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Faculty Forum Papers

November 1975 - Data Processing Vis-a-vis Word Processing
Patricia A. Wells, Director
Office Administration Program

October 28, 1975

It may be of interest to OSU staff and faculty to consider the similarities and dissimilarities between data processing and word processing. This paper is written to identify assumptions which word processing and data processing professionals and users may have that could cause confusion.

Data processing can be defined as a sequence of operations, usually mathematical, that are performed on facts and figures. Word processing can be defined as a sequence of operations, usually syntactical, which are performed on words.
The modern concept of word processing has been widely accepted in the business world as a means of gaining efficiency and cost reduction in the office. It is a proven technique, now finding many users in all levels of government.

Word processing involves the efficient use of procedures, equipment, and people with a systems approach to office management. Basically, word processing is a method of producing typed documents. The "documents" can be anything from a single page letter, to a report, or even a large publication. The common thread is that all of these "outputs" are created in the same basic way:

      1. The author originates the document by dictation, longhand, etc.
      2. The document is typed in a rough draft or final form on a typewriter.
      3. The typed document is returned to author for review and correction, or signature.
      4. The finished product is dispatched.

This activity must be done in an orderly manner to obtain efficiency which is how the term "system" applies.

Computer word processing is the utilization of computers in the information input, editing and output cycles involved in the creation of a document.

An example of the differing perspective can be seen in two views of the word processing facility. To a data processing professional the word processing facility might be seen as terminals connected to a central processor using a purchased software package for application programs or as automatic typewriters which can be programmed for numerous revisions. A word processing professional and user sees the same physical setup as a complete publishing function (albeit limited) using computer technology. The expectations from such a combination can be very high. The fact that these terminals are few in number should argue for very close management scrutiny to assure delivery of potential services. The first distinction of the data processor seeing the application as a small and the word processor seeing the application as large is not unique to just current and potential OSU applications and therefore should be readily addressed.

The following points are less apparent and therefore deserve more attention because of their somewhat hidden nature. First of all it is important to realize that word processing is automated (though more sophisticated reference may use the term "electronic") copy preparation regardless of the devices or procedures used.
A.      DATA  A.       TEXT
    1.   Characteristics
          Rigid Format
     1.    Characteristics
          As Needed
          Variable Format
   2.     Operationally Oriented     2.     Administrative Oriented
   3.     Output Receiver Oriented     3.     Input Preparer Oriented
B.      SYSTEMS  B.       SYSTEMS
   Develop once, produced
   multiple times
     Written once, revised multiple
   times, produced repetitively
   Input:    forms oriented      Input:    voice, fresh or marked copy
   Storage:    DPC function     Storage:    source or input functions
   Maintenance:    systems function     Maintenance:   source of input function or centralized
C.      RULES  C.       RULES
    Primarily numerically and logically
     Primarily grammatically and syntactically oriented
    Rigid      Ultra Rigid