|General statements & information about computers
A computer is an electronic device which processes data at an extremely high rate of speed. It can be fed with names, addresses, book titles, lists of merchandise, personal data, weather information, figures or mathematical problems. It then turns the data to binary bits of information and merely stores them, or the user can have it alphabetize the names or book titles, solve problems or make weather forecasts. The most modern computer can process millions of bits of data or solve complicated problems within seconds.
Businessmen use computers for accounting and bookkeeping, for keeping track of sales and the amount of stock in the warehouse, for string customers’ names as well as for figuring out employees’ wages and printing their paycheques. Banks could hardly do without computers nowadays to record customers‘ deposits and withdrawals. Engineers use computers to design buildings, bridges, dams and motor vehicles as well as to keep spaceships and satellites on course. Computers are used at all levels of government for taxation purposes, administrative tasks, controlling traffic, checking air pollution and carrying out population studies.
In industry computers control as well as check machines and robots that make products, turning the machines on or off and adjusting their operations when necessary. Computers are used to set type for newspapers, magazines and books; they help farmers improve their crop yield; they aid doctors by analyzing information from diagnostic instruments or lab tests.
To put it into a nutshell, the applications of computers are veritably unlimited.
Because of the widespread use of computers, the computer industry has become a leading business not only in the USA and Japan but world-wide. It consists of thousands of companies all over the globe which manufacture, sell and/or lease computer equipment. Moreover, it also includes innumerable firms, both large and small, which provide users with hardware, software as well as with consulting and repair services.
As I mentioned before a computer is a machine which can receive, store, handle and send out information. It automatically inputs and processes data and outputs the results. If information is to be processed, it often has to be coded before the computer can accept it. Modern computers are digital, which means that all information must be converted into binary form. So the only practical processing of information uses two-state logic: the two states of the circuits used in digital electronics are generally “off” and “on”, and these are represented logically by the symbols 0 and 1. Either state is called a bit, which stands for binary digit. All information in a computer is stored as groups of bits, and data and programs are also represented by combinations of them. The data result from the information process in the form of electrical pulses. These signals are decoded in order to output information in words, numbers, pictures or other forms.
Generally a computer consists of the central processing unit (CPU) and peripheral devices, such as input, output and backing storage devices.
CPU (=Central Processing Unit)
All the information processing (organisation, manipulation, and distribution of information) is done here. It consists of three main parts: the control unit, the arithmetic/logic unit, and the main store.
The main store holds the programs and the data being used. It is divided into small equal sized units called locations, each containing as few as 8 bits, but often there are 16 or 32 or more. Any location can be accessed directly by using a number called its address. Each location has a different address. Basically there are two types of stores:
The RAM (=Random Access Memory) is the working store of the computer. Its contents must be loaded prior to use from an external device. While a program is running, the program itself is usually stored here. So are any of the variables used by the program. When the power is switched off, RAM loses its data.
General statements & information about computers cont.
ROM (= Read only memory) Its contents is permanent and does not disappear whenever the system is turned off. Nothing can be written to ROM. It is used to store programs essential to the normal running of the computer (e.g. operating systems, utilities, language, interpreters, etc.).
The control unit (CU) directs and coordinates the entire computer system. It fetches program instructions from the main store and causes them to be carried out. It is in charge of executing the instructions in the correct sequence. Its functions involve controlling the input/output units, the arithmetic/logic operations and transferring data to and from the storage.
The arithmetic/logic unit (ALU) does calculations and comparisons.
Keyboard: Most data is still typed on keyboards. Circuitry in the keyboard
encodes the characters as they are typed in
Mouse: mouse-shaped object designed to fit under the hand while it’s moved
about over the table. A ball bearing produces electrical signals,
which are sent to the computer by a cable causing a cursor
to move on the screen.
Joystick: device which enables the user to control movements on the screen
by manoeuvring a small lever.
