MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 1
In 1967, Dr. John Kemeny of Dartmouth College said, "Knowing how to use a computer will be as
important as reading and writing." At that time, most people did not believe such a statement could ever
be true. Today, the validity of Dr. Kemeny’s prediction is apparent. The number of computer systems
has increased dramatically since 1964. Small computer systems called microcomputers or personal
computers, have made computing available to almost everyone in society. Given the increasing use and
availability of computer systems, the knowledge of using a computer will continue to be an important if
not essential skill in the future.
Today, we live in an information society where knowledge workers channel their energies to use and
provide a variety of computer-based information services. The term "knowledge worker" was coined by
Peter Drucker some thirty years ago to describe someone who adds value by processing existing
information to create new information which could be used to define and solve problems. Examples of
knowledge workers include lawyers, doctors, diplomats, law makers, marketers, software developers,
managers, bankers…The knowledge worker’s job function revolves around the use, manipulation, and
dissemination of information. As compared to production workers, knowledge workers utilize their
intellectual skills to convert their ideas into products, services, or processes.
Cyberphobia and Computer Competency
If you’ve got cyberphobia, the fear of computers, computer competency is a sure cure. Computer
competency will allow you to be an active and effective participant in the emerging information society.
By the end of this course you should:
1. Feel comfortable using and operating a computer system.
2. Be able to interact with the computer – i.e., generate input to the computer and obtain output
from it. Input is data entered to a computer system for processing. Output is the presentation
of the results of processing (for e.g., a printed résumé or a tax return)
3. Be an intelligent consumer of computers and computer equipment, collectively called hardware.
Smart computer shoppers usually get what they need, not what salesmen tell them they need.
4. Be an intelligent consumer of software. Software refers to a collective set of instructions, called
programs that can be interpreted by a computer. The programs cause the computer to perform
desired functions, such as playing Supermario, the generation of graphics, typing a memo, or
browsing the World Wide Web for example.
5. Be able to make the computer work for you. The computer competent person knows what
hardware and software is required to solve various problems.
6. Be conversant in computerese, the language of computers and information technology.
7. Understand the impact of computers on society, now and in the future.
8. Understand the importance of computer security, and knowing how to protect your data and your
What is a Computer and what does it do?
"What is a computer?" Technically speaking, the computer is any counting device. But in the context of
modern technology, we’ll define the computer as an electronic device that accepts input, is capable of
interpreting and executing data and programmed commands through arithmetic and comparison
operations, storing data and instructions, and producing output. Computation operations refer to
arithmetic operations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Comparison operations
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 2
include greater than (>), less than (<), equal to (=), greater than or equal to (≥), less than or equal to (≤),
The stored program concept allows you to use your computer for one task, such as word processing, and
then easily switch to a different type of computing task, such as editing a photo or sending an email
message. It is the single most important characteristic that distinguishes a computer from other simpler
and less versatile devices, such as calculators.
The computer’s power derives from its ability to perform the operations mentioned above very quickly,
accurately, reliably and storage capability.
Speed: Computers perform various operations by executing instructions. The speeds at which these
operations are performed are measured in milliseconds, microseconds, nanoseconds, and picoseconds
(one thousandth, one millionth, one billionth, and one trillionth of a second, respectively).
Accuracy: Zero errors. Computers are amazingly accurate. Errors do occur in computer based
information systems, but the vast majority of these errors can be traced to a human error – either
inputting incorrect data, or creating incorrect programs. (GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out)
Reliability: Computers are the most reliable workers when it comes to repetitive tasks. No matter how
many times you ask a computer to calculate 456789+16739283, it will always give you the same result.
Storage: Computers have total and instant recall of data and an extremely high storage capacity to store
data in any form that can be digitized, whether text, numbers, graphics, audio, or video.
Computers in Society
It is virtually impossible to list all the ways in which computers are used today. Let’s take a quick look
at some of the many ways in which computers are used in our society.
Computers in Business
Were the power to computers ever shut off, business and industry would almost instantly grind to a halt.
Computers have become so deeply embedded in information processing and communication systems,
that almost no activity would be possible without them.
Transaction processing. Most business activities involve transactions with suppliers, employees, or
customers. Computers can make these transactions possible and allow instantaneous processing of these
transactions. Advantages of the use of computers in business are increased productivity, improved
decision making and cost reduction in terms of reduced labor and decreased overstocking of inventory.
Financial analysis. Financial analysis is performed throughout the company; from top management on
down. People can analyze investments, sales, expenses, markets and other aspects of the business using
numbers and graphs.
