Hardware is the physical parts of the computer system – the parts that you can touch and see. A motherboard, a CPU, a keyboard and a monitor are all items of hardware What is Software? Software is a collection of instructions that can be ‘run’ on a computer. These instructions tell the computer what to do. Software is not a physical thing (but it can of course be stored on a physical medium such as a CD-ROM), it is just a bunch of codes. An operating system such as Windows XP or Mac OS X, applications such as Microsoft Word, and the instructions that control a robot are all examples of software.
The Difference Between Hardware and Software? Computer hardware is the physical components that make up the computer system. Hardware is useless without software to run on it. Software is instructions that tell computer hardware what to do. Software is useless unless there is hardware to run it on.
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For a computer system to be useful it has to consist of both hardware and software. Central Processing Unit (CPU) The CPU is the ‘brain’ of the computer. It is the device that carries out software instructions. The Pentium processor made by Intel is an example of a CPU.
CPUs usually plug into a large socket on the main circuit board (the motherboard) of a computer. They get very hot when they are operating so usually have a large fan attached to their top to keep them cool. Random Access Memory (RAM) Random Access Memory (RAM) is the part of the computer that temporarily stores the instructions that the computer is running, and the data it is processing. RAM is a volatile storage device. This means that if the computer’s power is turned off the contents of RAM disappear and are lost. RAM, like the CPU, also plugs in to sockets on the motherboard.
When a computer is in use, its RAM will contain Read-Only Memory (ROM) Read-Only Memory (ROM) is used in most computers to hold a small, special piece of software: the ‘boot up’ program. This software runs when the computer is switched on or ‘boots up’. The software checks the computer’s hardware and then loads the operating system. ROM is non-volatile storage. This means that the data it contains is never lost, even if the power is switched off. Graphical User Interface (GUI) A GUI is an interface built around visual (graphical) things. Windows are regions of the screen used to display information.
Icons are small pictures that are used to represent folders, software, etc. Menus are lists of options the user can select from. A pointer is an arrow that can be moved around the screen and is used to select things. Windows XP is an example of an operating system with a GUI. GUIs are quite easy to use due to the visual nature of the interface – the user has lots of visual clues as to what things do. However, to display all of the nice graphics required by a GUI takes a lot of computing power so quite a powerful computer is needed. Mainframe Computer
A mainframe computer is a large computer, often used by large businesses, in government offices, or by universities. Mainframe computers are typically: Powerful – they can process vast amounts of data, very quickly. Large – they are often kept in special, air-conditioned rooms. Multi-user – they allow several users (sometimes hundreds) to use the computer at the same time, connected via remote terminals (screens and keyboards). Laptop Computer A ‘laptop’ computer is a light, compact and portable PC. Laptops contain a rechargeable battery so that they can be used even when not plugged in to a mains power supply.
They also have a built-in LCD monitor. To make them as portable as possible, most laptops try to avoid any sort of cable or wire. Instead of a mouse, a track pad is used. Instead of a wired connection to a network or printer, ‘wireless’ radio connections are used. MICR Reader Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) is a technology that allows details from bank cheques to be read into a computer quickly and accurately. The cheque number and bank account number are printed at the bottom of each bank cheque in special magnetic ink using a special font. An MICR reader can detect these numbers.
OMR Scanner Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) is a technology that allows the data from a multiple-choice type form to be read quickly and accurately into a computer. Special OMR forms are used which have spaces that can be coloured in (usually using a pencil). An OMR scanner can then detect these marks. Common uses of OMR are multiple-choice exam answer sheets and lottery number forms. OCR Scanner Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is a software technology that can convert images of text into an actual text file that can then be edited, e. g. using word-processing software).
The result is just as if the text had been typed in by hand. OCR is typically used after a page of a book has been scanned. The scanned image of the page is then analyzed by the OCR software, which looks for recognizable letter shapes and generates a matching text file. Advanced OCR software can recognize normal handwriting as well as printed text – this is usually called handwriting recognition. Sensors A sensor is a device that converts a real-world property (e. g. temperature) into data that a computer can process. Examples of sensors and the properties they detect are…
A sensor measures a specific property data and sends a signal to the computer. Usually this is an analogue signal so it needs to be converted into digital data for the computer to process. This is done using by an Analogue-to-Digital Converter (ADC). Sensors are used extensively in monitoring / measuring / data logging systems, and also in computer control systems. SensorWhat it Detects TemperatureTemperature LightLight / dark PressurePressure (e. g. someone standing on it) MoistureDampness / dryness Water-levelHow full / empty a container is MovementMovement nearby ProximityHow close / far something is
Switch or buttonIf something is touching / pressing it Printers Dot-Matrix Printer A dot-matrix printer is named after the pattern (a grid or ‘matrix’) of dots used when creating the paper printout. Dot-matrix print quality is poor, the printers are noisy, and there are much better printing systems available today. However, the dot-matrix printers are still used in certain situations: Since the pins actually hit the paper, several ‘carbon-copies’ can be printed in one go. An example of this is airline tickets, which have several duplicate pages, all printed in one go.
