Types Of Information Technology Standards

Hundreds of information technology standards exist that facilitate the construction of complex information systems, such as the World Wide Web or the NRDM. These standards specify everything from how hardware components can be assembled into computers to how computers communicate with one another over networks and the Internet, to what data they communicate and how they encode data so that programs can use the data after receiving them (Table 32.1). Many of these standards are mature, representing the culmination of work that began soon after computers were invented in the 1950s. Other standards are still evolving.Without the existence of the majority of the standards in Table 32.1, we could not have built the NRDM, nor for that matter could the retailers have built optical-scanning cash registers or national data warehouses.

The number of standards is daunting. Fortunately, if you are working in the field of biosurveillance, you can benefit from many of these standards without knowing a thing about them. You can take them for granted.

There are standards, however, that you cannot take for granted. In general, you cannot take language standards for granted. As with a human language, such as English, language standards in information technology are shared conventions about how two or more entities communicate. Two people who wish to communicate in English employ a common vocabulary of words, an agreed on grammatical structure, and other rules about English usage that fall under the rubric of semantics. Computers in biosurveillance systems must also talk to each other using a common vocabulary, grammar, and semantics. There are information technology standards that play the same roles as vocabularies, grammars, and semantics.

We focus the remainder of the chapter on the language standards with which you need to have a working knowledge (dark-gray areas in Table 32.1) and other standards with which you need passing familiarity (light-gray areas in Table 32.1). The standards in the core group are all language standards. The "passing familiarity'' group includes standards for data communication, networking, and representing knowledge.

1 These numbers are estimates with the exception of the number eight, which is the number of connections that the NRDM project had to build.

table 32.1 Information Technology Standards

"Architectural" Level

Thing Requiring Standardization

Example Standards


Memory chips and CPUs

Socket7, Slot A, Socket 423, Socket T, PAC611, SDRAM, DDR2

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