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After completing this chapter, students will be able to: Explain why it is important to be computer literate Define the term computer Identify the components of a computer Explain why a computer is a powerful tool Differentiate among the various categories of software Explain the purpose of a network Discuss the uses of the Internet and the World Wide Web Describe the categories of computers and their uses

This chapter presents a broad survey of concepts and terminology related to computers. The idea of computer literacy is introduced. Students discover what a computer is and what it does. They learn about the components of a computer, the power of computers, computer software, and networks and the Internet. Categories of computers are identified, including personal computers, minicomputers, mainframe computers, and supercomputers. Students find out how people employ computers, from home users to large business users. Finally, they learn how people use computers to provide information. Reading and understanding the material in this chapter should help students better understand these topics as they are presented in more detail in the following chapters.


Chapter 1: Introduction To Computer

The vocabulary of computing is all around you. Before the advent of computers, memory was the mental ability to recall previous experiences; storage was an area where you kept out-of-season clothing; and communication was the act of exchanging opinions and information through writing, speaking, or signs. In todays world, these words and countless others have taken on new meanings as part of the common terminology used to describe computers and their use. When you hear the word computer, initially you may think of those found in the workplace - the computers used to create business letters, memos, and other correspondence; calculate payroll; track inventory; or generate invoices. In the course of a day or week, however, you encounter many other computers. Your home, for instance, may contain a myriad of electronic devices, such as cordless telephones, VCRs, handheld video games, cameras, and stereo systems, that include small computers. Computers help you with your banking in the form of automatic teller machines (ATMs) used to deposit or withdraw funds. When you buy groceries, a computer tracks your purchases and calculates the amount of money you owe; and sometimes generates coupons customized to your buying patterns. Even your car is equipped with computers that operate the electrical system, control the temperature, and run sophisticated antitheft devices. Computers are valuable tools. As technology advances and computers extend into every facet of daily living, it is essential you gain some level of computer literacy. To be successful in todays world, you must have a knowledge and understanding of computers and their uses. 1.2. WHAT IS A COMPUTER AND WHAT DOES IT DO? A computer is an electronic machine, operating under the control of instructions stored in its own memory, that can accept data (input), manipulate the data according to specified rules (process), produce results (output), and store the results for future use. Data is a collection of un-organized facts, which can include words, numbers. images, and sounds. Computers manipulate and process data to create information. Information is data that is organized, has meaning, and is useful. Examples are reports, newsletters, a receipt, a picture, an invoice, or a check. Data is processed and manipulated to create a check. Data entered into a computer is called input. The processed results are called output. Thus, a computer processes input to create output. A computer also can hold data and information for future use in an area called storage. This cycle of input, process, output, and storage is called the information processing cycle. A person that communicates with a computer or uses the information it generates is called a user. The electric, electronic, and mechanical equipment that makes up 1-2


Chapter 1: Introduction To Computer a computer is called hardware. Software is the series of instruction that tells the hardware how to perform tasks. Without software, hardware is useless; hardware needs the instructions provided by software to process data into information.


THE COMPONENTS OF A COMPUTER A computer consists of a variety of hardware components that work together with software to perform calculations, organize data, and communicate with other computers. These hardware components include input devices, output devices, a system unit, storage devices, and communications devices. Figure 1-1 shows some common computer hardware components.

Figure 1-1 common computer hardware components include a keyboard, mouse, microphone, system unit, disk drives, printer, monitor, speakers,, and a modem.


Input Devices An input device allows a user to enter data and commands into the memory of a computer. Four commonly used input devices are the keyboard, the mouse, a microphone, and a PC camera. A computer keyboard contains keys that allow you to type letters of the alphabet, numbers, spaces, punctuation marks, and other symbols. A computer keyboard also contains special keys that allow you to perform specific functions on the computer. A mouse is a small handheld device that contains at least one button. The mouse controls the movement of a symbol on the screen called a pointer. For example, moving the mouse across a flat surface allows you to move the pointer on the screen. You also can make choices and initiate processing on the computer by using a mouse. A microphone allows you to speak to the computer in order to enter data and control the actions of the computer. A PC camera allows others to see you while communicating with you, as well as allowing you to edit videos, create a movie, and take digital photographs.



