Chapter 1 : Introduction to Information Technology 1. 1 The Practical User: How Becoming Computer SavvyBene? ts You What does being computer savvy mean, and what are its practical payoffs? There is no doubt now that for most of us information technology is becoming like a second skin—an extension of our intellects and even emotions, creating almost a parallel universe of “digital selves. ” Perhaps you have been using computers a long time and in a multitude of ways, or perhaps not. Either way, this book hopes to deliver important practical rewards by helping you become “computer streetwise”—that is, computer savvy.
Being computer savvy means knowing what computers can do and what they can’t, knowing how they can bene? t you and how they can harm you, knowing when you can solve computer problems and when you have to call for help. Among the practical payoffs are the following: 1) YOU WILL KNOW HOW TO MAKE BETTER BUYING DECISIONS No matter how much computer prices come down, you will always have to make judgments about quality and usefulness when buying equipment and software. In fact, we start you off right in this chapter by identifying the constituent parts of a computer system, what they do, and how much they cost. ) YOU WILL KNOW HOW TO FIX ORDINARY COMPUTER PROBLEMS Whether it’s replacing a printer cartridge, obtaining a software improvement (“patch”), or pulling photos from your digital camera or camera cellphone, we hope this will give you the confidence to deal with the continual challenges that arise with computers—and know when and how to call for help. 3) YOU WILL KNOW HOW TO UPGRADE YOUR EQUIPMENT& INTEGRATE IT WITH NEW PRODUCTS New gadgetry and software are constantly being developed. A knowledgeable user learns under what conditions to upgrade, how to do so, and when to start over by buying a new machine. ) YOU WILL KNOW HOW TO UPGRADE YOUR EQUIPMENT & INTEGRATE IT WITH NEW PRODUCTS New gadgetry and software are constantly being developed. A knowledgeable user learns under what conditions to upgrade, how to do so, and when to start over by buying a new machine. 5) YOU WILL KNOW HOW TO USE THE INTERNET MOST EFFECTIVELY The sea of data that exists on the internet and other online sources is so great that finding what’s best or what’s really needed can be a hugely time-consuming activity. We hope to show you the most workable ways to approach this problem. ) YOU WILL KNOW HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF AGAINST ONLINE VILLAINS The online world poses real risks to your time, your privacy, your finances, and your peace of mind—spammers, hackers, virus senders, identity thieves, and companies and agencies constructing giant databases of personal profiles. 7) YOU WILL KNOW WHAT KINDS OF COMPUTER USES CAN ADVANCE YOUR CAREER Even top executives now use computers, as do people in careers ranging from police work to politics, from medicine to music, from retail to recreation.
We hope you will come away from this book with ideas about how the technology can benefit you in whatever work you choose. 1. 2 Information Technology & Your Life: The Future Now What is information technology, and how does it affect education, health, money, leisure, government, and careers? This is about computers, of course. But not just about computers. It is also about the way computers communicate with one another. When computer and communications technologies are combined, the result is information technology, or “infotech. ”
Information technology (IT) is a general term that describes any technology that helps to produce, manipulate, store, communicate, and/or disseminate information. IT merges computing with high-speed communications links carrying data, sound, and video. Examples of information technology include personal computers but also new forms of telephones, televisions, appliances, and various handheld devices. The Two Parts of IT: Computers & Communications COMPUTER TECHNOLOGY You have certainly seen and, we would guess, used a computer. Nevertheless, let’s define what it is.
A computer is a programmable, multiuse machine that accepts data—raw facts and figures—and processes, or manipulates, it into information we can use, such as summaries, totals, or reports. Its purpose is to speed up problem solving and increase productivity. COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY Unquestionably you’ve been using communications technology for years. Communications technology, also called telecommunications technology, consists of electromagnetic devices and systems for communicating over long distances. The principal examples are telephone, radio, broadcast television, and cable TV.
In more recent times, there has been the addition of communication among computers—which is what happens when people “go online” on the internet. In this context, online means using a computer or some other information device, connected through a network, to access information and services from another computer or information device. A network is a communications system connecting two or more computers; the internet is the largest such network. Information technology is already affecting your life in exciting ways and will do so even more in the future. Let’s consider how.
