4.2.2 Network

In the same way as in the network shown in Figure 8, this network conveys the data to the receiver, selecting the most appropriate route for it to travel. In order to do this, the network may need to manipulate and store or retrieve data.

Your computer sends the FirstClass message
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4.2.1 First computer (your computer)

In the block diagram, the computer receives data from the user and sends it into the network. It will manipulate and also store and retrieve data.

If you send a message to a FirstClass conference, your computer receives the message from you as data via the keyboard. The computer manipulates the data into a form that can be sent into the network, in this case the internet via your internet service provider (ISP). Your computer will also store or retrieve relevant data, such as details of
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14.2 Modelling networked computers

You met a block diagram showing a model of a communication system in Figure 8. In this model, a transmitter sends data into a network which conveys it to a receiver; but how does this model work when the transmitter and receiver are computers?

Sometimes the computer's user is comm
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14.1 Introduction

Now that I have introduced you to the processes carried out by a stand-alone computer, I will move on to discuss what happens when computers are linked.


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13.2 Magnetic storage

As I mentioned earlier, your computer has a hard disk which provides a permanent storage area for your computer's programs and the files you create. When you save files to your computer's hard disk, you are using a magnetic storage medium. Data stored in magnetic form can be changed once it has been stored, so if you run out of space you can delete some files to make room or, if you want to edit a file, you can make the necessary changes and then save it again. At the time of writing, a mediu
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12.2 Bytes of data

You will recall from Section 6.2 that a binary digit, or bit, can have one of two values: either a 0 or a 1. In a computer, bits are assembled into groups of eight, and a group of eight bits is known as a byte. The abbreviation used for a byte is B, so 512 bytes would be written as 512 B. Although this course will use ‘b’ for bit and ‘B’ for byte, you should be aware that not everyone makes this clear distinction.

A byte of data can represent many different things in a co
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12.1 Introduction

Data must be stored somewhere when it is not being manipulated. Modern ICT systems require increasingly large amounts of data to be stored for later use, and it is important that the data can be accessed quickly. Data may be stored on the stand-alone computer's hard disk in the form of files.

You may want to move files from one stand-alone computer to another. In addition, you may want to move files from a device, such as a digital camera, to a computer. These activities require some fo
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11.6 Operating systems

A computer requires software just to look after itself and to manage all its components; this is called the operating system. The operating system handles communication with the other software on the computer and with the hardware resources of the machine, such as the processor and memory. The operating system provides a means of running the computer's application programs. It also provides a standard user interface with windows, buttons and menus so that users can interact with the co
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11.5 Programming languages

A computer program is written in a programming language and contains the instructions that tell the computer what to do. Developers write new software using specialised programming languages. The resulting programs (or ‘source code’) can be converted into the low-level instructions understood by the processor. There is a wide range of programming languages to suit different types of task; if you look at advertisements for programming jobs in newspapers or online you will get an ide
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11.4 Computer software

The electronic components and other equipment that make up your computer system are known as hardware. In order to make the computer do things, such as help you to produce your TMAs, edit photographs or draw diagrams, you also need computer programs, which are called software.


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11.3 Memory

An essential component of a computer is the memory which it uses to hold data currently being used by the processor. This is the random access memory (RAM), the computer's working memory in which programs and data are stored so that they can be accessed very quickly by the processor. The processor stores data in RAM and retrieves data from it as it carries out its manipulations. The more RAM a computer has, the faster the computer programs will run. RAM memory is used and reused and an
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11.2 The processor

The processor can be thought of as the ‘brain’ of the computer in that it manages everything the computer does. A processor is contained on a single microchip or ‘chip’. A chip is a small, thin slice of silicon, which might measure only a centimetre across but can contain hundreds of millions of transistors. The transistors are joined together into circuits by tiny wires which can be more than a hundred times thinner than a human hair. These tiny circuits enable t
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11.1 Introduction

A stand-alone computer needs two main components to manipulate data: a processor and a working memory.


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8 Computers

In sections 8–14, I am going to start by considering a stand-alone computer, which is a computer that is not connected to a network. In this type of ICT system, the key processes are the manipulation and storage of data. I'll be introducing some details about the way that a computer manipulates and stores data. Then I'll be discussing the processes that are carried out by computers when they are linked.


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7 Describing an ICT system: conclusion

We have arrived at a model of a communication system that illustrates the processes needed for communication. We have also looked at the different kinds of communication link that can be used to convey data, and how to express the rates at which they can convey data. In sections 8–14, we shall be looking at a computer system as an example of an ICT system where data manipulation and storage are the most important features.


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6.2 Working with bits

You may have met the term bit, perhaps in connection with computers. The term ‘bit’ is also important in communication systems. It is an abbreviation for ‘binary digit’. A binary digit can have just one of two values: it can be either 1 or 0. Pulses can be represented by 1s and 0s, that is, as bits, and so it is convenient to think of streams of 1s and 0s being conveyed along the communications link.

The rate at which the 1s and 0s are conveyed is known as the data rat
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6.1 Networks

Next I'll be looking more closely at the ‘network’ block in Figure 8, and in particular at the links that must be present before communication can take place. I'll introduce you to just a few of the forms that these links can take; links may be physical ones, such as cables, or they
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5 The processes

My description of the three subsystems of ‘means of conveying a message’ has indicated some important processes that each carries out. These are shown in Figure 8. The key processes are those that will always be carried out and they are shown in bold; the other processes may or may
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4.1.3 The receiver

The receiver receives data from the network and manipulates it into a message to send to User 2. Sometimes the receiver may also store or retrieve data.

In the mobile phone communication system, the data received from the network must be manipulated back into sound before being sent to the user. In addition, some mobile phones can store and retrieve data about the user's contacts, so that when a call is received they can translate the phone number of the caller into a name which is then
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4.1.2 The network

The network is a communication channel in that it conveys data from the transmitter to the receiver. The network may also manipulate data in some way, and it may also store or retrieve data.

In a mobile phone system, the network conveys the message from User l's handset to User 2's. It will also store the identity of User 1 and the duration of the call. This data is used to work out the amount to charge User 1, which is a form of manipulation of data. A network can be very comple
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