Chapter 1: Introduction To Computer

An output device is used to convey the information generated by a computer to a user. Three commonly used output devices are a printer, a monitor, and speakers. A printer produces text and graphics, such as photographs, on paper or other hardcopy medium. A monitor, which looks like a television screen, is used to display text and graphics. Speakers allow you to hear music, voice, and other sounds generated by the computer. 1.3.3 System Unit The system unit is a box-like case made from metal or plastic that houses the computer electronic circuitry. The circuitry in the system unit usually is part of or is connected to a circuit board called the motherboard. Two main components on the motherboard are the central processing unit (CPU) and memory. The central processing unit (CPU), also called a processor, is the electronic device that interprets and carries out the instructions that operate the computer. Memory is a series of electronic elements that temporarily holds data and instructions while they are being- processed by the CPU. Both the processor and memory are chips. A chip is an electronic device that contains many microscopic pathways designed to carry electrical current. Chips, which usually are no bigger than one-half inch square, are packaged so they can be connected to a motherboard or other circuit boards. Some computer components, such as the processor and memory resided inside the system unit; that is, they are internal. Other components, like keyboard,. mouse, microphone, monitor, PC camera, and printer, often are system unit. These devices are considered external. Any external device that attaches to the system unit is called a peripheral device. 1.3.4 Storage Devices Storage holds data, instructions, and information for future use. Storage differs from memory, in that it can hold these items permanently, whereas memory holds these items only temporarily while they are being processed. A storage medium (media is the plural) is the physical material on which data. instructions, and information are stored. One commonly used storage medium is a disk, which is a round, flat piece of plastic or metal on which items can be encoded, or written. A storage device is used to record and retrieve data, instructions, and information to and from a storage medium. Storage devices often function as a source of input because they transfer items from storage into memory. Four common storage devices are a floppy disk drive, a hard disk drive, a CD-ROM drive, and a DVD-ROM drive. A disk drive is a device that reads from and max write onto a disk. 1-4


Chapter 1: Introduction To Computer

A floppy disk consists of a thin, circular. flexible disk enclosed in a plastic shell. A floppy disk stores data, instructions, and information using magnetic patterns and can be inserted into and removed from a floppy disk drive. A Zip disk is a higher capacity floppy disk that can store the equivalent of about 70 standard floppy disks. A hard disk provides much greater storage capacity than a floppy disk. A hard disk usually consists of several circular disks on which data, instructions, and information j are stored magnetically. These disks are enclosed in an airtight, sealed case. which often is housed inside the system unit. Some hard disks are removable. which means they can be inserted and removed from a hard disk drive, much like a floppy disk. Removable disks are enclosed in plastic or metal cartridges so that they can be removed from the drive. The advantage of removable media such as a floppy disk and removable hard disk is it can be taken out of the computer and transported or secured. Another type of disk used to store data is the compact disc. A compact disc stores data using microscopic pits, which are created by a laser light. One type of compact disc is a CD-ROM, which is accessed or played using a CD-ROM drive. A variation of the standard CD-ROM is the rewriteable CD, also called a CD-RW. Whereas you only can access data on a CDROM, you also can erase and store data on a CD-RW. A newer type of compact disc is a DVD-ROM, which has tremendous storage capacities enough for a full-length movie. To use a DVD-ROM, you need a DVDROM drive. 1.3.5 Communications Devices Communications devices enable computer users to communicate and to exchange items such as data, instructions, and information with another computer. Communications devices transmit these items over transmission media, such as cables, telephone lines, or other means, used to establish a connection between two computers. A modem is a communications device that enables computers to communicate via telephone lines or other means. Although moderns are available as both external and internal devices, most are internal; that is, contained within the system unit. Why Is a Computer a Powerful Tool? A computers power is derived from its capability of performing the information processing cycle operations with speed, reliability, and accuracy; its capacity to store huge amounts of data, instructions, and information; and its ability to communicate with other computers. 1.4.1 Speed Inside the system unit, operations occur through electronic circuits. When data, instructions, and information flow along these circuits, they travel at