The print mechanism is very cheap, and the inked ribbons last for a long time. So, where cheap, low-quality printouts are required, dot-matrix printers are used. An example is shop receipts. Inkjet Printer Cheap, high-quality, full-color printing became available during the 1980s due to the development of ink-jet printers. Ink-jet printers are very quiet in use. Since they have so few moving parts they are also cheap to manufacture and thus cheap to purchase. However, the ink is very expensive to buy (this is how the printer companies make their profits! ) so the printers are expensive to use. Laser Printer
Laser printers are very complex devices, and thus expensive to buy. However they are very cheap to use. This is because they produce marks on paper using a fine dust called toner that is relatively cheap to buy. A single toner cartridge will often last for 5,000-10,000 pages of printing. The laser printer uses a complex system, involving a laser, to make the toner stick to the required parts of the paper. (This system is very different to a dot-matrix or ink-jet, and you don’t need to know the details. )The laser and toner system allows very fast printing compared to other printers (just a few seconds per page).
Plotter Plotters create hard copy in a very different way to printers. Instead of building up text and images from tiny dots, plotters draw on the paper using a pen. The pens are held in an arm which can lift the pen up or down, and which can move across the paper. The arm and pen create a drawing just like a human could, but much more accurately and more quickly. Different coloured pens can be used to produce coloured line drawings. Designers and architects often use plotters since they work with huge pieces of paper, far bigger than anything a normal printer could work with…
Why Backup Your Data? If you delete a file by accident, your computer breaks, your laptop is stolen, or your business burns to the ground, having a backup copy means that you have not lost your precious data. You can recover your lost files and continue working. Most businesses use computers to store very important data (customer records, financial information, designs for products, etc. ) If this data is lost, the business could possibly have to close. Backing-up business data is essential. How Are Backups Created?
Personal backups of the data on your hard-drive can be made by…Burning files to a CD-R. Copying files to an external hard-drive. Copying the files to another computer on a network. Businesses backup essential data by…Making copies of data very regularly. Using large-capacity media such as magnetic tape. Keeping old copies of backups, just in case. Automating the system so that nobody forgets to do it! Keeping backup media off-site (in case of fire or theft) What is a Network? A network is two or more computers, or other electronic devices, connected together so that they can exchange data.
For example a network allows computers to share files, users to message each other, a whole room of computers to share a single printer, etc. Network connections between computers are typically created using cables (wires). However, connections can be created using radio signals (wireless / wi-fi), telephone lines (and modems) or even, for very long distances, via satellite links. Local Area Network (LAN) A Local Area Network is a network confined to one building or site. Often a LAN is a private network belonging to an organisation or business.
Because LANs are geographically small, they usually use cables or low-power radio (wireless) for the connections. Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) A wireless LAN (WLAN) is a LAN that uses radio signals (WiFi) to connect computers instead of cables. At the centre of the WLAN is a wireless switch or router – a small box with one or two antennas sticking out the back – used for sending and receiving data to the computers. (Most laptops have a wireless antenna built into the case. )It is much more convenient to use wireless connections instead of running long wires all over a building.
However, WLANs are more difficult to make secure since other people can also try to connect to the wireless network. So, it is very important to have a good, hard-to-guess password for the WLAN connections. Typically, the range of a wireless connection is about 50m, but it depends how many walls, etc. are in the way. Wide Area Network (WAN) A Wide Area Network is a network that extends over a large area. A WAN is often created by joining several LANs together, such as when a business that has offices in different countries links the office LANs together.
Because WANs are often geographically spread over large areas and links between computers are over long distances, they often use quite exotic connections technologies: optical fibre (glass) cables, satellite radio links, microwave radio links, etc. Topologies The word topology means ‘arrangement’, so when we talk about the topology of a network, we mean how the different parts are arranged and connected together. There are three common network topologies… Bus Network In this type of network, a long, central cable, the ‘bus’ is used to connect all of the computers together. Each computer has a short cable linking it to the ‘bus’.