Computers in the Home
The lines between work, play, and education are beginning to disappear as resources once available only
at work or school become available in the home. From the comfort of your home you can research
school or work assignments, exchange e-mail, join special interest groups, download files, play games,
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 3
or make airline reservations. Home shopping and banking are growing areas of computing. You can
visit online stores, view electronic catalogs, and do online shopping.
Some families have an Internet appliance, which is a special type of computer whose sole function is to
connect to the Internet from home. The set-top box is an example of an Internet appliance. A set-top
box sits on top of or next to a TV set and allows the home user to access the Internet and navigate Web
pages with a device that resembles a remote control.
Computers in Education
Computers are rapidly becoming the most amazing teaching tool ever invented. They can pace
instruction differently for each student, animate important concepts, and use interactivity to involve
students in the learning process. Educational software has become a major influence at all levels from
elementary schools to universities. Elementary schools are using computers to provide children with
new and exciting approaches to learning through the use of CAL (computer aided learning) software
where the children can learn various subjects through the use of computer educational games that make
learning fun. Secondary schools are using computers to deliver multimedia educational programs and
to enable kids to explore the Web for information. At colleges and universities, computers are used to
deliver long distance education to students anywhere in the world, and to incorporate interactivity into
the material through the use of discussion boards, online evaluation and others.
Computers in Entertainment
Information technology isn’t limited to the areas where you would most expect to find it, such as
business and industry. It’s also being widely used in the entertainment and arts worlds. From making
movies like ‘Toy Story’, the first all-digital animated feature film, to modern dance to professional
sports, computers are at work.
Animation. In earlier days, Bugs Bunny cartoons for example were laboriously hand-drawn in the
hundreds of thousands of frames needed for each cartoon, but today, computers are doing much of the
In movies, computers are widely used to create special effects. They are also extensively used behind
the scenes to edit film during the production process.
Music software allows the creation and editing of recorded music.
Computers in Science and Engineering
Some of the earliest users of information technology were scientists, engineers and mathematicians. In
medicine, physicians use computers to understand the human body, to diagnose disorders, to monitor
patients and even to assist while performing major surgeries.
In an attempt to better understand earthquakes, scientists use computers to gather and plot data.
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 4
Large computer systems you don’t see
Many of your daily activities are actually interactions with computers that you don’t see.
Airline reservations. When you call to make an airline reservation, a travel agent enters your request
into a terminal that is connected to a mainframe computer. The
terminal then displays all the flights available, the times they
depart and arrive, and their fares. If you make a reservation,
your request is entered into the computer’s database, and a seat
is reserved for you. You can also interact with the mainframe
computer through your PC or mobile phone.
Banking. When you go to a bank and make a transaction such as
a withdrawal or a deposit, the teller enters your transaction into
the terminal that is connected to a mainframe computer. The
computer processes your transaction, updating your account
balance and displaying your current account balance on the
terminal. When you make a withdrawal from a bank’s automatic teller machine, a computer dispenses
the money and charges the withdrawal against your account.
Weather forecasting. When you watch or listen to a weather forecast, you are interacting with the
output of a massive and powerful system of computers that compile and analyze data from sensors all
over the world.
Small computers you don’t see
Danny Hillis, founder of Thinking Machines, has been quoted as saying, “I went to my first computer
conference at the New York Hilton about 30 years ago. When somebody there predicted the market for
microprocessors would eventually be in the millions, someone else said, ‘Where are they all going to
go? It’s not like you need a computer in every doorknob!’ Years later, I went back to the same hotel. I
noticed the room keys had been replaced by electronic cards you slide into slots on the doors. There was
a computer in every doorknob!”
These chips, called embedded microprocessors, are widely used in many systems
built into your favorite electronics, traffic lights, your house, your car, and even your
appliances. Chips and software are embedded in the product to add functions that
would otherwise not be possible without them. Today's cars use dozens of embedded
chips to control fuel consumption, exhaust emissions, braking, acceleration, climate
control and many other basic functions that once were purely mechanical. Houses use
embedded chips in the thermostats of the hot water heater, the heating system,
microwaves, washing machines, TV remote, in the security system if you have one
and many more.
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 5
The Information Processing Cycle
The activities involved in the generation of information together comprise the information processing
cycle. They are input, processing, output, storage and retrieval, and distribution and communication.
Input. During the input stage, you enter information into the
computer. The most common input devices are the keyboard,
scanner, mouse, microphone, video camera and web camera. The
data you input can be text, numbers, images, videos or sounds.
