CeePrompt! Computer Connection

Originally published Monday, June 14, 1999

Reading, Writing and HTMLing

As part of the regular curriculum I teach for Computers and Information Processing at UOP, students are expected to create and publish their own web pages to the Internet. At the beginning of each semester, I inform the class that every student will have their own website published in cyberspace just four weeks from the first class meeting, as part of their required course work. They collectively stare at me aghast and dumbfounded, but in less than a month 130 students each has a unique presence on the Internet.

Knowing how to create web pages is an important aspect of the current computer technology curriculum because web-based documents are the wave of future business operations. Employment prerequisites will soon include knowledge of HTML, right alongside word processing and spreadsheet management. Employees will no longer be expected to simply create a memo. They'll be expected to create a memo, convert it to a web document and upload it to the company web server in a matter of minutes.

Companies are increasingly taking advantage of simple Internet technologies to create their own Intranets. Using the basic Internet protocol (TCP/IP), web servers and a regular web browser, companies can collaborate and share documents within a private, limited network, the same way documents are exchanged on the greater Internet.

Web pages, home pages, websites and the entire World Wide Web are essentially a collection of pure text documents coded in Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). Because TCP/IP and HTML are common standards, web pages can be easily shared among Mac, PC, UNIX, LINUX and other operating systems using a basic browser, such as Netscape or Internet Explorer. For this reason, Intranets make good economic sense as a business networking solution.

For example, Hewlett-Packard utilizes 200 internal Web servers that are accessed by 10,000 people for time scheduling, defect reporting, equipment requests and software configuration management. Weyerhaeuser Co., the Washington state timber giant, is abandoning the cumbersome three-ring binders in favor of putting policies, procedures and reports up on their company Intranet, called "Roots".

The Roots system at Weyerhaeuser lets employees directly access information such as human resources data, internal job listings and 401(k) balances. According to Clifford Hall, VP of Information Technology, "The Intranet is really going to help foster that teamwork notion because it allows people to get together in another way, irrespective of geography."

Ford Motor company has also built a company Intranet that connects its 80,000 employees worldwide. According to Ford executives, the comprehensive internal network "has transformed decades-old processes in a matter of months, in many cases letting people disseminate information, share best practices, conduct research, communicate and collaborate in ways they never could before".

These corporate giants are using the same technologies that UOP students use each semester to create their websites, only on a much larger scale. Whether it's a Fortune 500 company or a personal home page, the ABCs remain the same. TCP/IP, HTML, HTTP, and FTP may seem like cryptic scientific principles, but these concepts are truly easier to master than mathematics.

Clearly everyone is not destined to be a web designer nor is that the intent. Just because I can read and write doesn't make me Ernest Hemingway. But these basic literacy skills are necessary for my overall success. In the next millennium, job seekers who possess a basic knowledge of HTML and web page composition are going to have a distinct competitive edge over those who can simply word process.

Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at cschuler@uop.edu or cschuler@ceeprompt.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.

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