchers.

It offers several different services, including an online computing
service that allows users to access a library of microcomputer software
programs that can be transferred to the user's microcomputer; an
agricultural production technology service offering data bases from 40
land-grant universities and from agricultural, chemical, fertilizer,
equipment, seed, and feed companies; an "electronic yellow pages," or
product service directory for farmers; and electronic mail.

  ADDRESS: AgriData Resources, Inc.
           205 West Highland Ave.
           Milwaukee, WI 53203


=4. Agri-Markets Data Service (AMDS)=

Agri-Markets Data Service is an agricultural data base service offered
by Capital Publications in Arlington, Va.

The service provides market information, such as prices and shipments,
as well as commentary and other information. It gives daily and weekly
market commentary on local and national market activity in livestock,
grain, fruits and vegetables, and poultry and dairy products.

  ADDRESS: Agri-Markets Data Service
           1300 North 17th St., Suite 1600
           Arlington, VA 22209


=5. AMS Market News Network=

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has a Market News
Telecommunications System that reports up-to-the-minute information
on commodity prices, demand, and movement. The system transmits
between 700 and 900 different reports each day on more than 150 farm
commodities. Each report is re-transmitted an average of 30 times. The
initial use of this market news system is to transmit reports to the
news media and among market news offices; firms and individuals may
also subscribe at their own cost.

In addition, AMS and the Public Broadcasting Service deliver market
information directly to farmers via a television captioning system
called Farm Market INFODATA, available in several cities around the
country. By selecting a special channel on a closed captioning decoder,
anyone within the broadcast coverage area of the participating public
television station may receive the market information. Additional
stations in a number of States have instituted this service on their
own.

For more information, contact:

           AMS Communications and Operations Branch
           Administrative Services Division, Room 0092
           U.S. Department of Agriculture
           Washington, D.C. 20250


=6. AutEx Systems=

AutEx Systems designs and operates computer-based communications
systems which link buyers and sellers in specific industries. Two
agricultural services are its Produce Network and its Floral Marketing
Network.

Subscribers to the networks use AutEx supplied terminals to access
a nationwide communications network that includes buyer and seller
offers. This online data communications system offers pretrading
information. The terminal prints information needed to compare buying
and selling opportunities in fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as
floral products. The company is owned by Xerox.

  ADDRESS: AutEx Systems
           55 William St.
           Wellesley, MA 02181


=7. Chase Econometrics=

Chase Econometrics, a subsidiary of Chase Manhattan Bank, offers
economic and financial information and analyses in the areas of
industrial economics, energy, fertilizer, minerals, international
economics, U.S. economics, and agriculture through its information
system. Data and forecasting services on agribusiness cover
international, national, regional, and statewide levels. Subscribers
receive regular reports and analyses, and also have access to a number
of historical and forecast data bases acquired through internal
data collection activities or from other organizations. Many of its
customers are large food and agribusiness firms.

  ADDRESS: Chase Econometrics
           150 Monument Rd.
           Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004


=8. CMN (Computerized Management Network)=

Developed by Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University as a
national information system for use by State Extension Services, CMN
helps Extension workers in solving problems, retrieving information,
and evaluating programs. To date, many CMN programs have provided the
foundation for several highly successful Extension programs. Two of the
most popular are the Simplified Dairy Cattle Feeding Program, which has
had a substantial impact on the economics of feeding dairy herds, and
COIN, which provides low-cost user access to USDA reports on marketing,
futures, and summary information on all major crops and livestock
enterprises. The CMN system is designed to be used by people who have
no special training with computers, and is available nationwide and in
Canada.

  ADDRESS: CMN
           Virginia Cooperative Extension Service
           Plaza I, Bldg. D
           Blacksburg, VA 24061


=9. COIN (Computerized Outlook and Information Network)=

COIN is a nationwide source of information from the Extension Service,
which can be accessed by State and county extension staff, as well as
by researchers, farmers, and agribusiness. It contains USDA outlook,
market, and other information on a national computer network.

