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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11.1 Introduction

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


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10.2 Ports

On the outside of a computer you will see a number of connection points that look like sockets. These sockets are known as ports and they provide connections between the computer and external devices such as a digital camera or printer. Ports control the flow of data between the computer and these devices, ensuring that data is sent and received quickly and reliably.

Modern ICT devices require increasingly large amounts of data to be sent between the computer and the devices. The
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10.1 Introduction

A stand-alone computer receives data from a user by means of input devices. The two most commonly used input devices are the keyboard and the mouse. A computer sends data to a user by means of output devices. Data may be output via devices such as a screen or a printer.

There are many different ways of getting data into a computer. For example, a scanner converts images and texts into a format that can be processed by the computer and displayed on screen. Devices such as t
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9 A stand-alone computer

The computer you are using for your studies is called a personal computer or PC. Although you have an internet connection for use in this course, your computer can probably also be used as a stand-alone computer. Your PC may be a desktop computer or a notebook computer (sometimes known as a laptop computer). Usually a desktop computer comes with separate devices such as a monitor, a keyboard, a mouse and speakers and it runs on mains electricity. Notebook computers
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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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4.1.2 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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4.1.1 The transmitter

The transmitter receives a message from User 1 and manipulates it into data which can be sent into the network. The transmitter may also store or retrieve data relating to the message.

In the mobile phone system, the transmitter, which is User l's mobile phone, receives a message from User 1 in the form of sound. It manipulates the incoming sound into a data format suitable for sending into the mobile phone network. Even basic models of mobile phone handsets can store names and telephon
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4.1 Introduction

I'll now look at what these components do in the communication system, using the mobile phone system as an example.


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3.2 Looking into the 'means of conveying a message'

The diagram in Figure 6 shows that, for communication to take place, there needs to be some means of conveying the message between the sender and the recipient. I am now going to look at the essential components of ‘means of conveying a message’. In other words, I shall treat ‘m
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2.3 Models of an ICT system

To help me to introduce you to important ideas about ICT systems, I'm going to take a three-stage approach. ICTs involve conveying, manipulating and storing data. This is going to be the basis of my approach.

Firstly, in the next few sections, we'll look at ICT systems where the primary function is to convey data. We can think of these systems as communication systems and I'll use a mobile phone system as an example.

In sections 8–14, I'll focus on ICT systems wher
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