Data processing


Bookmart distribute books for Eckener Verlag, a publisher in Hamburg. To improve efficiency, the managers in both companies want to install the same data-processing systems, so they can share information. In this lesson we find out how Bookmart's computer system works and look at ways of making data-processing systems compatible.


Frank Penny  
Terry Cabe  
George Harvey  
Trudi Hoffmann works for Eckener Verlag. She is German.
Dieter Krauss is Personnel Manager at Eckener Verlag. He is German.
Emmy Wolff is a Sales Manager at Eckener Verlag. She is German.


Vocabulary Computer applications; using a computer keyboard; networks.
Skills Explaining how to do something; using a computer; formal and informal discussion and argument.
Structures Emphasis; -ing forms; have to and will have to.
Documents A personnel record; an advertisement; electronic messages.

Instructing a new operator

8.1 Listen and read

Frank Penny is now Assistant Supervisor in the Dispatch Department. He is being visited by Trudi Hoffmann, from Eckener Verlag in Hamburg. Frank is demonstrating Bookmart's computer system. Listen to what they say. Notice that Frank is able to use technical terms without explaining them. Why?

FRANK Right. Let's get started then. Now, you've used a keyboard before?
TRUDI Oh yes! I've been using computers in my work for more than two years.
FRANK OK. I'll just run through a typical job see the meaning, the sort we do every day, and then I'll tell you a bit about the database and the hardware. Now, this is a menu-driven system, so - I'll just go back to the main menu see the meaning and we can start from the beginning - there. See? Here's our list of options - create a record see the meaning, update a record, sort records, print, delete and so on. Let's do an update. see the meaning
TRUDI Yeah - so now we get a message on the screen, it asks for the name.
FRANK It asks you to input a customer's name, yes. see the meaning So if I key in the name 'Martinu' see the meaning - that's one of our biggest customers - M-A-R, T-I-N-U, hit 'Return' see the meaning, and there it is! All the details of the account - exactly as they appear on the monthly statement.
TRUDI Right. So now, if the customer orders some books, you key in the particulars...
FRANK And the system updates the file and prints out all the paperwork as well. Look, I'll show you.

8.2 Explaining how to do something

In 7.5 you recorded two items on the statement for Harris's bookshop. Imagine that you are Frank Penny and that you are using this example to demonstrate to Trudi how to update the computer records. Write your explanation. Start like this:


8.3 Listen and read

Frank now shows Trudi how the computer system handles confidential data. Listen to what they say. What does 'confidential' mean in this case?

TRUDI What about access to confidential data? I mean personal information about the staff. For example, can you find out how much your boss gets paid?
FRANK Huh! I know exactly what my boss's salary is, without needing to ask a machine. But I see what you're getting at. All records are password-protected see the meaning, and there's three levels of protection. An office dogsbody see the meaning like me only knows the password for level one.
TRUDI And that means there are some records you can't read?
FRANK There are parts of each record I can't read, and there are parts I can read but I can't change. I'll show you. Er - now, whose...
TRUDI Let me. P-E-N-N-Y, 'Return'.
FRANK Oh no!

8.4 Document study

This is Frank Penny's record on the company database. Read it and answer the questions below.

1 How old is Frank?
2 In what subjects does he have the Certificate of Secondary Education?
3 What is his National Insurance number?

8.5 Listen and read

Frank continues to demonstrate the personnel records on the computer system. Listen carefully to what he and Trudi say.

TRUDI This is just the first screen, isn't it? It says 'screen one of three'. How do you move to the next one?
FRANK This'll do to be going on with. see the meaning
TRUDI How do you amend it, then? see the meaning
FRANK Well - suppose I give myself some exam qualifications. You use the cursor control keys to cursor down see the meaning to that line on the screen - when you get to the field see the meaning that needs amending, you just key in the new data. So - er - like that. The thing is, of course, I can't write that to the disk see the meaning - only Terry Cabe can do that, he's got a level-three password. Otherwise I could give myself all sorts of qualifications, couldn't I?
TRUDI Hm. 'BTEC Business Studies' - is that your secret ambition? What does BTEC stand for?
FRANK Oh, er - Business and Technical Education Council or some such thing! And then to delete it, you just hit the 'Delete' key and hold it down - it auto-repeats, of course. see the meaning
TRUDI Of course!

8.6 Reading for key words

1 When Frank holds down the 'Delete' key, what words disappear from the screen?
2 Frank has just finished deleting his imaginary exam qualification. Now he wants to change his date of birth. What is the first thing he must do?
3 How do we know that there is more information about Frank that we haven't seen?

8.7 Speaking practice: using the computer

Trudi Hoffmann now tries the computer, with Frank's help. Listen to what they say. Then listen again, and speak the part of Frank.