Information from the USDA which is available through COIN includes
Statistical Reporting Service (SRS) Crop Reporting Board reports.
Economic Research Service (ERS) economic situation summaries. World
Agricultural Outlook Board reports on world agriculture supply and
demand. Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) weekly roundup of world
production and trade reports. Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)
summary of daily grain market prices, and USDA news releases.

Some States use a multi-State computer network, or an in-State
computer system, or both, to transfer agricultural outlook and
production information to county offices and disseminate it to the
general public. State Extension outlook specialists load their outlook
analyses directly onto COIN (with a remote terminal) many times
throughout the year.

COIN is available on the Computerized Management Network (CMN) and
through USDA ONLINE (see those entries on this list).


=10. CompuServe=

CompuServe Information Service offers access to more than 500 data
bases. Some of the subjects of particular interest to farmers include
agribusiness, agricultural news, finance and investment, news, weather,
specific commodities including cotton futures prices and cattle prices,
and the Commodity News Service data. It also offers electronic shopping
and banking, electronic mail, hobby and special interest newsletters,
and games.

  ADDRESS: CompuServe Incorporated
           5000 Arlington Centre Blvd.
           Post Office Box 20212
           Columbus, OH 43220


=11. CRIS--Current Research Information System=

CRIS--Current Research Information System--is a computer based
information storage and retrieval system. It covers most of the
Nation's publicly supported agricultural and forestry research, and
contains about 30,000 summaries of research projects. The data base
is updated monthly. CRIS summaries provide information about ongoing
research projects conducted or sponsored by USDA research agencies,
58 State agricultural experiment stations, 17 State forestry schools,
28 schools of veterinary medicine, 16 land-grant colleges of 1890,
Tuskegee Institute, and other cooperating State institutions. It went
online in 1977.

Through this retrieval system, an individual can obtain a brief
description of the research, along with the investigators' names,
performing organization and location, current progress, and a list of
the latest publications resulting from the research.

CRIS inhouse search services are provided primarily to research
scientists and research managers in USDA and State participating
institutions. The public can directly access the CRIS data base through
the DIALOG online retrieval system.

Researchers in public and private institutions are the main users of
CRIS.

  ADDRESS: Customer Service
           DIALOG Information Retrieval Services, Inc.
           3460 Hillview Avenue
           Palo Alto, CA 94340


=12. DRI (Data Resources, Inc.)=

DRI is a private forecasting service with regional models that forecast
acreage planted and harvested, and yield for all commodities. This
service does independent forecasts of production, prices, and demand
for livestock, and has a separate program for fertilizer. DRI has
software programs for potato producers. Some of its main clients are
big agricultural supply companies and food processing firms.

  ADDRESS: Data Resources, Inc.
           24 Hartwell Ave.
           Lexington, MA 02173


=13. ESTEL (Extension Service Telecommunication System)=

ESTEL is a pilot project from the University of Maryland's Cooperative
Extension Service. It provides farmers with information via a
microprocessor or videotex equipment, which receives the information
and displays it on a video screen. The videotex equipment may be
cheaper to purchase than a microcomputer.

ESTEL provides current information on market news, local weather
conditions, pesticides, production information, and energy conservation
tips, as well as home economics and 4-H programs.

  ADDRESS: ESTEL (Extension Service Telecommunication System)
           Maryland Cooperative Extension Service
           University of Maryland
           College Park, MD 20742


=14. Farm Bureau ACRES=

The American Farm Bureau Federation has a program to provide marketing
information and advice for its members. Known as Farm Bureau ACRES,
this marketing information project involves several State farm
bureaus. AFBF members can retrieve information from the host computers
via telephone hookup and, at the same time, send messages to State
computers, thereby providing a two-way daily contact between State
coordinators and farmer-members. For more information, contact your
county or State Farm Bureau.


=15. Firsthand=

Based on French videotex technology known as "Teletel," Firsthand
is a transactional videotex system originally started by the First
Bank System of Minneapolis and now available in other areas too.
With this system, participants can access agribusiness bookkeeping
systems; weather, commodity, and financial reports; and domestic and
international news through a local telephone number. Clients can also
do their shopping electronically from a catalog, and obtain commodity
reports and other agribusiness information offered by other information
providers. They can see their bank statements and balances, make
transfers between accounts, and pay bills electronically.

