computer literacy

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computer literacy

[kəm′pyüd·ər ′lit·rə·sē]
(computer science)
Knowledge and understanding of computers and computer systems and how to apply them to the solution of problems.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

computer literacy

Basic skill in use of computers, from the perspective of such skill being a necessary societal skill.

The term was coined by Andrew Molnar, while director of the Office of Computing Activities at the National Science Foundation.

"We started computer literacy in '72 [...] We coined that phrase. It's sort of ironic. Nobody knows what computer literacy is. Nobody can define it. And the reason we selected [it] was because nobody could define it, and [...] it was a broad enough term that you could get all of these programs together under one roof" (cited in Aspray, W., (September 25, 1991) "Interview with Andrew Molnar," OH 234. Center for the History of Information Processing, Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota).

The term, as a coinage, is similar to earlier coinages, such as "visual literacy", which Merriam-Webster dates to 1971, and the more recent "media literacy".

A more useful definition from is:

Computer literacy is an understanding of the concepts, terminology and operations that relate to general computer use. It is the essential knowledge needed to function independently with a computer. This functionality includes being able to solve and avoid problems, adapt to new situations, keep information organized and communicate effectively with other computer literate people.
This article is provided by FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing (

computer literacy

Understanding computers and related systems. It includes a working vocabulary of computer and information system components, the fundamental principles of computer processing and a perspective for how non-technical people interact with technical people. The term has been attributed to Andrew Molnar in the early 1970s. He was director of the Office of Computing Activities at the National Science Foundation.

Not the Electronics
Computer literacy does not deal with how the computer works (digital circuits), but does imply knowledge of how the computer does its work (calculate, compare and copy). It requires a conceptual understanding of systems analysis & design, application programming, systems programming and datacenter operations. It also implies hands-on ability to work the operating system (Windows, Mac, Linux) and common applications such as spreadsheets, word processors, database programs, personal information managers (PIMs), email programs and Web browsers.

Information Requirements Is a Key
To be a computer literate manager, you must be able to define information requirements effectively and have an understanding of decision support tools, such as query languages, report writers, spreadsheets and financial planning systems. To be truly computer literate, you must understand all the entries under "standards" in this encyclopedia, and that is a sure cure for insomnia!
Copyright © 1981-2019 by The Computer Language Company Inc. All Rights reserved. THIS DEFINITION IS FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY. All other reproduction is strictly prohibited without permission from the publisher.
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