Screens: A monitor is a high quality viewing unit. It looks like a television set
but accepts a different kind of input signal and has therefore a far steadier,
more clearly defined picture.
The printer prints either a character, a line or a page at a time;
nowadays printing is often done with the help of laser beams.
Software is the general term for programs which are written to help computer users. A program is an ordered set of instructions a computer carries out. Basically there are two different types of programs:
System programs control the performance of a computer system and provide commonly used facilities (e.g. operating systems, compilers, interpreters).
Application programs allow a computer to be used for a specific application. Most important for the organisation of a computer is its operating system. This consists of a set of programs to provide a background in which user-programs can be executed. It keeps the computer running without the operator having to intervene too much, controls the use of peripherals and the loading and running of programs.
According to their purpose programs may be written in low level or high level programming languages. In any case they have to be translated into machine code by another program (compiler = The program is translated, stored and then executed in machine code) as the computer can only
execute machine code instructions. (Programming languages: COBOL,FORTRAN,LOGO,..)
Background information; from nobody to Mr. Microsoft & a revolution begins
”Bill Gates is one who needs no introduction. Today, he is one of the most famous names in computer software innovations.” (The New York Times)
Bill Gates was born in Seattle 1958 in. As a teenager many skills was revealed about him that would determine the path of his future success in life. Gates began his career in personal computer software when he started programming at the age of 13. His first program was for playing tic-tac-toe. At school he wanted all the other students to become interested in computers. The first computer at his school didn’t even have a screen. For playing his game they typed in their moves on a typwriter-style keyboard and then sat around until the results came chug-chugging out of a loud printing device.
At the age of 15 Bill Gates built a device to control traffic patterns in Seattle. In 1975 Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard University to write programs. He developed BASIC (Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) for the first microcomputer, the MITS Altair (=computer). He was guided by the belief that the personal computer would ultimately be a valuable tool on every office desktop and in every home.
He always had the dream that all computers would join together to communicate with us and for us. Now interconnected globally, they form a large interactive network, which is sometimes called the information superhighway.
This was the start of his path to success.
In 1977, Bill Gates and his buddy, Paul Allen, co-founded Microsoft®, and with this company started to write other versions of ”BASIC” and also other languages for various platforms. The IBM company became very interested in their capabilities and offered them a contract to create a program called "Disk Operating System," better known to most people as DOS™, for its new PC. However IBM made a mistake. They gave Microsoft® the rights to sell other versions of DOS™ to other manufacturers.
Now Bill Gates is launching the Microsoft® Network. He thought that Microsoft® it would launch a new path into computer innovations. He saw on-line services would do that. This network would have been launched earlier but for problems of slow modems and the PCs lacking critical mass. He believed this would greatly enhance communication and so far his expectations are correct. Millions of people surf the Internet as well and use on-line services. It would be no surprise if the Microsoft® Network became a great success.
Gates' early foresight about personal computing and his continuing vision have been central to Microsoft and the software industry. Gates is actively involved in significant operating and strategic decisions at Microsoft and plays an important role in the technical development and management of the company. With Gates' leadership, Microsoft's mission is to continually advance and improve software technology, to make it easier and more enjoyable for people to use software. The company is committed to the long term by investing in new technology, state-of-the art projects and new products for the further expansion of personal computing.
From Internet to Highway
The Internet is the precursor of the ultimate global network. There is little doubt that when the global interactive network has finally evolved into the highway, it will still be called the Internet. But as quaint as the term ”information highway” is beginning to sound, using it appropriately helps to draw a distinction between today’s primarily narrowband interactive network (the current ”Internet”) and tomorrow’s broadband interactive network (the ”highway”). Whatever it ends up being called, constructing an interactive network of enormous capacity (”bandwidth”) is a big job. It calls for a dramatic evolution of the Internet’s software and hardware platforms.