  ADDRESS: Videotex
           220 Soo Line Bldg.
           Minneapolis, MN 55402


=16. Grassroots=

Grassroots is a Canadian videotex system that provides agribusiness
with comprehensive, up-to-date information. It helps farmers make
effective purchasing, operating, financing, and marketing decisions.
It offers market information on current and future prices of all major
agricultural commodities, and carries farm management programs as
well. It also offers information from companies offering products and
services of interest to agriculture, including material on chemicals,
fertilizers, equipment, real estate, seed, feed, grain, and livestock.
Material on financial services, banking, and insurance is updated daily.

  ADDRESS: Infomart
           164 Merton St.
           Toronto, Ontario, CANADA M4S 3A8


=17. Instant Update=

Instant Update is a timesharing information delivery system designed
for the Professional Farmers of America. The system offers its users
a variety of services and information, including electronic mail,
agribusiness news and analyses, weather reports, and technical
information.

  ADDRESS: Instant Update
           Professional Farmers of America
           219 Parkade
           Cedar Falls, IA 50613


=18. Market Data Systems, Inc.=

Market Data Systems carries information from 13 commodity exchanges for
the benefit of customers. It leases terminals on which to receive the
information.

  ADDRESS: Market Data Systems, Inc.
           3835 lamar Ave.
           Memphis, TN 38118


=19. NEMA (National Electronic Marketing Association, Inc.)=

NEMA offers marketing firms computerized marketing systems for many
agricultural products. It is a way of linking buyers and sellers
without having to first transport the products to market.

Electronic marketing enables buyers and sellers to negotiate
transactions in a public market while remaining in their own offices.
NEMA is developing several marketing systems for agricultural markets.
NEMA was developed by Virginia Tech Extension and Research staff in
cooperation with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Commerce
and AMS.

Through a telephone hookup to computer terminals in any location,
buyers and sellers are brought together at a specific time to determine
the price, on a competitive basis, for the products being offered
for sale. Prospective buyers can obtain written descriptions of the
products before sale time.

One pricing technique is a computerized auction process, where the
computer acts as the auctioneer. During the auction, the computer drops
the asking price until a bid is received, then raises the price from
that point until there is only one bidder left. At the end of a sale,
the highest bidders receive summaries of their purchases. The products
are shipped efficiently from seller to buyer.

State Cooperative Extension Services, producers' organizations. State
departments of agriculture, and other agencies have developed and
implemented NEMA, as well as some other electronic marketing systems in
the United States. Today computerized systems sell slaughter and feeder
livestock, cotton, and shell eggs.

This system is for market agents and buyers.

  ADDRESS: National Electronic Marketing Assn., Inc.
           P.O. Box 722
           Christiansburg, VA 24073


=20. NPIRS (National Pesticide Information Retrieval System)=

NPIRS is a nationally accessible online data base containing
information about all pesticides registered with the Environmental
Protection Agency, and indicating which are registered for use against
specific pests on specific crops or sites. States can also insert
information about State pesticide registrations. Purdue University
is developing the system under a cooperative agreement with USDA
and is managing the data base, which uses facilities provided by
Martin-Marietta, Inc.

  ADDRESS: National Pesticide Information Retrieval System
           Entomology Hall
           Purdue University
           West Lafayette, IN 47907


=21. Rural Ventures=

Rural Ventures offers courses and data, recommends solutions to
problems of small farmers, and promotes economic efficiency in
small-scale agriculture and food processing enterprises. It is a joint
venture by Control Data Corporation and other groups, which started
with a project in Princeton, Minnesota.

A Rural Venture project gives farmers the capability to determine the
optimum selection of crops, livestock, and equipment, and offers a full
range of computer-based education and training programs.


  ADDRESS: Rural Ventures, Inc.
           120 South LaGrande Ave.
           Princeton, MN 55371


=22. The Source=

The Source, a subsidiary of Reader's Digest, provides access to more
than 1,200 programs and services in a variety of subject areas,
including agriculture. It carries the Commodity News Service general
news reports and daily price activities for major commodities. The
system also supplies news and commentary on current business trends
along with updated listings of stocks, bonds, commodities, and futures.


