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Editorial

The Universal Interface

Donald G. Perrin

Mainframe computers revolutionized business by its incredible power to process, store, and retrieve information. Its strength, and its weakness, was its ability to share the power of one computer between hundreds of users. As more and more users were added, service deteriorated.

Then came the Personal Computer. Each user had his or her own processor and storage for programs and data. PCs became fast, powerful and affordable, even for small business and individuals. Windows made software friendly and easy to use.

Next came the Internet. The World Wide Web made the Internet easy to use and accessible to everyone who could use a computer. It opened up vast stores of news and information, powerful search engines, and instant communications. It had global impact. It toppled governments and leveled the playing field for the new global economy.

Transformations continue. The software that resides on your computer is being replaced by internet-based services that work through any browser. Names that ushered in the PC like Microsoft are being challenged by Internet giants like Google. For the user, this may be a perfect storm as the major players compete for our attention and our business.

These same forces are working within education. Distance learning technologies have global reach. As leading players compete, higher benchmarks are achieved for academic quality and learner services. Globalization promises to level the playing field with increasingly higher standards as academic giants emerge and compete. Some have already positioned themselves, like the Open University in Great Britain setting higher levels for quality and services, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by sharing its entire curriculum with the world for free.

In globalization, we need to grapple with old challenges in a new and more urgent way, like interfacing communications, business, and education with countries that have language, social, cultural, and economic differences. Education is already researching these areas as demonstrated by articles in this issue of the Journal.
 

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