How is IT being used in Education? * 99% of schools have internet access * 1/5 of college students report they were using computers between ages 5 and 8 * All college students report using computers by the time they were 16-18 years old * Many college classes are either taught online or have a class website Definition: Distance Learning is online education Health: High Tech for Wellness * elemedicine: Medical care via telecommunications lets doctors treat patients from far away * 3D Computer models allow accurate tumor location inside a skull * Robots permit precise microsurgery Health websites provide medical information Money: Cashless Society? * Definition: Virtual means something that is created, simulated, or carried on by means of a computer or a computer network * Virtual money * Cash-value cards * “Electronic wallets” (e. g. , PayPal) * Electronic payroll deposit * Online bill paying * Micropayments for online music Leisure: Infotech in Entertainment & the Arts * Videogames * Downloading * Music * Movies * Digital animation * Digital editing IT in Government & Democracy * It helps governments deliver better services. * It makes government operations more transparent. IT changes the nature of politics. * Easier fund raising from small donors * Gerrymandering—redraw voting districts for partisan advantage * Voting machine problems Jobs & Careers * Hotels: Desk clerks use computerized reservations systems * Law Enforcement: Officers use computers * On patrol * To check stolen cars * To check criminal records * To check arrest warrants * Entertainment: * Office uses such as budgets, payroll, ticketing * Also virtual set design, 3-D animation, special effects * Office careers: Budget, payroll, letter-writing, email Teaching: Automated grading systems, emailing parents * Fashion: Sales/inventory control systems, ordering, personnel * Job-hunting: * Use word processor to create resumes * Post resumes online * Online job searches 1. 3 InfoTech Is All-Pervasive: Cellphones, Email, the Internet, & the E-World How does information technology facilitate email, networks, and the use of the internet and the web; what is the meaning of the term cyberspace? One of the first computers, the outcome of military-related research, was delivered to the U. S.
Army in 1946. ENIAC (short for “Electronic Numerical Integrator And Calculator”) weighed 30 tons and was 80 feet long and two stories high, but it could multiply a pair of numbers in the then-remarkable time of three-thousandths of a second. This was the first general-purpose, programmable electronic computer, the grandparent of today’s lightweight handheld machines—including the smart cellphone. The Telephone Grows Up * 1973: First cellphone call * Mobile phone use estimated to rise to 3. 9 billion users by 2013 * Today’s cellphones: Can connect to the internet * Can send and receive text messages * Can take and send pictures (and sometimes video) * Can obtain news and TV programs Email’s Mass Impact * Introduced in 1981 * Reached 10 million users in about one year * Fastest growing technology * 1998 surpassed hand-delivered mail * In business, at least, email requires writing skills Internet, World Wide Web, & Cyberspace What’s the difference between the net, the web,and cyberspace? As the success of the cellphone shows, communications has extended into every nook and ranny of civilization (with poorer nations actually the leaders in cellphone growth), a development called the “plumbing of cyberspace. ”The term cyberspace was coined by William Gibson in his novel Neuromancer (1984) to describe a futuristic computer network into which users plug their brains. (Cyber comes from “cybernetics,” a term coined in 1948 to apply to the comparative study of automatic control systems, such as the brain/nervous system and mechanical-electrical communication systems. ) In everyday use, this term has a rather different meaning.
Today many people equate cyberspace with the internet. But it is much more than that. Cyberspace includes not only the web, chat rooms, online diaries (blogs), and member-based services such as America Online—“but also such things as conference calls and automatic teller machines,” says David Whittler. We may say, then, that cyberspace encompasses not only the online world and the internet in particular but also the whole wired and wireless world of communications in general—the nonphysical terrain created by computer and communications systems.
Cyberspace is where you go when you go online with your computer. THE NET & WEB DEFINED The two most important aspects of cyberspace are the internet and that part of the internet known as the World Wide Web. To give them formal definition: * The internet—“the mother of all networks”: The internet is at the heart of the Information Age. Called “the mother of all networks,” the internet (the “net”) is a worldwide computer network that connects hundreds of thousands of smaller networks. These networks slink educational, commercial, non-profit, and military entities, as well as individuals. The World Wide Web—the multimedia part of the internet: The internet has been around for more than 40 years. But what made it popular, apart from email, was the development in the early 1990s of the World Wide Web, often called simply the “Web” or the “web”—an interconnected system of internet computers (called servers) that support specially formatted documents in multimedia form. The word multimedia, from “multiple media,” refers to technology that presents information in more than one medium, such as text, still images, moving images, and sound.