  ADDRESS: The Source
           Source Telecomputing
           1616 Anderson Road
           McLean, VA 22102


=23. Telplan=

Telplan is a timesharing computer service with several interactive
problem-solving packages. Its agricultural programs are in the areas
of farm finance and animal nutrition, and it offers family finance and
human nutrition programs as well. It is operated by Michigan State
University and is available nationwide.


  ADDRESS: Telplan--Michigan State University
           Room 27 Agriculture Hall
           Department of Agricultural Economics
           Michigan State University
           East Lansing, Ml 48824-1039


=24. USDA Online=

USDA Online delivers news and other current information from USDA's
Office of Information. Services include the following reports as they
are released: (1) USDA national news releases about policy and program
announcements, (2) USDA regional and State news releases about program
announcements, (3) outlook and situation report summaries, (4) Crop
Reporting Board reports, report highlights, and summaries, (5) Foreign
Agricultural Service reports and announcements on foreign crops, world
production, and trade, (6) Economic Research Service report abstracts,
(7) a daily agricultural news summary called "AG a.m.," and (8) a
weekly "Farm Paper Letter" for farm magazine and newspaper editors and
others interested in the summary and highlights of USDA reports for the
week.

Through USDA Online, users can also access COIN (see p. 24-25) and
several other data bases. Another communications network available
to users of USDA Online is an electronic mail service linking
various offices at USDA and the State Extension Services, land-grant
Universities, State Departments of Agriculture, other Federal and State
agencies, and other organizations interested in agriculture.


  ADDRESS: News Division, Room 404-A
           Office of Information
           U.S. Department of Agriculture
           Washington, D.C. 20250


                        =Rural Telephone Lines=

    One question to consider when you are selecting a computer system
    to be used in a rural area is whether your telephone line is
    adequate for potential users in your area. You must have a private
    line. Line quality is also important; excessive line noise or
    dips and surges in power may cause the communications system to
    disconnect you.

    In the future, farmers will be able to get information by satellite
    rather than through the phone, which could eventually be a cost
    saver for those who are far from the information source.



=Other Computer Developments at USDA=


Besides online information services, there are several other computer
developments available through USDA that are of use to

farmers and ranchers. Many USDA agencies are using computers to
disseminate information. Here is a partial list:

Since 1981, the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) has been releasing
information electronically that previously had been distributed as
publications through the mail.

The FAS electronic information system includes agricultural trade leads
received from agricultural attaches relating to potential purchases of
commodities by foreign buyers.

The Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC), in cooperation with the
Extension Service, has developed two software packages to help farmers
make decisions about the kind and amount of crop insurance they will
need. ARCIE (All Risk Crop Insurance Evaluation) comes in "mini" and
"complete" versions.

Mini-ARCIE takes individual farm data and calculates a projected cash
flow under various yield conditions with and without crop insurance. It
takes about 15 minutes to run.

Complete-ARCIE, which takes about an hour, analyzes risk and loss
probabilities over an extended period. It prompts farmers to enter
expected prices and yields, and to include historical data.

Both programs examine the insurance options available--both public and
private--and show how these options compare and how they complement
each other. Federal Crop Insurance is currently available on about 30
major crops nationwide.

These programs are designed to run on most microcomputer models. Your
State Extension Service, State Vocational Education Office, or your
local crop insurance agent may already have the programs.

For further information, including how to obtain a copy of the program,
write to:

  The ARCIE Project
  Department of Agricultural Economics
  107 Agricultural Building
  Texas A&M University
  College Station, TX 77840

The =Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service= (ASCS)
is planning to put small computers into all its county offices starting
in 1985. They will keep lists of farmers and their acreage allotments
and bases, record set-aside histories, and record and maintain the
other myriad facts necessary to make the USDA farm programs work.
The system will keep farm records, addresses for mailings, election
registers, and records of payments. Even checks to pay farmers will be
produced by the decentralized county computer systems.

The computers will also be tied into State systems and a central
computer for some recordkeeping functions, and can be used for
electronic mail and other communications.