Chapter 1: Introduction To Computer close to the speed of light. This allows billions of operations to be carried out in a single second. 1.4.2 Reliability The electronic components in modern computers are dependable because they have a low failure rate. The high reliability of components enables the computer to produce consistent results. 1.4.3 Accuracy Computers can process large amounts of data and generate error-free results, provided the data is entered correctly. If inaccurate data is entered, the resulting output will be incorrect. This computing principle known as garbage in, garbage out (GIGO), point out that the accuracy of a computers output depends on the accuracy of the input. 1.4.4 Storage Many computers can store enormous amounts of data and make this data available for processing any time it is needed. Using current storage devices, the data can be transferred quickly from storage to memory, processed, and then stored again for future use. 1.4.5 Communications Most computers today have the capability of communicating with other computers. Computers with this capability can share any of the four information processing cycle operations - input, process, output, and storage - with another computer. For example, two computers connected by a communications device such as a modem can share stored data, instructions, and information. When two or more computers are connected together via communications media and devices, they comprise a network. The most widely known network is the Internet. a worldwide collection of networks that links together millions of businesses, government installations, educational institutions, and individuals.


COMPUTER SOFTWARE Software, also called a computer program or simply a program, is a series of instructions that tells the hardware of a computer what to do. For example, some instructions direct the computer to allow you to input data from the keyboard and store it in memory. Other instructions cause data stored in memory to be used in calculations such as adding a series of numbers to obtain a total. Some instructions compare two values stored in memory and direct the computer to perform alternative operations based on the results of the comparison; and some instructions direct the computer to print a report, display information on the monitor, draw a color graph on the monitor, or store information on a disk. Before a computer can perform, or execute, a program, the instructions in the program must be placed, or loaded, into the memory of the computer. Usually, 1-6


Chapter 1: Introduction To Computer they are loaded into memory from storage. For example, a program might be loaded from the hard disk of a computer into memory for execution. When you purchase a program, such as one that contains legal documents, you will receive one or more floppy disks, one or more CD-ROMs, or a single DVDROM on which the software is stored. To use this software, you often must install the software on the computers hard disk. Sometimes, a program can be loaded in memory directly from a floppy disk, CDROM, or DVD-ROM so you do not have to install it on a hard disk first. When computer. it usually has some software already installed on its hard disk. Thus, you can use the computer as soon as you receive it. Software is the key to productive use of computers. With the correct software, a computer can become a valuable tool. Software can be categorized into two types: system software and application software. The following sections describe these categories of software. 1.5.1 System Software System software, which consists of programs that control the operations of the computer and its devices, serves as the interface between a user and the computers hardware. Two types of system software are the operating system and utility programs. OPERATING SYSTEM The operating system contains instructions that coordinate all of the activities of hardware devices. The operating system also contains instructions that allow you to run application software. Microsoft Windows is the name of a popular operating system that is used on many of todays computers. When you start a computer, the operating system is loaded, or copied, into memory from the computers hard disk. It remains in memory while the computer is running and allows you to communicate with the computer and other software. UTILITY PROGRAMS A utility program is a type of system software that performs a specific task. usually related to managing a computer. its devices, or its programs. An example of a utility program is an uninstaller, which removes a program that has been installed on a computer. Most operating systems include several utility programs for managing disk drives, printers, and other devices. You also can buy stand-alone utility programs to perform additional computer management functions. USER INTERFACE 1-7