In other words, the web provides information in more than one way. 1. 4 The “All-Purpose Machine”: The Varieties of Computers What are the five sizes of computers, and what are clients and servers? When the alarm clock blasts you awake, you leap out of bed and head for the kitchen, where you check the coffee maker. After using your electronic toothbrush and showering and dressing, you stick a bagel in the microwave, and then pick up the TV remote and click on the TV to catch the weather forecast. Later, after putting dishes in the dishwasher, you go out and start up the car and head toward campus or work.
Pausing en route at a traffic light, you turn on your iPod to listen to some music. You haven’t yet touched a PC, a personal computer, but you’ve already dealt with at least 10 computers. All these familiar appliances rely on tiny “computers on chips” called microprocessors. Maybe, then, the name “computer” is inadequate. As computer pioneer John von Neumann has said, the device should not be called the computer but rather the “all-purpose machine. ” It is not, after all, just a machine for doing calculations. The most striking thing about it is that it can be put to any number of uses.
Five Computer Types * Supercomputers – are high-capacity machines with thousands of processors that can perform more than several trillion calculations per second. * Priced from $1 million to $350 million * High-capacity machines with thousands of processors * Multi-user systems * Used for U. S. Census, weather forecasting, designing aircraft, etc. * Mainframe Computers – are water- or air-cooled computers that cost $5,000–$5 million and vary in size from small, to medium, to large, depending on their use. * Priced from $5,000 to $5 million * Used by banks, airlines, colleges for millions of transactions Workstations – are expensive, powerful personal computers usually used for complex scientific, mathematical, and engineering calculations and for computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing. * Introduced in early 1980s * Expensive, powerful personal computers * Required for scientific, mathematical, engineering, computer-aided design (CAD), computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) * Used for designing cars, drugs, movie special effects * Microcomputers – also called personal computers (PCs), which cost $500 to over $5,000, can fit next to a desk or on a desktop or can be carried around.
They either are stand-alone machines or are connected to a computer network, such as a local area network. * Types include: desktop, tower, notebooks, netbooks, mobile internet devices (MIDs), personal digital assistants (PDAs) * Microcontrollers – also called embedded computers, are the tiny, specialized microprocessors installed in “smart” appliances and automobiles. * They are in: microwaves, programmable ovens, blood-pressure monitors, air bag sensors, vibration sensors, MP3 players, digital cameras, keyboards, car engines, etc. Servers
A server, or network server, is a central computer that holds collections of data (databases) and programs for connecting or supplying services to PCs, workstations, and other devices, which are called clients. These clients are linked by a wired or wireless network. The entire network is called a client/server network. In small organizations, servers can store files, provide printing stations, and transmit email. In large organizations, servers may also house enormous libraries of financial, sales, and product information. You may never lay eyes on a supercomputer or mainframe or even a tiny microcontroller.
But most readers of this book will already have laid eyes and hands on a personal computer. 1. 5 Understanding Your Computer : Building Your Own PC 3 key concepts * Purpose of a computer * Turn data into information * Data: the raw facts and figures * Information: data that has been summarized and manipulated for use in decision making * Hardware vs. Software * Hardware is the machinery and equipment in the computer * Software is the electronic instructions that tell the computer how to perform a task * The basic operations * Input: What goes in to the computer system Processing: The manipulation a computer does to transform data into information * Storage: * Primary storage, or memory, is temporary storage. * Secondary storage is permanent storage: media such as DVDs and CDs * Output: What comes out * Numbers or pictures on the screen, printouts, sounds * Communications: Sending and receiving data What would you need (in building your own PC)? * Keyboard & Mouse * Inside the system cabinet * Case and power supply * Processor chip – the Central Processor Unit (CPU) * Memory chips – Random Access Memory (RAM) Motherboard – the system board * Memory chips plug in * Processor chip plugs in * Motherboard attaches to system cabinet * Power supply is connected to system cabinet * Power supply wire is connected to motherboard * Storage Hardware: Floppy, Hard Drive, CD/DVD Drive * Storage capacity is represented in bytes * 1 byte = 1 character of data * 1 kilobyte = 1,024 characters * 1 megabyte = 1,048,576 characters * 1 gigabyte = over 1 billion characters * 1 terabyte = over 1 trillion characters * 1 petabyte = about 1 quadrillion characters Permanently installed: floppy-disk drives, hard drives, CD/DVD drives * Removable media: floppy disks, CDs, DVDs * Output hardware * Video * Sound cards * Monitor * Speakers * Printer * Communications hardware * Modem Software System Software—performs essential operating tasks Most important part: operating system * Operating system options * Windows * Unix * Linux * Mac OS Application Software—enables user to perform tasks * Install after the OS * Application depends on OS, for example * Linux applications won’t work on Windows * Windows applications won’t work on Linux . 6 Future of Information Technology What are three directions of computer development and three directions of communications development? How far we have come. At the beginning of the 19th century, most people thought they would live the same life their parents did. Today most people aren’t surprised by the prediction that the Information Age will probably transform their lives beyond recognition. Let’s consider the trends in the development of computers and communications and, most exciting, the area where they intersect. 3 directions of Computer Development * Miniaturization Speed * Affordability 3 directions of Communications Development * Connectivity – refers to the connection of computers to one another by a communications line in order to provide online information access and/or the sharing of peripheral devices. * Interactivity – refers to two-way communication; the user can respond to information he or she receives and modify what a computer is doing. * Multimedia – refers to technology that presents information in more than one medium—such as text, pictures, video, sound, and animation—in a single integrated communication.