There are no precise boundaries between narroband and midband and between midband and broadband data networks. As practical matter, though, a narrowband connection allows the transfer of at most about 50,000 bits of information per second to and from a single information appliance while broadband connection accommodates continuous transmissions of at least 2 million bits per second – and for even better video quality, 6 million bits per second or more.
Today nearly all residential connections to interactive networks are narrowband. Most customers who plug into on-line services or the Internet use telephone network’s conventional ”twisted pair” copper wires, a narrowband system that relies on analog tones to communicate information. A ”modem” (shorthand for modulator-demodulator) is a hardware device that connects a PC to a phone line, serving as a translator between the digital and analog worlds. Modems convert a computer’s digital information (0s and 1s) into patterns of tones that telephone networks can carry, and vice versa. In the early days of the IBM PC, a modem typically carried data at a rate of 300 or 1.200 bits per second, also known as 300 or 1.200 ”baud”. Just about the only information you could transmit was text because at those low speed transmitting pictures was agonizingly slow. Now typical modems send and receive 28.800 (28,8 K) bits per second. This is a less agonizing rate, but it’s still not fast enough to gracefully accommodate many rich forms of content. You can send a page text in a second, but a complete screen-size photograph, even compressed, can take tens of seconds of transmission time. It takes whole minutes to send a colour photograph that has the resolution1 of a slide. And just forget about high-quality motion video.
There are modems capable of transmitting data at 33,600 baud or even 38,400 baud, but modems won’t be able to get much faster than this using normal phone lines. This is one reason the world is moving away from narrowband analogue networks, which were designed to carry voice, and toward digital networks that carry much greater amounts of information per second.
In the years ahead telephone and cable companies will upgrade their networks with new digital switches and with fiber-optic-cable, which has far greater bandwidth than copper wire. Once the new infrastructure is in place, the era of broadband communications – the era of the information highway – will have arrived.
But to achieve such things you need at least a totally new software, better hardware (faster computers) mores satellites and, of course, a lot of money. But experts say that this vast project will come into effect soon!
The global interactive network will transform our culture as dramatically as Gutenberg’s press did the Middle Ages. Personal computers have already changed our working habits., but it is the evolving Internet that will really change our lives. As information machines are connected to the Internet, people, entertainment, and information services suddenly become accessible. As the Internet’s popularity and capability increase, you’ll be able to stay in touch with anyone, anywhere, who wants to stay in touch with you and to browse through thousands of sources of information, day or night.
1resolution: The resolution of an image is how clear the image is; (used in the technical-language)
From Internet to Highway cont.
In the near future, you’ll be able to answer your apartment intercom from your office, answer any mail from your home. Your misplaced or stolen camera will send you a message telling you exactly where it is, even if it’s in a different city. Information that once was difficult to retrieve will be found much more easier!
\ Is my bus running on time?
\ Are there any accidents right now on the route I usually take to the office?
\ Does anyone want to trade his or her Thursday theater tickets for my Wednesday tickets?
\ What is my child’s school-attendance record?
\ What’s a good recipe for halibut?
\ Which store, anywhere, can deliver by tomorrow morning for the lowest price a wristwatch that can take my pulse?
\ What would somebody pay for my old Mustang convertible?
\ How is the hole in a needle manufactured?
\ Are my shirts at the laundry ready yet?
\ What’s the cheapest way to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal?
\ What are the symptoms of a heart attack?
\ Do fish see in colour?
\ Where was I at 9:02 p.m. last Thursday?
Now there’s a new set of circumstances and the relevant question this time is, ”What if communicating were almost free?” The idea of interconnecting all those homes and offices to a high-speed interactive network has ignited imaginations around the world. Thousands of companies are committed to the same vision, so it’s individual focus, a superior understanding of intermediate steps, and execution that will determine success.
All sorts of individuals and companies are betting their futures on building components for the interactive network. Gates calls it the ”Internet Gold Rush”. At Microsoft, they are working hard to figure out how to evolve from where we are today to the point at which they can realise the full potential of numerous new advances in technology. These are exciting times, not only for the companies involved, but for everyone who will enjoy the benefits of this revolution.