Chapter 1: Introduction To Computer

All software has a user interface that is the part of the software with which you interact. The user interface controls how data and instructions are entered and how information is presented on the screen. Many of todays software programs have a graphical user interface, or GUI (pronounced gooey), which allows you to interact with the software using visual images such as icons. An icon is a small image that represents a program, an instruction, or some other object. 1.5.2 Application Software Application software consists of programs designed to perform specific tasks for users. Popular application software includes word processing software, spreadsheet software, database software, and presentation graphics software memos. Spreadsheet software allows you to calculate numbers arranged in rows and columns and often is used for budgeting, forecasting, and other financial tasks. Database software is used to store data in an organized fashion, as well as to retrieve, manipulate, and display that data in a meaningful form. Presentation graphics software allows you to create documents called slides that are used in making presentations. These four applications often are sold together as a single unit, called a suite, in which individual applications are packaged in the same box and sold for a price that is significantly less than buying the applications individually. Many other types of application software exist, thus enabling users to perform a variety of tasks. Some widely used software applications include: reference education, and entertainment; desktop publishing; photo and video editing: multimedia authoring: network, communications, electronic mail, and Web browsers; accounting: project management; and personal information management. Application software is available as packaged software, custom software, shareware, freeware, and public-domain software. PACKAGED SOFTWARE Packaged software is designed to meet the needs of a wide variety of users, not just a single user or company. Packaged software sometimes is called commercial off-the-shelf software because you can purchase these programs off the shelf from software vendors or stores that sell computer products. You also can purchase packaged software on the Internet. Some companies today offer products on the Internet; that is, instead of installing the software onto your computer, you run the programs on the Internet. CUSTOM SOFTWARE Sometimes a user or organization with unique software requirements cannot find packaged software that meets all of its 1-8


Chapter 1: Introduction To Computer needs. In this case, the user or organization can use custom software, which is a program or programs developed at a users request to perform specific functions. SHAREWARE Shareware is software that is distributed free for a trial period. If you want to use a shareware program beyond that period of time, you are expected to send a payment to the person or company that developed the program. Upon sending this small fee, the developer registers you to receive service assistance and updates. FREE WARE AND PUBLIC-DOMAIN SOFTWARE Freeware is software that is provided at no cost to a user by an individual or company. Although free, freeware is copyrighted, meaning you cannot resell it as your own. Public-domain software is free software that has been donated for public use and has no copyright restrictions. Examples of shareware, freeware, and public-domain software include utility programs, graphics programs, and games. Thousands of these programs are available on the Internet; you also can obtain copies of the program from the developer, a coworker, or a friend.


NETWORKS AND THE INTERNET A network is a collection of computers and devices connected together via communications media and devices such as cables telephone lines, modems, or other means. Sometimes a network is wireless; that is, uses no physical lines or wires. When your computer is connected to a Computers are networked together so users can share resources, such as hardware devices, software programs, data, and information. Sharing resources saves time and money. For example, instead of purchasing one printer for every computer in a company or in a home, you can connect a single printer and all computers via a network (Figure 1-2); the network enables all of the computers to access the same printer.

Figure 1-2 this local area network (LAN) enables two separate computers to share the same printer

Most business computers are networked together. These networks can be relatively small or quite extensive. A network that connects computers in a



Chapter 1: Introduction To Computer limited geographic area, such as a school computer laboratory, office, or group of buildings, is called a local area network (LAN). A network that covers a large geographical area, such as one that connects the district offices of a national corporation, is called a wide area network (WAN). The worlds largest network is the Internet, which is a worldwide collection of networks that links together millions of computers by means of modems, telephone lines, wireless technology, and other communications devices and media. With an abundance of resources and data accessible via the Internet, more than 125 million users around the world are making use of the Internet for a variety of reasons, some of which include the following: Sending messages to other connected users (e-mail) Accessing a wealth of information, such as news, maps, airline schedules, and stock market data Shopping for goods and services Meeting or conversing with people around the world Accessing sources of entertainment and leisure, such as online games, magazines, and vacation planning guides One of the more popular segments of the Internet is the World Wide Web, also called the Web, which contains billions of documents called Web pages. A Web page is a document that contains text, graphics, sound, or video, and has built-in connections, or links, to other Web documents. Web pages are stored on computers throughout the world. A Web site is a related collection of Web pages. You access and view Web pages using a software program called a Web browser. The two most popular Web browsers are Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator.


