Hardware is any piece of computer equipment which can be physically touched. All hardware can then be split into four major categories:
Some examples of hardware are:
o Mouse – Input device
o Keyboard – Input device
o Monitor – Output device
o Tower – Processing/Storage device
o Printer – Output device
o Scanner – Input Device
Software is a coded program which can only be used while the computer is running. It is a non-physical thing which cannot be physically touched. Without the software, a computer would be useless.
Some examples of software are:
o Microsoft Word
o Microsoft Excel
o Pain Shop Pro
o Microsoft Access
2. Input Devices
The types of input devices available to me were:
Keyboard – Allows the entry of number, letters and punctuation by the user pressing keys corresponding to each symbol.
o A wide range of different symbols can be produced
o It is quick and easy to do it you can touch-type
o It is simple to learn how to use one
o Speciallist keyboards can allow more detailed and comfortable typing
o Most computers have one attached as default
o Inputting data can be a very tedious process, especially if the user is not a touch-typer
o Errors can easily be made by accident by the user’s hand/fingers slipping
o It cannot be used to easily access menus and change settings of the software
Mouse – A standard pointing device which allows the cursor to move by moving the physical object. A ball is placed in the base of the mouse, and it’s movements are proportionate to the movement of the cursor. It also has two buttons on it to press on-screen buttons.
o It comes as standard with most desktop computers (not laptops) so no additional cost is incurred
o It is very simple for the user to learn how to use one, which means the majority of users can use them
o They are normally attached by a wire to the computer, so the mouse needs to be near the computer
o A flat space is needed to use it properly
o It is not compatible to use with all types of hardware e.g. notebook or palmtop computers
Digital Camera – This is a device which allows the user to take photographs of scenes. It works by a array of light sensors, and when a picture is taken the colours are converted to digital signals by these sensors. These picture can then be transferred to a computer when necessary, and they can also be printed. They come is a variety of resolutions.
o Pictures can be taken, and then deleted immediately if they are not liked/needed
o No film is needed, and it contains RAM which is good because it allows pictures to be taken off the camera, and more pictures can be put on again in the RAM
o Editing the images is very easy and quick
o Images are easily transported from one piece of software to another
o They are becoming more and more easy to buy in shops (commercial)
o The cameras are more expensive than normal ones, and the price is normally proportionate to the resolution, which means good quality cameras are extremely expensive
o Memory is expensive, so images often have to be compressed to allow a suitable number of pictures to be stored, the pictures are normally very large (e.g. 3KB) Or only a few pictures can be taken if they are not compressed
Scanner – A scanner copies text or pictures which are placed inside the lid. It works by shining a beam of light onto the paper you are copying and the light is then changed into a digital image. This device comes in lots of different resolutions and the pictures can the be stored onto the computer and special software can modify the picture to make different effects. There are two types of scanner: flatbed scanner and handheld scanner.
o They can be very accurate because they normally have a very high resolution, far higher than digital cameras
o Any of the images produced can be put onto the computer and enhanced to make different formats of picture and to produce different effects of the picture
o It is one of the only ways to get a detailed picture of a piece of paper onto a computer
o Images are normally very large and tend to take up a lot of space, which either means they have to be compressed to allow more pictures to be stored or only a few images can be stored
o The quality of the final image is normally dependent on the quality of the original piece of paper, which has some limitations
o Some scanners can be large and take up a lot of space
o A flat area is needed for a flatbed scanner which may not always be available
It is important that data is entered correctly because accuracy is extremely important. If telephone numbers are entered incorrectly, this would mean that customers would be unable to contact the organisation if needed. This could be detrimental to the number of enquiries it would receive. This could be harmful to the amount of profit gained by the organisation, which could have been easily prevented if this human error was picked up earlier. It also makes the organisation become sloppy and unprofessional if problems like this are not spotted, and if work is not proof read before it goes to print.
I could check that the data has been correctly entered by proof reading everything several times, and getting an unconnected person to read it through to spot any errors. This would prevent any misunderstandings and confusion. I could also use the ‘Spelling and Grammar Checker’ which is on most of the Microsoft programmes, which could pick up lots of mistakes. But this does not pick up missed letters or missed words which would cause even more confusion. This can again be resolved by proof reading.
The choice of data entry method can affect speed and accuracy because typing is normally a very slow and tedious process which takes up a lot of time. This method of entry means that it is also easy to make a typing error, which not always be picked up upon, which is inaccurate. If a microphone was used, alongside a voice recognition programme, it would be a much quicker and efficient method of entering data. But this software is expensive to purchase but once up and running, it is easy to use for most people.
3. Output Devices
The types of output devices available to me were:
Monitor – This is the most common piece of equipment for displaying information, and the picture is made of pixels, and the resolution is dependent on how dense the pixels are. Typically they are of 17inch size, but some are larger, and more expensive!
o They normally come default with a standard computer
o They are very reliable
o It allows to user to know what they are doing
o It can display text and graphics all at the same time, in complicated layers
o Flat screens do not take up excessive amounts of space
o New screens are normally light and they do not reflect a lot of sunlight because of the specially designed screens
o It is not a permanent copy, if items are not saved they will be lost when the computer is switched off
o The screens are normally made of glass so they can be fragile and reflect a lot of light which can make the screen hard to read
o They are not suitable for users with visual problems
o The screen is only a certain size, which limits the amount of information that is able to be shown at one time
Laser Printer – Their function is to put ink onto paper, so that a hardcopy of the document can be produced. It works by fusing powdered ink onto paper.