One function of the new system will be to mesh FAS trade opportunity
leads into the ASCS data base. This will permit a farmer or local
agribusiness person to go into the ASCS office and immediately learn
about trade leads reported by agricultural attaches. This program will
go into operation during the mid-1980's.

The =Economic Research Service= (ERS) releases its Outlook and
Situation reports through AGNET. Summaries of these are available
through USDA Online.



=Learning More About Computers on the Farm=


The computer field is changing so fast that it is difficult to keep
up with the changes. One way to keep current is to join a users group
for your particular brand of computer, or an agricultural users group.
Another way to get up-to-date information about new computer hardware
and software products is to read a private newsletter. Some of these
are:

    AgriComp
    1001 East Walnut,
    Suite 201
    Columbia, MO 65201

    Agricultural Computing
    Doane-Western, Inc.
    8900 Manchester Road St.
    Louis, MO 63144

    Agricultural Microcomputing
    Ridgetown College of Agricultural Technology
    Ridgetown, Ontario CANADA NOP 2CO

    Compu-Farm
    Alberta Agricultural
    Box 2000
    Olds, Alberta CANADA TOM 1PO

    Computer Farming Newsletter
    Lloyd Dinkins
    P.O. Box 22642
    Memphis, TN 38122

    Farm Computer News
    Successful Farming
    1716 Locust Street
    Des Moines, IA 50336

    Friendly Farm Computer Newsletter
    FBS Systems, Inc.
    P.O. Box 201
    Aledo, IL 61231



=Glossary of Computer Terms=


Listed below are some of the shorthand or jargon terms in the computer
field. Understanding these terms will help you discuss hardware and
software systems and their operation.

=ADDRESS:= A number specifying a particular location in the
computer's memory.

=BASIC (Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code):= A
relatively easy-to-use computer language that comes with most small and
personal computer systems.

=BAUD RATE:= The speed at which information is exchanged over
communications lines, generally expressed in characters per second. 300
baud is the most common rate. It is equivalent to 30 characters per
second.

=BINARY:= A two-digit numbering system based on the digits 0 and
1. It is the basis for calculations on all computers, and the basis for
storing and retrieving information, including alphabet characters.

=BIT:= The smallest unit of information the computer recognizes. A
bit is represented by the presence or absence of an electronic pulse, 0
or 1.

=BUG:= A fault or error in a computer program.

=BYTE:= A byte is composed of several bits, and is used to
represent one character--such as a letter, number, or punctuation mark.
The older microcomputer systems used 8 bits per byte, but the newer
ones are based on 16 or 32 bits per byte.

=CHIP:= A thin silicon wafer on which electronic components are
deposited lithographically in the form of integrated circuits.

=COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language):= A high-level
programing language widely used in business applications.

=COMPUTER NETWORK:= Two or more computers that are connected so
they can exchange information.

=COMPUTER PROGRAM:= A collection of instructions that together
direct the computer to perform a particular function.

=CP/M (Control Program for Microprocessors):= A popular operating
system for small computers.

=CPU (Central Processing Unit):= The part of the computer that
controls and organizes the operations of the other parts of the
computer and does the calculations.

=CRT (Cathode Ray Tube):= A video screen that can be used for
viewing output.

=DATA:= The information, such as numbers or letters, that are put
into the computer system.

=DEBUG:= To remove the errors in a computer program.

=DIAGNOSTIC:= A program for detecting and isolating a problem
or mistake in the computer system; features that allow systems or
equipment to self-test for flaws.

=DISK:= A revolving plate on which data and programs are stored.
Also called DISKETTE.

=DISK DRIVE:= A part of the computer system that reads and
writes material on the disk. It can be part of the main hardware or a
peripheral attached to the system.

=DOCUMENTATION:= 1. The instruction manual for a program
(software) or piece of hardware. 2. The process of describing a
computer program so others using the program can see how it works.

=DOWNTIME:= Any time a computer is not available or not working
because of a machine fault or failure. Downtime includes repair delay
time, repair time, and machine-spoiled work time.

=EDIT:= To change or add data to an existing document or program.