Distribution. Data and information can be Processing. Once information is in
printed and distributed or directly distributed the computer, it can be processed.
from one computer to other computers. Two For example, the computer can
popular ways to do so are to send documents as compare, sort, or do arithmetic
attachments to e-mail or to post them on a web operations on numbers, or let you edit
site. text, images or sounds.
Storage. Programs and data that are not Output. To see (or hear)
currently being used are normally stored so what the computer has
they can be loaded back into the computer at processed, it has to be output
any time. Typically, these are stored on to a screen, printer, or
disks or tapes of some kind. speakers.
Data is required for all computer processing. It refers to the raw facts (numbers and words), given to a
computer during the input operation. Information refers to data that has been processed into a form that
has meaning and is useful. This can be expressed as: Data + Meaning = Information.
For example, consider a typical market survey that requests a sample of the public to answer some
questions about a new product. The questionnaires are input to a system, processed (classified - for e.g.,
according to sex, or age group, computed - for e.g., calculation of totals, averages, statistics) and
Individually, a completed questionnaire would not tell the company very much, only the views of one
consumer. In this case, the individual questionnaires are data.
Once they have been processed, and analyzed, the resulting report is information. This information has
meaning to the company. They can use this information to make meaningful decisions regarding the
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 6
The production of information by processing data on a computer is called information processing or
electronic data processing. During the output operation, the information that has been created is put
into some form, such as a printed report, that people can use. The information can also be stored in an
electronic format for future use.
What is Information Technology?
The phrase information technology (IT) refers to the input, processing, storage and the delivery of
information, and the processes and devices that make all this possible.
Information technology is based on:
The term hardware is applied to any of the physical equipment in a computer system. Hardware
includes not only the computer and devices such as screens and printers, but also all the elements used to
tie the systems together. For example, the telephone wires or cables connecting computer systems.
The term software refers to instructions or programs that guide the hardware in the performance of its
The term communications refers to the wired or wireless links required to transfer information from one
computer to another.
The twin advances of computer technology and communications technology together make up the
foundations of information technology.
IT has had a significant impact on office technology and office automation.
Digital copiers, laser printers, and faxing systems are getting faster, cheaper, more sophisticated, and
delivering better quality output all the time. What were previously viewed as standalone machines, have
now become integral components of the IT infrastructure.
The most important components of office automation are:
Word Processing Manipulating text, eg., letters and reports
Spreadsheets Manipulating numbers, eg., budgeting, sales reports
Databases Storing information efficiently, and in a way that makes it more
accessible for everyone, eg., a database of customer names and
Networks Allowing instantaneous communication eg., chat and e-mail;
and the exchange and sharing of information resources eg.,
databases, printers, scanners, disk space.
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 7
Office automation can affect businesses in various ways:
1. Routine processing: Data can now be processed in larger volumes, at greater speed and with
greater accuracy than with manual systems.
2. Less Paper: There might be less paper in the office (but not necessarily so)
3. Management information: Managers are likely to have access to more accurate, reliable and
up-to-date information to aid them in decision making
4. Customer service: Office automation can result in better customer service. Customers could be
served better and faster if the staff has on-line access to the organization’s data files.
We are living in a digital world. The evidence is everywhere. For e.g., digital technologies have
revolutionized the communications, information processing and television industries. The term "digital"
refers to any technology that breaks data or information down into tiny parts, representing each part as a
series of zeroes and ones.
The baseline of digital technology is a coding system with only two numbers—1 and 0—hence the term
binary. Each of these 1’s and 0’s is called a bit (binary digit). In the digital world bits are things; they
take up space; they take time to move from one place to another. A collection of bits can be described
and counted, much like anything. The most common way to count the bits in a system is by “byte” or
Almost anything - text, sound, speech, film, graphics, animations, music can be digitized, and whatever
can be digitized can be presented on a computer and transmitted over a network.
Advantages of using Digital Technology:
Rapid access to the information from remote locations. Information in a digital format can be
transmitted quickly and cheaply.
Information in a digital format can be copied much more accurately without distortion, and
manipulated much more easily than analog information.
Because digital images can be compressed, the amount of digital data that can be sent over a
particular communication channel greatly exceeds the amount of analog data that can be sent
over the same channel. This is what has made it possible for us to send and receive photographs,
music and videos over networks.
For nearly two decades, industry sages have heralded the coming age of converging digital technology.
High-technology industries, ranging from computers to wireless communications and consumer
electronics, are currently being transformed by a process known as "digital convergence," that is, the
trend toward growing interoperability among various products and technologies, and their enhanced
ability to exchange information with each other. With digital convergence, we are moving away from
stand alone pieces of equipment to integrated systems that can communicate with each other.