CATEGORIES OF COMPUTERS The four major categories of computers are personal computers, minicomputers, mainframe computers, and supercomputers. These categories are based on the differences in the size, speed, processing capabilities, and price of computers. Due to rapidly changing technology, the categories cannot be defined precisely. For example, the speed used to define a mainframe today may be used to define a minicomputer next year. Some characteristics may overlap categories. Still, they frequently are used and should be understood. 1.7.1 PERSONAL COMPUTERS A personal computer (PC) is a computer that can perform all of its input, processing, output, and storage activities by itself; that is. it contains at least one input device, one output device, one storage device, memory, and a processor. The processor, sometimes called a microprocessor, is a central processing unit (CPU) on a single chip and is the basic building block of a PC. Two popular series of personal computers are the PC and the Apple Macintosh. These two types of computers have different processors and use different operating systems. The PC and compatibles use the Windows operating system, whereas the Apple Macintosh uses the Macintosh 1 - 10


Chapter 1: Introduction To Computer operating system. Today, the terms PC and compatible are used to refer to any personal computer that is based on specifications of the original IBM PC computer. Companies such as Gateway, Compaq, Dell, and Toshiba all sell PC-compatible computers. Two major categories of personal computers are desktop computers and portable computers. These types of personal computers are discussed in the next two sections. Desktop Computers A desktop computer is designed so the system unit, input devices, output devices, and any other devices fit entirely on or under a desk or table. In some desktop models, the system unit is placed horizontally on top of a desk along with the other devices. A tower model, in contrast, has a tall and narrow system unit that is designed to be placed on the floor vertically. Tower model desktop computers are available in a variety of heights: a full tower is at least 21 inches tall, a mid-tower is about 16 inches tall, and a minitower is usually 13 inches tall. The model of desktop computer you use often is determined by the design of your workspace. 1.7.2 MINICOMPUTERS A minicomputer, is more powerful and larger than a workstation computer. Minicomputers often can support up to 4,000 connected users at the same time. Users often access a minicomputer via a terminal, which is a device with a monitor and keyboard. Such terminals - sometimes called dumb terminals because they have no processing power - cannot act as stand-alone computers and must be connected to the minicomputer to operate. A minicomputer also can act as a server in a network environment. In this case, personal computers access the minicomputer. 1.7.3 MAINFRAME COMPUTERS A mainframe is a large, expensive, very powerful computer that can handle hundreds or thousands of connected users simultaneously. Like minicomputers, mainframes also can act as a server in a network environment. Mainframes can store tremendous amounts of data, instructions, and information, which users can access with terminals or personal computers. 1.7.4 SUPERCOMPUTERS A super-computer is the fastest, most powerful computer - and the most expensive. Capable of processing more than 64 billion instructions in a single second, supercomputers are used for applications requiring complex, sophisticated mathematical calculations. For example, a supercomputer would be used for weather forecasting, nuclear energy research, and petroleum exploration.



Chapter 1: Introduction To Computer

Every day, people depend on different types of computers for a variety of applications. 1.8.1 Home Users Home users rely on their computers for entertainment; communications; research and education; Web access; shopping; personal finance; and productivity applications such as word processing and spreadsheets. 1.8.2 Small Business Users Small business users utilize productivity software as well as communications software, Web browsers, e-mail, and specialized software. 1.8.3 Mobile Users Mobile users have laptop computers so they can work on the road. They often use presentation software. 1.8.4 Large Business Users Large business users use computers to run their businesses by using productivity software, communications software, automated systems for most departments in the company, and large networks. 1.8.5 Power Users Power users require the capabilities of workstations or other powerful computers to design plans, produce publications, create graphic art, and work with multimedia that includes text, graphics, sound, video, and other media elements.

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