FRANK Right, let's go back to the main menu and we can start from the beginning.
TRUDI So, now we get a list of options. Suppose I want to update a record?
FRANK I've already explained to you how to do that.
TRUDI I know - you cursor down to where it says 'Update record', and you hit 'Return'. It works! And now it's asking me to key in the person's name?
FRANK No it's not - it's asking for the password, and I'll tell you. It's 'Dogsbody', D-O-G-S, B-O-D-Y.
TRUDI Does that give us confidential data access?
FRANK Well, it'll do to be going on with.

Planning to expand the system

8.8 Listen and read

Terry Cabe and George Harvey are visiting Eckener Verlag in Hamburg, to see how their computer system works. They are there as members of a working party on data processing. Listen to how they introduce themselves and compliment their hosts, and to how Terry Cabe corrects Emmy Wolff without making her feel silly.

GEORGE My name's George Harvey, I'm the Sales Manager, based at our distribution centre in Telford; and this is Terry Cabe, our Personnel Manager.
DIETER I'm Dieter Krauss, I'm really Terry's opposite number here in Hamburg see the meaning, and Fraulein Emmy Wolff looks after our sales in Germany and now also in Central and Eastern Europe.
EMMY Hello, how do you do - welcome to Hamburg.
TERRY May I say how delighted we are to be here and how much we're enjoying your hospitality.
GEORGE That goes for me too. see the meaning
DIETER Good. So let's get started. The purpose of this meeting, as I'm sure you are all aware, is to exchange information about our data-processing systems so that hopefully we can agree on organisation standards and, in effect, have a single databank which we can all have access to.
EMMY There would be other advantages too - off-spinners, I think you call them, Mr Harvey?
GEORGE Off-spinners? I don't think I'm quite with you ...
TERRY I think you mean spin-offs see the meaning, Fraulein Wolff. But you're quite right, and that's an important point. All Bookmart personnel - executives, anyway - would enjoy the benefits of an integrated electronic office system: electronic mail, electronic conferencing.
DIETER Electronic junk mail. see the meaning
EMMY We all know what to do with junk mail, I'm sure.

8.9 Listen and read

The meeting continues. Listen to what they say, and to how the two sides politely but firmly express their opposing points of view.

EMMY I think we agree that a data-processing standard is desirable. But how are we going to implement this? see the meaning
TERRY Oh, call in a reliable firm of consultants. We don't have the expertise to set up a new system from scratch. see the meaning
DIETER But it's really not a question of starting from the beginning. We simply need to adapt our data formats see the meaning, our procedures, so that they are compatible.
GEORGE If I may say so, Herr Krauss, I think there's more to it than that. Not only are our present systems incompatible see the meaning, they're obsolete see the meaning as well - which is much worse. With the huge expansion in the market, I mean with the end of trade barriers and so on, we've got to invest in technology. We're publishers and book distributors, we don't have the know-how see the meaning to buy and install a computer system ourselves.
EMMY Oh, don't we? Our system was designed and installed by our own engineers in 1985 and it's worked very well. Let me show you this.

8.10 Reading for key words

What words in 8.9 show us the following?

1 a way of organising and arranging data (two answers)
2 advanced technical knowledge (two answers)
3 from the very beginning
4 able to work together; not able to work together
5 the problem is not as simple as you make it appear
6 regulations that make it harder to import and export goods

8.11 Document study

Read the text below. Is it a magazine article about a new product, or is it an advertisement? Why is it not easy, at first, to be sure? What problem is NOBS intended to overcome?


The PC Network

As the price of hard disks falls, any workgroup for PCs win almost certainly consist of more than one hard disk. The best network solution for PCs is the distributed file server see the meaning, which combines distributed processing power, storage capabilities and file databases into a harmonious whole.

NOBS Network is the most user-friendly network for PCs see the meaning. By allowing any computer to share its files with any other, it makes every computer both optionally a server and a network station. And by distributing the serving, it increases the speed and efficiency of the network. NOBS also saves money because you do not have to purchase expensive dedicated see the meaning file-servers or hire a network administrator.

The Mixed Operating Systems Network

Many businesses with existing computer installations want to incorporate personal computers, so long as these can integrate see the meaning to their mini or mainframe equipment. NOBS is a unique multi-operating system network, providing networking, see the meaning peripheral sharing and file sharing between almost any hardware types and operating systems.

8.12 Making words

In English, you can use a number of nouns, or nouns and verbs, together, to form a group of words that behaves like a single noun. Some examples are:

a fact-finding visit
a cursor control key

These word groups still take a singular verb:

The fact-finding visit was a great success.
The cursor control key moves the cursor on the screen.

Look in the text of this lesson for word groups which mean the following:

1 A key that moves the cursor on a computer screen.
2 A word that lets the user pass to the third level of security on a computer.
3 A system which processes data.
4 Data which passwords protect.
5 A computer system which menus drive.

