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Technology without the jargon

When a technical thing troubles you, just wait a bit. Michael A. Banks is probably writing a book that will make it all clear. Banks, of Milford, Ohio, is the author of The Modem Reference and co-author of Word Processing Secrets for Writers. Now he brings us his two newest books, Getting The Most Out of Deskmate 3 and Understanding Fax and Electronic Mail.

The 361-page DeskMate book is at Radio Shack stores for $21.95 and is also at Waldenbooks. Brady Books is the publisher. The E-mail book is $19.95, and Howard W. Sams and Co. is the publisher.

DeskMate 3 is the Tandy Corp.'s answer to one of the main irritations of current computing _ different command structures for every applications program. That makes about as much sense as different controls for acceleration and steering on every car. What DeskMate does is take a growing number of programs and bring them into the corral of a common DeskMate command structure.

For the user, that means once you learn how to get around in DeskMate you've learned how to use the other programs. DeskMate itself is a bundle of programs that cover most needs of ordinary computing, including word processing, graphics, calculator, note pad and calendar, filing system, telecommunications that will run on any reasonably equipped MS-DOS computer.

But with any software so versatile, you get the most use if you have a clear understanding of what features are available and exactly what button to push when. That's where Banks excels. A non-technical reader will find clear, logical, concise instructions delivered in a friendly tone with easy-to-read type and appropriate illustrations.

Understanding Fax and Electronic Mail is a nicely guided 271-page walk through the explosion of telecommunications that seemed to start about five years ago. Facsimile machines were around long before that, of course, and electronic messaging dates to the days of the telegraph. But for many of us, it seemed as though suddenly there were fax machines on every desk, E-mail networks sprouting like old potatoes _ and lots of confusion.

The book is a must-read for those in business, especially small business, who are about to buy telecommunications equipment.