How rich is he really?
Based on Microsoft’s current stock price, Bill is worth: $46,035,490,000.00 (That’s $46.04 Billion.)
If Microsoft was an Italian company, then Bill’s net worth would be expressed in Italian Lira. On 3/24/98, the exchange rate, was 1799,50 Italian Lira for every US dollar. That means he’s worth 82,840,864,255,000 Italian Lira.
In the time since March 13, 1986 Bill’s Net Worth has increased by $45,877,525,083.33. Let’s look at how much Bill has made for each of the various periods of time....
Unit of time
Quantity since March 13, 1986 (in $)
Dollars made during each of these periods (in $)
How much does that mean for me?
According to the US Census Bureau, the population of the World on 3/24/98 was: 5,904,388,781 (That’s 5.9 Billion) This means that Bill could give $7.79 to every person on the entire planet! And he’d still have $40,301,396 left over for incidentals.
Laying Dollar Bills End to End
Of course, according to the US Treasury Learning Centre, since 1986, when Microsoft was founded, only 39,399,200,000 $1 bills have been printed. Bill’s $46,035,490,000.00 comprise 116,84% of that total.
If you had 46,035,490,000 one dollar bills, and laid them end to end, you would have a line of bills that runs 4,461,135.2 miles.
The average distance to the moon is 238,855 miles. You could make that round trip 9.3 times.
If you spent 24 hours a day laying these bills end to end, and were able to sustain a rate of 2 bills per second, it will take you 729.88 years to complete this job.
You’ve got to carry that weight
If you had 46,035,490,000 one dollar bills in a pile, it would weigh 93,949,979.5 pounds or 46,974.9 tons.
By comparison, a Boeing 747-400 weighs 800,000 pounds, or 400 tons. The money weighs 117.43
How the life will change: Daily life & learning
Computer specialists say that in about 3 – 5 years every second person guy of the world’s population will have a computer. But that’s not all. In the year 2002 you will be able to do all things such as e-mail, surfing the Internet, watch TV, listening to music, etc on your home television set. Only with one click on your remote control you are in the cybernet and can go from one shop to another, from one information site, to another, from Australia to America, to Europe within seconds.
The real problem will be society itself. More and more people will stay at their homes, because they can deal with all things at home!
They can shop at the Internet, can play football at the cyber play field and so on. The people will not talk together in a natural way. They’ll communicate only via computers.
It will be a world where everything is sterile and people won’t meet another. People will only have cybersex and love will only exist via computer!
Like health, education is a lifelong pursuit that the Information Marketplace will surely affect in many ways. But will these changes actually improve learning? Ever since computers were deployed in earnest in the 1960s, researchers have been trying to use information technology to improve learning. Today, numerous such experiments are under way on the Internet. In one project, grade-school students around the world are collecting measurements of their local environment. The information is entered into a common database, building up a global environmental model shared by all the contributors. Besides learning about their surroundings, the children are learning how to communicate and cooperate with children of different cultures.
And yet, except for a few cases, there is little proof that such exercises actually improve learning. Do they help retention? Build complex ideas from simple ones? Improve problem-solving skills? Provide necessary perspective?
Even though hundreds of rich and promising experiments have been tried for twenty years, the jury is still out. It is unclear whether computer and communications technologies help learning process in a fundamental way.
The lack of a major breakthrough in a mere two decades shouldn’t be construed as a license to perpetuate tired teaching methods and avoid innovation. And yet ”the old way” is preferable to blind adoption of information technology in schools, on an irresponsibly widespread scale, based on the desire to appear modern and the naive assumption that if the technology is deployed en masse, surely thousands of educational flowers will bloom.
All in all we should use what we know really works, ands we should experiment with new ideas actively and intensely on smaller numbers of students – especially because promising approaches on the World Wide Web are mounting up for trial.
