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Computer Hardware and Software
Terms in this set (34)
Basic Computer Hardware
A computer gives you the advantage of producing work quickly and accurately. Computer systems serve a wide range of functions in businesses. Computers have made businesses more efficient by enabling the automation of business processes. For example, large supermarkets use online inventory management software to store and manage data. These businesses use computers to plan shop floor activities and carry out financial transactions. They also use computers to allocate work to employees and maintain records. Large corporations use computers to plan and budget operations. Some companies use computers to plan market strategies and advertise their products. They also conduct online surveys to determine the latest market trends. In organizations, you can communicate with coworkers through email or web chat. You can also send multimedia content, text, and graphics as email attachments.
Healthcare businesses use computers to conduct research and invent products. Doctors use computer networks to communicate with other healthcare professionals. Networks also help such professionals share information about new inventions and medical conditions. Hospitals use computers to automate their administrative operations, billing, and accounting. Doctors use computers to maintain medical records, perform surgeries, and monitor patients. For example, doctors use monitoring systems to continually track a patient's blood pressure. They also use these automated systems to monitor the heart rate and other vital signs. Many life-support devices, such as hearing aids and pacemakers, are computer-based devices.
Computer hardware and its components
The hardware components of a computer consist of the mechanical parts for input, output, storage, and data processing. Let's take a look at these hardware components.
Computer hardware consists of three basic components. They are an input device, an output device, and a processing or system unit. Input devices, such as the keyboard and mouse, help you enter data into the computer. Output devices, like a monitor, display the processed results. The input and output devices connect to a central core system. This central system is called the processing or system unit. This unit houses the components that process data. It consists of the central processing unit (CPU) and a storage unit.
The central processing unit, like the human brain, is the command center of the computer. This is where the computer acts upon and organizes data to provide information. The CPU consists of a control unit and an arithmetic logic unit (ALU).
The control unit manages the functioning of the CPU. It manages the flow of data and control between various parts of the computer. When an instruction involves an arithmetic or logic operation, the control unit sends that instruction to the ALU. A computer only understands data in the form of numbers. Thus, it converts any data into numbers before processing it. The computer processes the numeric data using a combination of arithmetic and logical operations.
The arithmetic logic unit (ALU), as the name suggests, is responsible for the execution of arithmetic and logical operations. This unit has two parts. These parts consist of the arithmetic unit and the logic unit. The arithmetic unit executes arithmetic operations, and the logic unit executes logical operations. The arithmetic operations that an ALU typically performs are addition and subtraction. To perform multiplication and division, an ALU uses repeated addition and subtraction operations. A logical operation is a comparison between two conditions. The outcome of the comparison determines the action of the computer.
Random access memory (RAM)
The CPU uses the RAM to hold the data that it needs for processing at any given point in time. The CPU's control unit decides what data is required from the different sources in the computer. These sources include the keyboard, various programs, and the ALU. The control unit then stores the data in the RAM for easy access and quick processing. When the computer powers off, it erases data in the RAM. Therefore, the RAM is also known as volatile memory.
Read-only memory (ROM)
The ROM stores data permanently. Data in the ROM is not lost when the computer powers off. The ROM stores instructions on how to operate various hardware components. When a computer powers on, the CPU checks the ROM to get directions for the startup. When the computer starts up, you see a display of commands and numbers on the monitor. This display is proof of the control unit reading and processing instructions in ROM. ROM contains read-only data—the computer cannot write or change data there.
Peripheral and Storage Devices
are external or internal devices that connect to the computer directly and help you access its facilities. They are not involved in the computing functions of the computer. Peripheral devices are classified as input/output devices and secondary storage devices.
Input and output devices:
The keyboard, mouse, trackpad, microphone, light pen, and voice recognition are examples of input devices. The keyboard helps you input data in the form of text, numbers, and commands. A mouse helps you select options or commands from the screen. On a laptop, you can use a trackpad in place of a mouse.
A microphone allows you to add audio inputs. A light pen uses light sensors to select items displayed on a computer screen. You can select a command by pressing this pen-shaped device against your computer screen. Some light pens offer side switches that you need to press while selecting a command. Voice recognition is a computer software program that allows you to input commands to a computer with your voice. The software converts your speech to precise text and displays relevant output. For example, you can tell the computer the website you want to visit, and the computer will open the website for you without you having to type anything using the keyboard. You can also provide video and images through a web camera or a scanner that scans text and graphics and inputs these into the computer.
The most common output devices are the monitor and the printer. A projector connected to a computer is also an output device. Speakers and headphones are examples of output devices that transmit sound.
Secondary storage devices:
Secondary storage devices enable you to store data and processed information even when the computer is powered off. Magnetic disks, CDs, hard disks, and flash drives are examples of secondary storage devices. A secondary storage device has two components. The first is the storage medium on which the device stores data. The other component is the unit storage device (or drive) that writes data or reads it from the storage medium.
Types of Secondary Storage Devices
There are two types of secondary storage devices; fixed and removable. In fixed storage devices, both the drive and the medium are integrated with the system unit. Removable storage devices use a drive in the system unit to enable insertion or removal of the storage medium. Secondary storage devices can be further classified based on the technology used. This classification includes magnetic, optical, or solid-state devices.
Magnetic storage devices
Magnetic storage devices use the principle of magnetism. Millions of tiny iron pieces coated on the surface of the storage medium act as magnets. In a magnetic medium, the poles of a magnet correspond with 1 and 0 of the binary system. The drive head magnetizes the iron particles to represent data as 1 or 0. An example of a magnetic storage device is a hard disk. A hard disk consists of many metal plates stacked on top of each other within the hard drive. The hard disk and its drive form a single unit, which is either fixed or removable. This unit consists of the disks, a motor, and a read/write head. Hard disks can store anywhere from 40 gigabyte (GB) up to 6 terabytes (TB) of data. One terabyte is equal to 1,024 gigabytes. One gigabyte is equal to 1.024 megabytes. Similarly, one megabyte is equal to 1,024 kilobytes and one kilobyte is equal to 1,024 bytes.