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 8
Convergence is being driven by three underlying trends. The first is proliferation of digital data, which
provides a common base for handling diverse types of information – numbers, words, music, pictures,
video and more – using the same devices, processing techniques and media. The second is widespread
connectivity, which helps bring diverse information together, and extends the value and capabilities of a
device beyond its out-of-the-box functionality. The third is continuous advances in technology, from
battery life to processor speed.
In the days of the first computers, transaction and company data were the first types of information
digitized. Then came text, opening the world to word processing, followed by audio CDs and finally
video. Having all forms of information in the digital domain has given rise to numerous convergence
Personal Computers and Entertainment
A major area of interest is the merging of the PC and entertainment. There are numerous devices that
transmit photos, music and videos from the PC to the home stereo/home theater system. Persons might
stream home movies from the PC in their den to their flat-screen television in their living room, or
wirelessly access music files from any spot in the house. In 2002, Microsoft introduced the Windows
XP Media Center Edition, a Windows version specifically designed for PCs that function as digital
media hubs (connecting to TVs and music systems, as well as functioning as storage tanks for music
files and photos). This concept uses the Internet as input, the PC as organizer and the home theater as
output. Exactly how and where we want to hear, listen and manage all this is evolving.
Data and Voice
Data used to travel over voice (telephone) networks, starting in the 1960s. Increasingly, voice is
traveling over data networks. Billions have been spent by private enterprises and telecom carriers to
develop voice over IP (VoIP) networks using the Internet's IP protocol. Voice over IP is a telephone
service that uses the Internet as a global telephone network. Starting in the mid-1990s, advertiser-
supported, free telephone service from PC to PC or between phones and PCs using the public Internet
became popular, especially for international calls. Call quality over the Internet, however, can be erratic
because the Internet provides no guarantee of quality of service. However, when an organization has
control over its network, quality can be excellent.
Wireless and Handheld
There is a convergence of wireless transmission for portable phones and cellphones that enable them to
also connect to the LAN if they pick up a Wi-Fi signal in the vicinity. Numerous functions are now
combined, such as the cellphone/PDA and cellphone/camera/music player. It bundles up a mobile phone
with a digital camera and a music player into a single gadget. Tiny video camcorders also function as
still cameras, voice recorders, digital music players, Webcams and even external storage drives.
Consider the automobile. Via wireless connections, automobiles will be able to access GPS data to
pinpoint a person’s location or to provide street-by-street maps.
That sets up a collision of three massive industries. In one corner stands the computer and software
business. In another is the consumer-electronics sector. The third camp is the communications
industry. All three groups will have a hand in building the digital wonders that are headed our way.
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 9
Basic Types of Computer Systems
Based on Usage
1. General Purpose: Perform a wide variety of processing tasks. These are the most common.
2. Dedicated or Special Purpose: Fundamentally the same as a general purpose, but programmed
for a specific purpose. They are used in a variety of consumer products, microwaves,
telephones, washing machines, etc.
There are 4 major categories of computers: supercomputers, mainframe computers,
minicomputers, and microcomputers. Computers are generally classified according to their size,
speed, processing capabilities and price.
Supercomputers are the heavyweights in the computing world. These
systems perform heavy calculations using hardware and software that is
on the cutting edge of technology. These systems often require special
liquid or gas cooling to keep them running, incorporate hundreds or
thousands of processors, frequently require a large amount of physical
space and a dedicated team of professionals to keep the system
running. The thousands of processors are all designed to work in
parallel. Only government agencies, the U.S. military and a select few
corporations and universities own supercomputers because they are
exceedingly expensive. They are used for problems requiring complex
calculations. These systems are often custom designed to perform
specific types of tasks such as graphics rendering, image enhancement (NASA JPL), or mathematical
analysis. Supercomputers push the limits of current computer and electronic circuit design and are
frequently so huge that they occupy a whole building or series of rooms.
Keep in mind that a computer falls into the supercomputer category if it is, at the time of construction,
one of the fastest computers in the world. Twenty years ago, a supercomputer was defined as any device
capable of performing one million calculations per second or more. Today's desktop computers have the
power to perform billions of operations per second. Supercomputers today claim trillions of calculations
In the early days of computing, mainframes
were huge computers that could fill an entire
room or even a whole floor! As the size of
computers has diminished while their power
has increased, the term mainframe has fallen
out of use in favor of enterprise server.
You'll still hear the term used, particularly in
large companies to describe the huge
machines processing millions of transactions
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 10
Mainframe is an older term used to refer to a large, powerful computer which performs the bulk of the
data processing within an organization and is accessed using terminals, PCs or mobile phones as the user
interface. All major processing is done at the main computer system to which the device is attached.