Let’s now take a quick look at the different ways we might use the information Marketplace in education.
As we go along, keep in mind that techniques apply to all educational settings: grade school, high school, the university, continuing education, career development, even a how-to guide for home repair.
How the life will change: Daily life & learning cont.
At the simplest level, teachers can use computers to hand out homework assignments, receive the student’s response, and return graded work. Some teachers have been doing this for twenty – five years; they’ve found it offers some logistical benefits but that there is no improvement to education. The Internet has brought new twists. Schools are beginning to put homework assignments on their home pages that both students and parents can access. No longer will any student be able to claim that ”the teacher didn’t give them any homework” or ”They don’t remember their assignment”.
A commercial service called Homework Helper has been started in Philadelphia by the Infonautics company, which lets students use plain English to access an extensive online library of thousands of magazines, newspapers, reference books, photo archives, and more.
More trendy are specialised ”knowledge hyperdocuments” software tools that organize knowledge for student use. They include today’s hypermedia-the so called edutainment CD-ROMs for personal computers that present numerous snippets of the text, pictures, video, and sound.
If a student is reading about Christopher Columbus on his computer and sees the word Nina highlighted on his screen, and clicks on it with his mouse, he/she will be transported to a drawing of the ship. If he/she clicks on the captain standing at the bow, a portrait of Columbus will fill the screen. Hyperdocuments like this represent a significant departure from the linear organziation of knowledge used for centuries in books.
The point-and-click excursions are driven by the learner, rather than the teacher, and we know that this is good for discovery and motivation. But is the learning effect the same as when students get this information out of a book?
The advantages of empowering students to control their own learning may be offset by loss of the guidance of an experienced teacher. In most cases, combining both approaches may involve more time and effort than the student or teacher can afford.
”Analysis tools” are computer programs that can help a student probe for underlying causes of what is happening in a specialized area of knowledge. They do best in quantitative disciplines like maths, physics, and engineering. One program , for example, could determine the voltages and currents in a simple electrical circuit.
Educationally, the approach is not very enlightening.
However, coupled with a good human teacher or the invitation to ”read” and understand the program or spoken dialog that provides explanations, analysis tools can help students increase their understanding and sharpen their intuition.
Where person meets machine; Audio,Video – Talking to your computer
Imagine that since the day you were born, the only way you could talk to your parents, your relatives, and your friends was through a keyboard and a mouse. Not a pleasant thought. Yet we are quite content to restrict ourselves to this unnatural form of communication when it comes to our computers. How come? Presumably, because we believe that this is the best technologists can do, given the limitations of machines. Not true! The technology that can let you hold a spoken dialog with your computer in a narrow subject area is already working well in research settings. It also promises to become much more widely used in the emerging Information Marketplace during the next five to seven years, as a result of technical and economic trends.
It’s tempting to discuss the human-machine boundary, or interface, as a bunch of gadgates and techniques, where the prime questions are whether the human should use keystrokes, mouse clicks, handwriting, speech, or fancy goggles and how text, icons, and colors should appear on the screen to please human users.
The overwhelming imperative is to communicate as effectively and naturally as possible, whether writing, speaking, rolling one’s eyes, gesturing, or squeezing another person’s hand. It’s exactly the same with computer interfaces. And as we’ll see, it involves the very difficult business of conveying shared concepts.
Where person meets machine; Audio,Video – Talking to your computer cont.
Interfaces are important because that’s where we come into contact with the machinery of the Information Marketplace or, more philosophically, because that is where humanity meets technology.
Besides keyboards and mice, today’s interface devices include trackballs and joysticks that move an object on a computer screen, hand held styluses for handwriting and drawing, microphones that pick up speech, and both still and video cameras for images. However there are many other devices being developed around the world. They include gloves that let the computer know the precise movements of your fingers. They also include glasses and headtracking helmets with mechanical, electromagnetic, and optical gadgets that track your eye and head movements so that the computer knows where you are looking. Complete bodysuits that convey motions of your torso and limbs are not readily available but have been built and will no doubt appear in the future.
