Chapter 4 Study Questions
1. Why do you need to know about information technology?
Knowing a small bit about information technology, including hardware and
software, makes us more knowledgeable consumers of technology.
2. Where did all this information technology stuff come from?
The first digital computing devices were available in the 1950s. The first personal
computers came on the market in the early 1980s, and the Internet came into
wide use during the 1990s.
The first patent on a digital computer was filed in 1947. Early computers were
complex and expensive. A single person interacted with the computer, and only
one program could run at a time. Over time, these machines were slowly
improved and commercialized.
The first commercial digital computers were large, room-sized devices called
mainframes – were used in business and government & cost between $200,000-
400,000. Second generation mainframes were introduced in the 1950s – they
were smaller, easier to maintain, and more reliable.
Third generation were introduced in the 1960s, and these included operating
systems and multi-processing. These cost millions of dollars. Multi-processing
allowed for time-sharing, so many users could interact with the computer at one
time. Time-sharing eventually led to more sophisticated networks.
The first microcomputer was developed in 1975. Often had no display screen or
monitor and required users to develop their own programs. By 1981, the
microcomputer had developed enough for computers to launch the personal
computer (PC). These were easier to use than mainframes and were immediately
The value of information technology can be measured not only in the power of
the processor, but also in the power of the network that can be accessed
through the machine.
3. What does a manager need to know about computer hardware?
Hardware consists of electronic components that input, process, output, and
store data according to instructions encoded in the software. Typical input hardware devices include the keyboard, mouse, document
scanners, and barcode scanners. Microphones are also input devices.
Processing devices include the central processing unit (CPU) – which selects
instructions, processes them, performs arithmetic and logical comparisons, and
stores results of operations in memory. CPUs vary in function, speed, and cost.
The CPU works in conjunction with the computer’s main memory – CPU reads
data and instructions from the memory.
Computers also can have special function cards that can be added to the
computer to augment its basic capabilities.
Output hardware consists of video displays, printers, audio speakers, overhead
projectors, and other special-purpose devices. Storage hardware saves data and
programs. (CDs, DVDs, magnetic disks, USB, etc.)
Computers represent data using binary digits, called bits. A bit is either a one or
a zero. A switch can either be closed or open—a computer can be designed so
that an open switch represents zero, and a closed switch represents one.
Bits are grouped into 8-bit chunks called bytes. Majority of data requires one
byte for one character. Bytes are used to measure sizes of non-character data as
well. A kilobyte (KB) is a collection of 1024 bytes. A megabyte (MB) is 1024KB. A
gigabyte (GB) is 1024MB. A terabyte (TB) is 1024GB.
The CPU (central processing unit) plays a central role in computer use. To
process data, the CPU must first transfer the data to main memory. To execute
an instruction, it moves the instruction from main memory into the CPU via the
data channel or bus. CPU has a small amount of very fast memory called a
cache—keeps frequently used instructions in the cache.
The computer’s main memory contains instructions for the operating system
(OS), which controls the computer’s resources as well as a block of data. CPU
conducts memory swapping to ensure that each program has enough memory
space to run. (Memory swapping does make the computer move a bit slower).
Cache & main memory are often called volatile—their contents are lost when
the power is off. Magnetic disks and optical disks are non-volatile—their
contents survive when power is off (unsaved documents are still lost).
CPU speed is expressed in hertz. CPU speeds continually increase over the years.
An employee who does simple tasks will be fine with a CPU of 2 GHz. An
employee who processes large tasks will need a CPU of 3 GHz or more. 4. What is the difference between a client and a server, and what is cloud
Client computers are employed for word processing, spreadsheets, database
access, etc. Most client computers also have software that enables them to
connect to a network.
Servers provide services—run blogs, publish websites, sell goods, host
databases, support printing, etc. Need to be faster, larger, and more powerful
than client computers. A server farm is a large collection of computers that
coordinate all activities (used for Google or Amazon).
In cloud computing hardware, software, and applications are provided as a
service, usually through a web browser. This makes software and data services
available from any location at any time. Huge reduction in the cost per megabyte
of storage and network bandwidth has pushed the notion of cloud computing. A
user can access data, load applications, and store data using other people’s
Cloud computing builds upon the concept of grid computing, in which several
computers are used to address a single problem at the same time. Grid
computing uses software to divide and apportion pieces of a program among
5. What does a manager need to know about software?
Figure 4-9 on Pg. 95
Computer software can be categorized into 1 of 2 varieties
1. Operating Systems (large and complicated programs that control the
computer’s resources), Example: Windows
2. Application Software (perform specific user tasks), Example: Microsoft
Two important software constraints:
- Each version of an operating system is written for a particular type of
o In most cases you cannot use an operating system that was