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Book Review
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  1. Kaun Banega IT-Savvy


  2. For other columns in Hindustan Times, click here.

Kaun Banega IT-Savvy

7th October 2001

Subhash Ghai in a book on IT? Yes, right there on page 50: ?Which Subhash Ghai film is the first Bollywood offering widely promoted on the Net?? As you reel to find the answer, don?t be surprised to bump into Mahatma Gandhi as well with the poser: ?Which company used his philosophy in one of its ads?? And soon you discover another computer company borrowed its name in 1982 from Transcendental Meditation.

Boldly claimed as India?s first IT quiz book, Macmillan India?s ?Know IT Better? surely lives up to its name. Yet the author, Giri Pickbrain Balasubramaniam, promises even more. According to his preface, the book and its translated versions would serve as an alternative tool of education and attempt to bridge the digital divide between audiences in urban and rural India.

Thus, not just students, but anybody curious about IT but too afraid to ask even one question, would find this book indispensable. For it asks, and answers, 500 questions that tease, stimulate, enlighten, amuse, entertain, and sometimes offer incredible insights into the world of IT. Each carefully-chosen question is like a postcard from a journey into cyberworld since its genesis. And each postcard tells a story.

The book indeed stands out in sharp contrast to conventional IT-related books that usually focus on a specialised topic and are meant as reference or how-to books for the technically inclined. Pickbrain?s book covers IT in its various aspects, its people, its history, applications, and even its impact in other industries, as well as in business, society, and culture. All this through simple quiz questions, and without cluttering the readers? mind with jargon.

The book?s greatest virtue is that it gives distinctive names and faces to the countless geniuses in India?s world-acclaimed IT manpower. As you trawl through the questions you at last discover many more equally-deserving individuals beyond Sabeer Bhatia, Premji, and Narayan Murthi. The Indian snapshots tersely bring the correct prospective on the significant but quiet and often unrecognised contributions Indians have made to IT. For instance, how many of us know of Mahesh Jayachandran, creator of ?Peacock and Maya?, India?s first commercial supercomputer based on the Linux operating system?

Nevertheless, Pickbrain?s endeavour is a book for the moment. In the rapidly changing IT world, what seems highly significant today might seem worthless the next year, even for trivia?s sake. For the glittering information highway that paves its way into the future cleverly takes attention away from the large wastelands of the past. The back cover proclaims the author is the acknowledged leader in hosting IT quiz shows in India, and also heads a team working on a comprehensive knowledge and quiz website that has won an international award. Ironic, then, that the book does not provide any interactive or supplemental information directly to its readers on this website. Pickbrain gallantly keeps the reader?s interest high through the book with his obvious wit and eccentric humour. For example, crash-prone computer users know the last resort to resurrect a computer that suddenly hangs is to press the Ctrl+Alt+Del keys on the keyboard to reset the PC. On a lighter note, asks Pickbrain, which Hindi film would you associate with the Ctrl+Alt+Del key sequence, and offers you the choice of Disco Dancer, Golmaal, Namak Haram, and Aakhri Raasta. Wish he had also offered ?All of the Above? as one of the choices to that one.


09 August 2002 © niyam bhushan


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