These interfaces may soon allow you to work simultaneously with colleagues around the globe, order food from a French waiter in French even though you don’t know the language, and take a dance lesson in your home from an instructor across town. They are also likely to alter your interactions with people on the street and in your home in dramatic ways.
Not until we stop marvelling at such interactions, and use them as needed to communicate with our machines, will the Information Marketplace become an integral part of our everyday lives. Let’s examine the different interfaces to see which ones can really help us, which are likely to be successfully developed, and which may be relegated to their proper place as fascinating but passing fads.
Though fancy interfaces like bodysuits may provide compelling sensations, all we need to carry out most tasks we will perform in the Information Marketplace is the ability to speak with the computer. Speech is a big part of the interfaces we’ll end up with, for two important reasons: It is natural- the vast majority of the time we communicate with one another simply by speaking. And speech is the interface technology most ready to explode for practical applications.
A system that understands speech could dramatically expand technology’s role in our daily lives. A navigational-aid program in you car could help you find your way through a city as you drive. Another one in your home computer could guide you through a maze of potentially useful services in the Information Marketplace. Speech systems could act as travel agents, helping you to book flights or make car and hotel reservations. They may also be used in athletic event kiosks to answer your queries on the day’s latest results, past athletic records, and reporters’ commentaries. Then again, they may be used as a shopper’s aid throughout the Information Marketplace helping you to find out what is for sale or how a product works. They may help you to fill out a variety of forms and send electronic or voice mail.
Of course, speech systems cannot be used everywhere. In quiet environments or where writing or gestures are more appropriate, other interfaces will be better. Still, speech is perhaps the most promising interface ahead.
But there is still a very long way to go before achieving the things mentioned above.
Solutions; Is a life without computers still possible?; Own opinion
Indeed it’s very difficult to find a solution for this ”computer problem”. On the hand one hand it seems as if it is a problem to live with computers, on the other hand a life without computers or, it’s better to say a life without the help of computers, isn’t possible today.
Think of all branches and places where computers are used nowadays.
Can you imagine a life without
\ Mobile telephones
\ Air traffic navigation
\ Digital TV
\ Digital Telephones
\ Traffic lights
\ Underground systems
Is a life without computers still possible?
I think you must differentiate between two different groups:
People who need or work with the computer and
People who are absolutely against computers and have got nothing to do with them (=computers).
For the former mentioned above who can’t work without computers. Maybe they are stock market exchange people, maybe they are responsible for the air traffic control etc, for these people, the computer is an absolute must. They would be jobless if there weren’t any computers. In these branches I think the computer is very useful and cannot be avoided.
The second group of people that I mentioned can work without the computer. If they want! It’s up to every single individual to have one or not. But I think in order to succeed and to be competitive with the others (firms, friends, private things) you should have one, otherwise you are lost!
Since I was 8 I always have a personal computer. First the programs and the speed were simple With my first computer I only played simple games such as ”Cats” ,”F2”, ”Xenon”, ”The secret of monkey island”. But I wasn’t just interested in playing games, I was also interested in programming games. So I often went to my friend (2 years older than me) and he gave me tips and showed me tricks how I to improve or write my programs.
You must know that you can’t learn programming in a few days. It’s the same as maths. You learn from the very beginning and from day to day there are small pieces which build up your knowledge about these things, like in a puzzle.
As time passed, I wrote more and more programs and I even got a better computer. I noticed that the computer industry worked very fast. I bought a computer and the next week there was a new one on the market, which was better than mine and for the same price.
It was amazing. Now we live in a world where computers live with us and we live with the computers. I think it would be nonsense if to say ”I can live without a computer” They have helped us a lot with our education in all kinds of ways. Finally I’d like to say that I couldn’t imagine a world without computers.