Introduction to Computer Hardware
In general, there is very little that you as a future manager need to know about computer hardware, other than some basic vocabulary. The key ideas we want to you understand about hardware are:
* Computers are basically simple electronic devices. While what they do may seem magical, very little of the magic comes from the computer itself. In fact computers are limited in what they can do.
* More of the magic comes from the software – the set of instructions that tell the computer how to process and display data (and we’ll talk more about that in the following classes).
* Most of the magic comes from the way people use the information ...view middle of the document...
) Right – addition and subtraction. That’s it. That is all a sophisticated computer can do mathematically. Just add and subtract. Now, if you are a computer you can do this very fast, so you can also make it look like you are doing multiplication and division. Multiplying 3 x 2 is the same as adding 2+2+2 really fast. (This is the same trick I used to pass my multiplication tests in grade school.) But what about the logic part? This brings us up to about the third grade, when we studied concepts like greater than, less than and equal to. That’s what we mean by “logic.” It turns out that a computer not only can add and subtract, but it can tell if a number is larger, smaller or the same as another number. So the computer is about as smart as a third grader and as electronically sophisticated as a toaster.
But what about all those text, graphics, audio streams, videos, and photographs that the computer processes? What does that have to do with arithmetic? Well, as I said, the computer is just a straightforward electronic device made up of wires and connectors and the like. It turns out that if we string the wires just the right way, we can get the circuits to act like switches. The computer contains millions of tiny switches. And each switch can be either “off” or “on.” If we let a circuit that is switched off represent a 0, and one that is switched on represent a 1, then we have just converted the many wired circuits into kind of a basic arithmetic machine or calculator. But how useful is a calculator that only uses 0 and 1?
Well, as it turns out, we can do a whole lot with a numbering system that uses only 0 and 1. It is called the binary number system, and using only 0s and 1s is called binary math. Some of you may remember learning to count in different “bases.” (OK, we’re probably up to about 4th grade now.). Our normal numbering system is Base 10. That means that the first number is the ones column (100), the second is the 10s (101), the third is the 100s (102), etc. The computer uses a Base 2 counting system. The first column is the ones (20), the second column is the twos (21), the third column the fours (22), etc. So….for the computer to process anything – numbers, text, videos – they have to be coded into a set of 0s and 1s. And as it turns out, there exists a standard set of 0/1 codes for letters and numbers and fonts and sounds and pixel colors and everything else that a computer processes. For example, “A “(upper case) is 01000001, and “a” (lower case) is 01100001. The standards for the binary representation of letters and numbers in binary code (i.e. 0’s and 1’s) is called ASCII. An ASCII table may be found in the slide set for this session.
So now you have learned one of the very basic limits of a computer that we use today. If it can’t be expressed as a 0 or 1, then it can’t be processed by a computer. How do you describe love in 0s and 1s? How do you describe your uneasiness with someone...