A bus network…Is cheap to install (just one long cable). Can be quite slow since all computers share the same cable when communicating. Will stop working if there is a break in the central bus cable. Ring Network In this type of network each computer is connected to a loop of cable, the ‘ring’. (If you took a bus network and connected the ends of the bus cable together, you would have a ring network. )A ring network…Can cope with a break in the ring cable since all computers are still joined together (it is now a bus network) Star Network In this type of network every computer is connected to a central device.
The device passes messages between computers. At the center of a star network you might use a hub (cheap, but slower) or a switch (more expensive, but faster). A star network…Is quite expensive to install (you have to buy lots of cable and the central device)Is very fast since each computer has its own cable which it doesn’t need to share. Can cope with a broken cable (only one computer will be affected). Will stop working if the central device breaks. Is the most common network topology. •Any computer that is to be connected to a network needs to have a network interface card (NIC).
Cables are still used in most networks, rather than using only wireless, because they can carry much more data per second, and are more secure (less open to hacking). •A hub is a device that connects a number of computers together to make a LAN. •A switch, like a hub, is a device that connects a number of computers together to make a LAN. •A router is a network device that connects together two or more networks. A common use of a router is to join a home or business network (LAN) to the Internet (WAN). •A proxy server is a computer setup to share a resource, usually an Internet connection.
A bridge is a network device that typically links together two different parts of a LAN. What is a Record? The set of data associated with a single object or person is known as a record. What is a Field, and what is a Field Name? You’ll see that each of our student’s records contain the same items. These items are known as fields. Each field has a field name. What is a Key Field / Primary Key? It is very important that every record in a database can be individually identified. We need to be sure that when we access a record, we are accessing the correct one. Analogue to Digital Convertor (ADC)
If you want to attach an analogue input device to a digital device such as a computer, you will need an analogue to digital convertor (ADC). A good example of a computer peripheral that requires an ADC is a microphone. When you plug a microphone into a computer, you are actually plugging it into an ADC which converts the analogue signals from the microphone into digital data that the computer can then process. Digital to Analogue Convertor (DAC) If you want to attach an analogue output device to a digital device such as a computer, you will need a digital to analogue convertor (DAC).
A good example of a computer peripheral that requires a DAC is a loudspeaker or headphones. When you plug a loudspeaker into a computer, you are actually plugging it into a DAC, which takes digital data from the computer and converts it into analogue signals which the loudspeaker then converts into sound. The Effect of These Devices on Our Lives Look at the list of devices above. Now try to imagine living without them – washing your clothes by hand! Life would be a lot tougher. Microprocessor-controlled devices mean that we have more leisure time to relax and enjoy ourselves instead of doing household chores.
We are able to communicate with people very easily using computers, mobile phones, etc. We can become part of online social networks, making friends with people from all over the world. Computers and Internet connections mean that many of the tasks that involved us leaving the house, for example, shopping for music, clothes or food, can now be done on-line. Online shopping gives us more choice of products and saves us time. It is also great from those who are unable to get out of the house easily, such as the elderly, or the disabled. Trailing Cables Computer equipment is often connected to lots of cables: power, network, etc.
If these cables are lying on the floor, they can cause people to trip over them. Solution: Place cables inside cable ducts, or under the carpet / flooring Spilt Drinks or Food If any liquids are spilt on electrical equipment, such a s a computer, it can result in damage to the equipment, or an electric shock to the user. Solution: Keep drinks and food away from computers Overloaded Power Sockets Plugging too many power cables into a socket can result in the socket being overloaded, overheating, and a fire starting. Solution: Never plug too many cables into a socket.
Always make sure there are fire extinguishers nearby Heavy Objects Falling Many items of computer equipment are very heavy: CRT monitors, laser printers, etc. Heavy items can cause serious injury if they fall on people. Solution: Make sure equipment is placed on strong tables / shelves •Use strong passwords to protect your user login account •Never reveal your login password to anyone else •Place a firewall between your computer and any network •Disconnect from networks when you are not using them •Encrypt any sensitive information (just in case they get in) Batch Processing
It is often not desirable to deal with a set of data inputs until a certain number have occurred or a set time has passed. So they are stored until the system comes online to process the data in one ‘batch’. The advantage of batch processing is that it can be done during less-busy times on the computer or jobs can be queued up in order to fairly share a computing resource such as a super-computer. The main disadvantage of batch processing is the time delay between collecting the input data and getting an output. It can also be frustrating to find out only later that a batch run has failed due to a data input problem. Good Luck!