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GCSE ICT

Hardware and Software


What is hardware?
Hardware is the equipment that makes up the computer system.
What is software?
Software is the name for the programs that run on a computer system.
You can see and touch hardware, such as monitors, printers etc.
You can see the media (method of storing information) on which software is stored, such as
disks, tapes etc but you cannot see or touch the programs themselves.
The main program which runs on a computer and controls the memory, runs
programs and controls peripheral devices is known as an operating system.
!amples are "#S, $indows %&, 'inu!.
Types of computer
There are many different types of computer. The most popular types are listed
below.
(i !ainframe computer
This is the largest type of computer. Here are some of the main features.
They are very large in si(e.
They process information very )uickly.
Hundreds of people are able to access and use a mainframe at the same time.
They are very e!pensive.
They have many peripherals
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(printers, disk drives etc) connected to them.
*ost mainframes operate using a single processor (have one C#$) but some use a
number of processors and are therefore e!amples of parallel processing computers.
*ainframes are generally used in very large organi(ations, such as the &olice, "+',, -anks
etc.
Single and #arallel #rocessing
.nside a computer, the information is processed by the Central #rocessing $nit
(or C#$).
This is a microchip which contains millions of switching devices and is able to
process information very )uickly. *ost computer systems have one ,&/ and are called single
processor de%ices.
.n parallel processing, a computer will have more than one ,&/. These ,&/s are called
transputers and are able to work together to process information. ach ,&/ is able to
undertake one task at a time. The more ,&/s that work together in parallel, the faster
information can be processed.
&arallel processing computers are used where huge amounts of information has to be
processed )uickly, e.g. commercial flight simulators or computers that are used to forecast the
weather. Some of the most powerful parallel processing computers have 01, 20 or even 341
processors.
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Peripherals are devices which connect to the computer, such as printers, monitors, scanners, mouse, keyboard etc.
(ii !icrocomputer
This is a computer with one processor (one ,&/). They are much
cheaper than mainframe computers. They have a small number of
peripherals connected to them, e.g. printer, scanner. They are used in
the home, in school and in small businesses.
(iii &aptop computer
5 laptop computer is a porta'le microcomputer. The keyboard, mouse and monitor are built6in
to the computer. They are smaller than microcomputers and tend to be the same si(e as an 50
ring binder. They are used mainly by people who need to use the computer in many different
locations, or when travelling. They tend to be a little more e!pensive than fi!ed des(top
computers (computers that sit on the desk and are not designed to be moved around).
(i% #almtop computers
These are hand held computers. They are smaller than laptops and can usually fit in your
pocket. Some have keyboards built in, but most modern palmtops use a stylus (a pen shaped
implement) to draw on a touch sensitive screen and recognise handwriting.
They are not as powerful as microcomputers. They have a number of features such as diaries,
address books, notebooks and some have word processing, database and spreadsheet
facilities. They tend to be slightly cheaper than microcomputers.
(% Em'edded computers
5n embedded system is a device that has processors built into the system.
The processors are programmed for a specific purpose. The processors inside
the system deal with information from sensors, process the information and
perform specific tasks based on this automatically.
!amples of embedded computers are in washing machines,
microwave ovens, guided missiles, modern car engine management systems,
traffic lights, mobile phones, calculators, digital cameras, cd and dvd players
and many more. The use of embedded computers is increasing.
)ey words
Hardware,
software,
program,
media,
mainframe,
peripheral,
,&/,
single processor,
parallel processing,
microcomputer,
laptop computer,
palmtop computer,
embedded system.