Optical storage devices:
focus a laser beam on a disk surface that acts as the storage medium. Some areas of the disk surface reflect light and others scatter light. The drive contains a sensor that detects the presence or absence of reflected light. It correlates the light with 1 and 0 of the binary system. Compact disks (CDs) and digital video disks (DVDs) are examples of optical storage media.
is a circular disk coated with a reflective material. The surface has a series of bumps and flat areas. These areas are arranged in a tightly wound spiral. They are readable by a laser in the CD drive. A CD can store up to 700 MB of data. A DVD is similar to a CD but has a higher storage capacity. Some DVDs can hold as much as 9.4 GB of data.
A CD-recordable drive enables you to write data to recordable CDs (CD-Rs). On the other hand, a CD rewritable drive enables you to write data to rewritable CDs (CD-RWs). DVD-recordable drives write data to recordable DVDs. Similarly, DVD-RW drives can record, erase, and rerecord data on rewritable DVDs.
Solid-state storage devices:
use special circuits or chips to store data electronically. These devices do not have any heads or sensors to read the data. Solid-state storage devices are faster and store more data than other storage media. However, they are more expensive. Flash memory, smart cards, and solid-state disks (SSDs) are examples of solid-state devices.
A flash memory device allows you to write and overwrite data. They are commonly found in digital cameras, memory sticks or flash drives, and multimedia players. A smart card is similar to a flash card. However, a smart card requires a special drive or a smart card reader to read, write, or revise data on the card. Smart cards look like credit cards but have a small chip embedded in them. Banks use these chips to improve security in debit and credit cards.
solid-state disks (SSDs) are chips that enable much faster access to data compared to ordinary memory chips. SSDs are used by organizations that require multiple users to access data simultaneously.
Business Application Software
enables a computer's hardware to perform tasks and functions as a platform for application software. It also acts as an interface between the computer's hardware and software. System software consists of various files and programs such as libraries, system services, and drivers. Many of these programs need users to start them. However, some of them run in the background without user involvement. Let's look at two major components of system software.
offers various tools to help you analyze and maintain the performance of a computer. Examples of utility software are antivirus software, disk cleaners, and data compression programs. Data backup and archiving programs are also utility software.
Operating system software
A computer's operating system software is the master program that controls the system hardware. It acts as an interface between the user, the application software, and the system hardware.
Single-user/single-tasking operating system:
This operating system allows only a single user to perform one task at a time.
Single-user/multi-tasking operating system
Personal computers (PCs) run on this operating system. This allows a user to perform multiple tasks simultaneously
Multiuser/multitasking operating system:
Here, multiple users can work with the computer's resources simultaneously
Real-time operating system:
is a multitasking operating system. It is designed for applications that generate output within a specific amount of time.
Operating systems use two types of user interfaces. These interfaces consist of a graphical user interface (GUI) and a command-line interface. A GUI enables you to work with an external input device on graphical objects. These graphical objects include icons and buttons. A command-line interface enables you to enter typewritten commands as inputs and it then executes them. Some of the more popular operating systems are MS-DOS and UNIX operating system. A few other operating systems are Linux operating system, Microsoft Windows, and Mac OS.
Functions of an Operating System
An operating system is responsible for managing and coordinating activities on a computer. Let's look at some of the basic functions of an operating system.
refers to the process of starting a computer. During this process, the operating system runs self-diagnostic checks to test the computer's components. Then, it loads the relevant programs to start the computer.
The memory management function allocates computer memory and central processing unit (CPU) time to various applications and peripheral devices.
The operating system acts as an interface or bridge between the user and the computer's hardware. It translates the user's instructions into machine language. The computer then executes the instructions to produce the desired output. Examples of user interfaces are command lines and GUIs.
The device management function involves basic computer tasks to manage peripheral devices such as a mouse or a keyboard
performs operations specific to the application. It does not handle primary functions of system software. Let's look at some common examples of application software.
These computer programs are digital versions of the manual typewriter. You can use a word processor to write, edit, print, and perform a variety of modifications to a document. You can also include images and videos in a document. Newer versions of word-processing programs provide file security and tools to protect documents against copyright violations.
helps you create and display worksheets containing data. A spreadsheet has rows and columns that crisscross to form cells. Users enter data, calculations, and formulas into these cells, and the program computes and displays the output. Spreadsheet programs also enable users to perform statistical functions. You can create charts and graphs for data analysis using spreadsheet software.
Think of a database as rows of shelves containing alphabetically arranged data files of the employees of an organization. You can access these files over a computer network and update them using database software. This software allows you to store data in tables, rows, and fields.
helps in presenting information in the form of slides alongside images or presentation graphics. For example, managers use presentation software to discuss financial performance with the help of slideshows and charts.
to play, create, and modify audio and video files. Graphics software, audio- and video-editing software, and media players are examples of multimedia software.
You have seen the different types of software available on a computer. Before you can use any software, you need to install it on your computer. Typically, when you purchase a computer, the system software needed to run the computer comes preinstalled. However, the user may need to install other types of software in order to use the computer effectively.
The user has the option to install the software with the help of a manual or through online resources. Manufacturers of software provide installation programs on CDs and DVDs. Installing from a disk is fairly simple, because the products include the Autorun feature. You only need to launch the Autorun feature and follow the prompts or instructions. Most installation CDs and DVDs come with a manual, which contains detailed steps for installing the software.
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