=FLOPPY DISK:= A small, flexible storage device made of magnetic
material. It looks like a soft phonograph record and is usually 5¼
inches or 8 inches in diameter.

=FORTRAN (FORmula TRANslation):= A computer language widely
used to solve scientific and engineering problems, mainly for large
commercial systems.

=GARBAGE:= Meaningless information.

=HARD COPY:= A printout on paper of information from the computer.

=HARDWARE:= All the physical parts of the computer system,
including the computer itself, the input and output equipment and
peripherals, and the physical disk or tape equipment. (The computer
programs are software.)

=INPUT:= The data that are put into the computer, or the process
of putting it in.

=INSTRUCTION:= A group of bits that designates a specific computer
operation.

=INTEGRATED CIRCUIT:= An electronic circuit or combination of
circuits contained on semiconductor material, or chip.

=INTERACTIVE:= A computer system that allows two-way communication
between the user and the computer.

=INTERFACE:= A piece of equipment used to connect two parts of a
computer system that cannot interact directly with each other.

=K (kilobyte):= A measure of computer memory capacity. Each K of
information is 1,024 bytes.

=LOAD:= To put data or programs into a computer.

=MAGNETIC TAPE:= A recording device used to store programs and
data. It resembles audio tape used in tape recorders.

=MEMORY:= That part of the computer that stores information. Also,
the external material, such as floppy disks, hard disks, or cassette
tapes that store information.

=MICROCOMPUTER:= A small computer in which the CPU is an
integrated circuit deposited on a silicon chip.

=MICROPROCESSOR:= A silicon chip that is the central, controlling
part of the computer.

=MINICOMPUTER:= A computer that is usually larger, more powerful,
and more expensive than a microcomputer, but is smaller than a
mainframe in memory and functions.

=MODEM (MODulator/ DEModulator):= A device used to attach a
computer or one of its devices to a communication line, often a
telephone.

=OPERATING SYSTEM:= A special group of programs which controls
the overall operation of a computer system. It mediates between the
hardware and the particular software program.

=OUTPUT:= The information generated by a computer.

=PERIPHERAL:= A device, such as a CRT, disk drive, or printer,
used for entering or storing data into, or retrieving it from, the
computer system.

=PRINTER:= An output device to print the information from a
computer.

=PROGRAM:= A set of coded instructions directing a computer to
perform a particular function.

=PROGRAMING LANGUAGE:= A special language of words and rules that
is used to write programs so the computer can understand them.

=RAM (Random Access Memory):= The portion of the computer's
memory in which data, instructions, and other information are stored
temporarily. Also called read-write memory.

=ROM (Read Only Memory):= The portion of the computer's memory
that contains information and instructions that are stored permanently.
This memory cannot be altered or added to.

=SEMICONDUCTOR:= A material such as silicon with a conductivity
between that of a metal and an insulator. It is used in the manufacture
of solid-state devices such as diodes, transistors, and the complex
integrated circuits that comprise computer logic circuits.

=SOFTWARE:= A general term for computer programs, procedural
rules, and sometimes the documentation involved in the operation of a
computer.

=SYSTEM:= The computer and all its related components, including
hardware and software, that work together.

=TERMINAL:= A peripheral device through which information is
entered into or extracted from the computer, usually with a keyboard
and an output device such as a CRT or printer.

=TIMESHARING:= A method by which more than one person can use a
computer at the same time at separate terminals.

=TURNKEY SYSTEM:= A computer system that has all hardware and
software installed. Supposedly, all you have to do is turn it on.

=WORD PROCESSING:= Typing, editing, storing, and printing text
with a computer.

       *       *       *       *       *

The mention of commercial products, services, or companies does not
constitute endorsement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If
additional computer services of interest to the agricultural community
are available, we would be glad to consider them for inclusion in
possible revisions of this bulletin.

       *       *       *       *       *


Transcribers Note

The title "Computor System Components" (p. 17) was changed to "Computer
...". Under COIN (p. 25) the reference to "Computer Management Network"
was corrected to "Computerized ...".





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "USDA Farmers' Bulletin No. 2277: Computers on the Farm" ***

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