8.13 Reading for key words

George Harvey and Emmy Wolff made a list of requirements for the new computer system. Look at the list (1-6) and read 8.11 again. If the NOBS network satisfies the requirement, tick the item. What words in 8.11 tell you this?

The new system must be:

1 as cheap as possible.
2 economical to run.
3 reliable.
4 easy to use.

It must work smoothly with:

5 existing hardware.
6 many operating systems (we have several).

Introducing new procedures

8.14 Document study

Frank and Trudi can now send each other messages electronically. Read the messages below. Find words or phrases that mean:

1 as a result of
2 so much that
3 if ... not

a non-starter something that has no chance of succeeding.


8.15 Listen and read

Frank telephones Trudi to talk about the changes to the system. Listen to what they say. What phrase does he use to try to 'bully' Trudi into agreeing with him?

TRUDI Trudi Hoffmann.
FRANK Trudi? This is Frank, in Telford. Hi, how are you?
TRUDI Fine, thank you.
FRANK Listen, I'm ringing about this crazy expense account idea see the meaning that your boss has cooked up with my boss. see the meaning I mean, you do agree, don't you - that it is crazy?
TRUDI Well - no, I thought it made sense. I mean, the software we're using now can handle all the calculations - it'll even print the cheques.
FRANK That's no good. Only Accounts can issue cheques!
TRUDI Yes, but we're all on the same network, we can authorise the cheques and Accounts can issue them. The people who put in the claims still give us their bills and their credit-card receipts, so what's the problem?

8.16 Structure practice: emphasis

When Frank is trying to persuade Trudi to agree with him, he uses the emphatic:

You do agree, don't you?

You can use 'do' and 'did' with the base form of many verbs for emphasis:

You do know that he's already gone?
They did know because I told them.

Note that you do not use the past tense form of the main verb with 'did'. Now rewrite these sentences, adding 'do', 'does' or 'did' for emphasis:

1 You know that the meeting has been cancelled?
2 He understands how important this is?
3 She left before the meeting was finished.
4 I hope you'll make sure that people don't leave early.

8.17 Listen and read

George Harvey calls Frank in to give him some good news. Listen to what they say. How does Frank show that he doesn't want to seem to be too eager to agree?

GEORGE Frank. Thanks for coming in. Do sit down. I've - er - got something to say that I'd like you to keep to yourself for a few days. see the meaning You've been Assistant Supervisor now in Dispatch for - what, six months? Anyway, you seem to be doing a good job. Sadly, Elsie Donnell is retiring shortly, for health reasons. I was wondering whether you'd be interested in taking over.
FRANK Well...
GEORGE We've had our difficulties in the past see the meaning, I know, but I've got complete confidence in you.
FRANK I'd need to think it over.
GEORGE Quite right! I ought to mention that the board have decided to upgrade the post from Supervisor to Assistant Dispatch Manager. The only thing is, you will have to do a two-year part-time stock-control course.
FRANK I wouldn't mind doing that.
GEORGE Good! I'll get the paperwork started.

8.18 Structure practice: -ing forms

If you want to refer to an action, activity or process, you can use a noun based on the '-ing' form of the verb:

She studied computing at university.
Writing is important in all business activity.

Some verbs have a related noun which is not like an '-ing' form of the verb, for example:

We waited for the arrival of the train.

English speakers prefer to use the related form (like 'preference'), rather than the '-ing' form (like 'preferring').
In the text below, change the verbs in brackets into noun forms. Use your dictionary to check if the verb has a related noun form. The first two have been done as an example.

Somebody has to be responsible for the efficient (a) [process] and (b) [pay] of expenses claims. With the (c) [set up] of new departments and the company's (d) [expand] into Central and Eastern Europe, Trudi finds the present (e) [proceed] too slow, and she is pressing for its (f) [computerise]. Frank's (g) [reject] of this (h) [propose] will no doubt be dropped when he realises that (i) [promote] to (j) [manage] status could mean (k) [have] an expense account of his own, and (l) [pay] for the (m) [entertain] of customers in expensive restaurants just by (n) [write] his (o) [sign] on a slip of paper.


8.19 Structure practice: have to and will have to

We use 'have to' when we talk about something that is always necessary: 'Anyone who wants to travel abroad has to have a passport.' We use 'will have to' when we talk about a particular occasion in the future: 'If you want to come abroad with us next month, you will have to get a passport.' Both of these mean 'must'.

In the following sentences, change 'must' to 'have to' or 'will have to':

1 I'm going abroad next month, and I've lost my passport. - You must get a new one.
2 What happens if you lose your birth certificate? - You must get a new one.
3 I'm going to rent a car in Britain this summer. - You must drive on the left.
4 I'm going to take tomorrow off. - You must get your manager's permission.
5 The computer system in this place is obsolete. - It must be replaced.
6 I'm putting in my expenses claim, and here are photocopies of all the bills to support it. - That's no good. You must submit the originals.