o They can produce a very large quantity of prints in a very short amount of time e.g. 10 – 20 ppm sot hey are very efficient
o The quality of the printouts are very good, with a high resolution e.g. 600 – 1200 dpi
o The device is almost silent when running and when printing, which is good because it means it doesn’t disrupt work
o Even though the toner cartridges are expensive, they last a very long time which means the running costs are relatively low
o The printers nearly always have a high start-up cost, especially the colour ones
o The hardware used is very complex and they are hard to repair if they break, which can be costly
o They are very bulky and take up a lot of space which means not everyone would be able to have them
o Only certain sizes of paper can be used in them, which can cause problems
Inkjet Printer – Its function is to put ink onto paper, so that a hardcopy of the document can be produced. It works by letting ink flow out of a nozzle onto the paper.
o They are cheap to buy and run, which means they are suitable for most householders and small offices
o They have a relatively good resolution, which means their prints are of a good quality e.g. 300 dpi
o They are quiet so they don’t cause a nuisance to workers
o They are not as bulky or heavy as Laser Printers which makes them easier to store and use
o They are slower compared to Laser Printers, which means they are not necessarily suitable for bigger offices, colour prints can take up to 30 seconds per page
o The general cost of the cartridges is more than those of the Laser Printers
o Cartridges also need to be replaced much more frequently than Laser Printers
o The ink takes a few minutes to dry and it can easily be smudged if the wet ink is touched
o Cartridges can easily dry out if left for a long period of time
The similarities and differences between these are
4. Hardware used (for input and output)
The hardware I used to make my system included
In the computers that I used, they all had a 40GB Hard Drive which means that the computer can store 40GB worth of programs and games for it to function properly. The Hard Drive stores all the computer’s information and protects it all when the computer has been turned off. The computers also had Pentium 4 Processors in them, which are microprocessors, which allows a much higher bandwidth than on computers with the old Pentium 3 Processors. It also has 256MB RAM, which allows the computer to do all the necessary tasks needed, when the computer is turned on. All these components are more than are actually needed, but they just allow the user have an easier time while carrying out tasks on the computer.
5. Reasons for choosing this hardware.
I decided to choose this hardware because it was the only option available to me in school. But the
6. Alternative hardware.
I could have chosen different hardware to use:
Suitability for my problem
Track Ball – This is similar to a normal mouse but instead of moving the object to make the pointer on the screen move, your fingertips move the ball which is on top of the object. It also has two buttons on it so buttons on screen can be clicked. It is normally used with CAD. It is an input device.
* It uses up very little space when being used, because the actual object just stays in one place and does not move around like a mouse does
* They are useful for computers that have limited spaces as the ball can be built into the keyboard
* The user has to learn how to use it which can be difficult if they are used to a normal mouse
* They do not come standard with a computer and have to be bought separately at an extra cost
It would be very suitable to use when doing my project because once the user is used to using it, the process would be much quicker. It would also be useful because it is small and can carried around to be plugged into various computers at different locations.
Graphic Tablet – This is a flat pad which is placed on the worktop and a special pen is used to write on it. This allows much more accurate/detailed pictures to be produced on the computer compared to a mouse. Designers normally use this hardware and it is a input device.
* It is an easy way to input hand-drawn pictures into the computer without using a scanner
* It is easy to use, just like writing on paper
* Letter/word recognition software can be installed to make a easier method of inputting text
* They can be expensive to buy
* It is harder to click on menu buttons than with a regular mouse
* The pictures they produce will normally be a “.jpg” file which can be hard to edit once on the computer
This wouldn’t be very suitable because there is no need for detailed pictures top be put on the computer that can’t be created via another method. It would also be too expensive for me to buy personally so it would have to be provided by a second party.
Speakers – These are a type of hardware which is used to listen to sounds and music. They either come within the computer (internal) or they can be placed next to the computer and attached with wires (external).
* Everyone can hear the sounds, so it is especially good for making and presenting presentations.
* If special software is used, text can be converted into sound which is especially helpful for sight-impaired users.
* Headphones can normally be attached
* External customers can end up being very expensive
* Space is needed next to the computer for external speakers to sit
* The speakers could disturb other people working
This piece of hardware would be helpful to use because it would have allowed me to add sounds to my presentation which I could hear in the making of it.
7. Software used
The software I used to create my system was:
Microsoft PowerPoint – This is normally used to make basic presentations, and animations and sounds can be added to make the presentation more effective. This was used to make my main presentation.
* The program comes with the standard package of Microsoft Office, so no extra charge is incurred to purchase it
* Most people are familiar with the program
* The controls on the program are relatively easy to use, so many people can use them
* The program does not have very good graphic settings, so normally another program had to be used to manipulate pictures etc
* Illiterate users may find it hard to use
* It is easy to make mistakes when producing presentations
PhotoFiltre – This is a complex graphics package, which is used to make and manipulate pictures, and is often used to create logos etc. I used this program to produce my logo for the Health Centre.
* The controls on the program are very easy to use
* Pictures can be manipulated easily, as to improve the effect of the graphic
* This is not a default program of the Microsoft package, so an extra charge is incurred for the user to purchase it
* Many users are not familiar with the program, so they may have to learn to use it or they may turn to an easier program
8. Alternative solutions.
Suitability for my problem
PaintShopPro – This is another graphics program and could be used instead of PhotoFiltre. It could be used to create my logo.
* This program is more well known than PhotoFiltre, so more people would be able to use it
* There is more advanced versions available which allow more complex manipulation to take place
* This is more expensive than PhotoFiltre, and can often cost hundreds of pounds
* It is hard to use unless you have been trained in using it
This would be very suitable for my problem as it does the same job, just in a more efficient and quick way- because the controls are a lot more complex. But this program was not available in school.