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By A. P. McCann (auth.), F. R. Vicary FRCP (eds.)

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Do not be persuaded to buy the "latest thing" in computer equipment simply because it is claimed to be faster, or have a greater memory, if neither of these features is important to the program to be used. The features to consider are the following: 1. Is the equipment reliable? If not then it may break down and cause difficulties when it does. 2. Can the hardware be easily supported locally? If not then it may be very expensive to maintain with considerable delays in sorting out any difficulties that arise.

In order to resolve these problems of support, and to provide an environment appropriate for such information exchange, hospitals will need to impose greater standardisation of their microcomputer database software. References Goodyear M, Jackson RRP (1985) Information technology for clinicians--some early experience. Curr perspect health comput, pp 203--207 Macrae FA, Williams CB, Cotton PB, Shervon PJ, Rose CJ (1984) A microcomputer-based patient endoscopy data and records organiser. Gastroenterolog Soc Aust June Williams CB (1986) Computers in clinical research.

B. Williams and N. Padmanabhan Introduction There are advantages to being "behind the times". In the 1970s our hospitals research records workers could only be jealous of colleagues in academic departments of gastroenterology in the United States and more advanced European countries, for whom hospital mainframe computer departments were providing database facilities unavailable to our 93-bed hospital. However, some frustrating experiences in trying to deal with the professionals of outlying computer departments suggested to us that having control of one's own computer and interpretation of its data had advantages in avoiding the misunderstanding, delays and misinterpretation that result from interfacing through human beings, rather than directly with the computer.

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