You Don't have to be a dummy
by Alan Zisman (c)
1993. First published
in Our Computer Player, October 15, 1993
$14.95 (CDN), published by:
5755 Coopers Avenue
(416) 890-3300/890-9434 fax
Bill Gates' dream of a computer on every desktop is
pretty close to
realised, it seems. And that means an awful lot of people faced with
of control feeling, faced with that hunk of glass, steel, and silicon
One result has been the invasion of the dummy books.
the runaway success of Dan Gookin's bright yellow DOS for DUMMIES,
we now see
racks upon racks of WORD PERFECT for DUMMIES, WINDOWS for IDIOTS,
shelves of every mall bookstore. Presumably, we'll be seeing MACINTOSH
MORONS in 7-11 any day now.
Canadian Richard Maran has been publishing his own
series of beginners
computers guides since 1990, anticipating the current fad by a couple
years. His family-run company, MaranGraphics, has 10 volumes under
release, with several titles nearing completion, all as part of the
First Sight' series. A distribution deal with giant Prentice Hall has
resulted in sales of over half a million copies around North America.
I looked at two recent releases in the series:
MS-DOS 6.0". Both are attractively slim volumes, with each page printed
full colour. Each features a
series of two page layouts, typically designed like a map or blueprint.
the top of each page is a menu-bar, just like in much modern software,
listing the chapters of the book; the highlighted menu item shows the
Some of the 'dummy' books pad their contents with
jokes and anecdotes
Hey", I hear you thinking, "That sounds like this Zisman guy's
This series, however, gets right to the point... the text is brief,
accurate, a difficult trick with a subject like computers. Because
material is presented visually, points can be made more quickly than
text alone. This integration of text and full colour graphics is the
strength of these volumes.
This volume starts off a new user on a PC-clone
computer; while we might
claim that the basics apply to a Mac or Amiga, this clearly targets
as its readers. The chapters cover all the usual suspects: hardware
software, the basic hardware parts... from cases to keyboards, mice
adapters. Less common add-ons, scanner, sound cards, and modems are
discussed. Disks, CD-ROMs, and tape backup are looked at, as are
and networks. A section on software starts with operating systems,
time to DOS, Windows (don't write to tell me it's not an operating
please), and OS/2, then briefly looks at word processing, spreadsheets,
databases, and DTP.
As you can see, it covers a lot of ground, very
quickly. I've been looking
Winn Rosch's excellent "Hardware Bible", a 1992 Brady book, which
or less the same ground, but takes 1060 pages (and no pictures), to
the Maran book does in a richly illustrated 120 pages. Rosch is
bit more detail, of course, and aiming at a non-beginner audience.
someone just starting out, "Computers Simplified" has just the right
combination of expertise and clarity... and with its attractive
every double-page spread, is very easy to pick up.
This volume follows MaranGraphics earlier versions,
with the surprising
titles "MS-DOS 5.0" and "MS-DOS", which covers versions through 4.01.
older versions are still available). Again, we get the same
colour layout, complete with menu-bar on top of the screen... er, page.
Again, it covers familiar ground, in a quick, but
clear manner: introducing
the command line, managing directories, files, and diskettes. The
Shell is given full attention, along with the new DOS 6 features: the
help, backup, data protection, and disk management features are all
The Edit and Q-Basic programs are ignored, as are
issues of system setup
configuration (including the new MemMaker program). These are of less
relevance to beginning users, however, although I do think that even
users can learn what AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS are without being
MaranGraphics is promising a pair of expanded editions
on MS-DOS 6,
Windows 3.1, which should be available "any day now" (though at an
price of $24.95). Perhaps the larger MS-
DOS version will fill in these gaps.
If you're new to computers, or if you aren't, but get
asked a lot of
questions, you'll find that both of these books provide good
an affordable price. And you won't have to hide them in public, out
that people will think you're a "dummy".