No researcher worth his or her salt would draw conclusions first and do the experimenting later. Likewise, no scientist, no matter what the manufacturers say in their ads, should make a commitment to any particular brand of personal computer - and the operating system that goes with it - before considering the application needs of his or her laboratory.

People tend not to think first of the operating system because it is, so to speak, invisible - sitting quietly inside the machine but all the while issuing instructions that make computer operations possible.

As the first step in the operating system decision process, users should identify commercially available application programs that can, at least in theory, accomplish the desired results. They can do this by reviewing the literature available from a number of sources: newspaper and magazine ads and articles, professional meetings, and visits to stores and colleagues' laboratories. The...

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