Data Input : There are several aspects of data input that need careful consideration. We shall assume that in a laboratory environment you are mainly concerned with entering data via a keyboard. There are other methods which, although not frequently used, you may encounter:
(1) Optical character recognition - scanners that read text from paper directly into a computer;
(2) Scanners, e.g. for reading bar code information;
(3) Paper tape systems - old equipment;
(4) Analogue-to-digital converters - reading experiment. data from photoelectric cells in, for example, spectrometers.
At first sight, entering data into a computer might not seem problematical. Indeed, the mechanics of data entry are well tried and straightforward. However, from a management point of view there are several considerations.
First of all, there is the problem of access. This is often an acute problem in educational establishments where there might be an abundant supply of computers for teaching but a desperate shortage for management and administration. Sharing a computer terminal does not really work satisfactorily, and if a computer is to be a really useful management tool, it must be on hand at all times.
Another point to consider is that of training. Whoever enters data into your system, must know what they are up to. Otherwise it will not be long before the GIGO principle is brought into play. Adequate training is the cornerstone of good computer systems.
Coupled to both access and training is the problem of the time taken to 'key in' data. Consider the case of card index system being transferred to a computer system. At some stage, every character in the card index needs to be keyed into the computer. The computer system will not be any use until the transfer is complete and it may take months of time for keying- in the data. Even then there will be a need to update the data regularly which will require more time at the keyboard. Never underestimate 'keying-in' time. Working conditions are especially important in computer work, particularly if it is for protracted periods. You cannot, for example, put a computer on someone's desk one day and expect everything to run smoothly. Operating computers can be particularly tiring and stressful and hence it is worthwhile investing in proper furniture, ensuring that lighting conditions are suitable, and that noise and heat levels are kept under review.