When Computers & Communications Combine: Five Results 1) CONVERGENCE Convergence describes the combining of several industries through various devices that exchange data in the format used by computers. The industries are computers, communications, consumer electronics, entertainment, and mass media. Convergence has led to electronic products that perform multiple functions, such as TVs with internet access, cellphones that are also digital cameras, and a refrigerator that allows you to send email. 2) PORTABILITY
In the 1980s, portability, or mobility, meant trading off computing power and convenience in return for smaller size and weight. Today, however, we are close to the point where we don’t have to give up anything. As a result, experts have predicted that small, powerful, wireless personal electronic devices will transform our lives far more than the personal computer has done so far. “The new generation of machines will be truly personal computers, designed for our mobile lives,” wrote one journalist back in 1992. We will read office memos between strokes on the golf course and answer messages from our children in the middle of business meetings. ”65 Today such activities are commonplace, and smartphones are taking on other functions. The risk they bring is that, unless we’re careful, work will completely invade our personal time. 3) PERSONALIZATION Personalization is the creation of information tailored to your preferences—for instance, programs that will automatically cull recent news and information from the internet on just those topics you have designated.
Companies involved in e-commerce can send you messages about forthcoming products based on your pattern of purchases, usage, and other criteria. Or they will build products (cars, computers, clothing) customized to your heart’s desire. 4) COLLABORATION A more recent trend is mass collaboration. Says New York Times technology writer John Markoff, “A remarkable array of software systems makes it simple to share anything instantly, and sometimes enhance it along the way. Adds BusinessWeek writer Robert Hof, “The nearly 1 billion people online worldwide—along with their shared knowledge, social contacts, online reputations, computing power, and more—are rapidly becoming a collective force of unprecedented power. ” 5) CLOUD COMPUTING: THE GLOBAL COMPUTER Previously called gridcomputing or utility computing, cloud computing basically means obtaining computing resources—processing, storage, messaging, databases, and so on— from the network of computers sitting in data centers someplace outside your own four walls and paying only for what you use.
The idea here is that companies could tap into these computers as they are needed, just as they do now with the electric power grid, splitting their computing workload between data centers in different parts of the world. hapte Ethics What are the principal ethical concerns I should be conscious of in the use of information technology? Every computer user will have to wrestle with ethical issues related to the use of information technology. Ethics is defined as a set of moral values or principles that govern the conduct of an individual or a group.
Because ethical questions arise so often in connection with information technology, we will note them, wherever they appear in this book, with the symbol shown at left. Below, for example, are some important ethical concerns pointed out by Tom Forester and Perry Morrison in their book Computer Ethics. 72 These considerations are only a few of many; we’ll discuss others in subsequent chapters. SPEED & SCALE Great amounts of information can be stored, retrieved, and transmitted at a speed and on a scale not possible before.
Despite the benefits, this has serious implications “for data security and personal privacy,” as well as employment, Forester and Morrison say, because information technology can never be considered totally secure against unauthorized access. UNPREDICTABILITY Computers and communications are pervasive, touching nearly every aspect of our lives. However, at this point, compared to other pervasive technologies—such as electricity, television, and automobiles— information technology seems a lot less predictable and reliable.
COMPLEXITY Computer systems are often incredibly complex—some so complex that they are not always understood even by their creators. “This,” say Forester and Morrison, “often makes them completely unmanageable,” producing massive foul-ups or spectacularly out-of-control costs. Ethics and security can often be talked about in the same breath, since secure computer systems obviously go a long way toward keeping people ethical and honest. We devote considerable effort to this discussion, as indicated by the icon at left, which you will see throughout the book 36