The final decades of the twentieth century have been characterized by a virtual explosion of information and can justly be considered the "age of information." The invention and proliferation of the computer in all its configurations, from the CRAY supercomputer to the now-common, relatively inexpensive desktop personal computer (PC), coupled with the creation of new communication technologies, have made it a reality for those engaged in decision-making to acquire, manipulate, and evaluate ever-increasing amounts of information. The increase in availability of computer technology is evident in the dramatic decline in the cost of this technology over the last forty years. By way of comparison, the first computer, ENIAC, weighed over 60,000 pounds, occupied two stories and 15,000 square feet of a building, and cost almost $487,000 in 1947. As impressive as this was in 1947, today's average digital watch, costing only a few dollars, has as much or more computing power; and this chapter was typed on an Apple Macintosh computer that costs less than $1,200 and can perform mathematical functions over twenty times faster than ENIAC.
Computers produce a tremendous volume of information, but the value of this application of technology extends far beyond the mere generation of information. The real potential benefit to management will be the improvement of the quality of information generated and thereby the improvement of the quality of managerial decision making dependent upon that information. The generation of better information and use of that information in managerial decision making can lead to advantages in the competitive arena. This emerging concept of "information