Mainframe computers can support hundreds or thousands of users, handling massive amounts of input,
output, and storage, and processing transactions at a very high rate. Mainframes usually require a
specialized environment including separate air conditioning and electrical power.
Mainframes are generally used by businesses or governments to provide centralized storage, processing
and management for large amounts of data. They are used in large organizations, typically in a multi-
user environment, where many users need access to shared data and programs. For example, in
government organizations, banks, universities, research organizations etc. Mainframes are also used as
e-commerce servers, handling transactions over the Internet.
The price of a mainframe computer typically starts at several hundred thousand dollars and can easily
exceed $1 million.
Until the late 1960s, all computers were mainframe
computers, and they were expensive – too expensive for
all but the larger companies. Large companies shelled
out $1.5 million and more for mainframe computers with
less power than today’s $500 PCs. In the late 1960s,
computer vendors introduced smaller, slightly less
powerful computers that were more affordable for smaller
companies. The industry dubbed these small computers
minicomputers, or simply minis. The term was used until
recently, when the distinction between minis and
mainframes began to blur. Today the term is seldom
used. Smaller mainframes are called mid-range servers now. They are larger than microcomputers.
The first microcomputer was developed in 1971. The earlier microcomputers could be clearly
differentiated from computers in other categories because its CPU consisted of a single chip called a
microprocessor. But today, with the advances in technology, just about every computer – no matter how
large or small – uses one or more microprocessors as its CPU. Therefore, the use of a microprocessor is
no longer a distinction between microcomputers and other computer categories. We can categorize
microcomputers into the following categories:
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 11
A personal computer is a type of microcomputer designed to meet the computing needs of an individual.
It typically provides access to a wide variety of computing applications such as word processing, photo
editing, and email. They are general-purpose machines and frequently have networking capability. They
are also frequently used as stand-alone computers, in contrast to mainframes which are designed
specifically for the multiuser environment. Personal computers are available as
portable computers (laptops)
o desktop replacement laptops
Desktop computers, those used by most individuals, are designed to be permanently positioned on a
desk and runs on power from an electrical wall outlet.
Categories of Laptop (Portable computing)
Desktop replacement laptops
They are also called gaming laptops, media center laptops or business laptops. They are basically
large, bulky laptops with everything you can find in a desktop computer. They have large screens,
powerful graphics cards, and high storage capacities. They don’t offer much in the way of battery time.
With all this power in a portable package, needless to say, desktop replacements are rather expensive
(US$2000 and up).
For example, the MSI offers a Core i7 processor, 6GB DDR3 RAM, GeForce GTX580M
graphics card with 2GB VRAM, 1TB HDD and a Blu-Ray drive! Dell, Razer and Alienware also offer
such high powered laptops with similar performance.
So, if you’re looking for the highest computing power in portable form and aren’t concerned with
battery life, a desktop replacement laptop is for you.
These are smaller, lighter and less powerful than the desktop replacement laptops. Notebook
(also referred to simply as laptop) computers are used by people who need the power of a desktop
system, but also portability. These days, a notebook laptop refers to a mid to large size laptop. The
notebook incorporates the screen (14” – 17”), keyboard, storage and processing components into a
single portable unit. Common input devices used in laptop computers are the keyboard, and pointing
device such as a mouse, trackball or touchpad.
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 12
The term “ultrabook” was basically coined by Intel (Intel trademark) and all ultrabooks run on
Intel processors. They were released in mid-2012. They are ultrathin (less than 0.8”), lightweight
laptops (2 - 3 lbs), with 13 – 14” screens, provide good performance while not compromising on
battery life (5 hours and up). These category of laptops usually don’t have much storage capacity or
expansion slots. They usually have only SSD’s (Solid State Storage drives) or an SSD in tandem with a
small regular HDD (Hard Disk Drive). To minimize power consumption, size and weight, power
efficient processors and RAM modules are used that offer good, but not as fast performance like the
desktop replacements. Not all ultrabooks come with optical drives, though some of them do.
An example for an ultrabook is the Dell XPS 13, which has a dual-core Intel Core i5 processor
running at 1.6GHz, 4GB DDR3 RAM, 128GB SSD and Intel integrated graphics. It weighs around
1.3kg, has a claimed battery backup of 8 hours and costs about US$1000. Apple had also come out with
its laptop similar to the ultrabook, called Apple MacBook Air. It uses the MacOS X. Other major
computer manufacturers like Acer, Dell, Asus, LG, Toshiba, Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo, Sony, and Samsung
have also come out with their ultrabooks.
If you want portability and battery life at the cost of good performance, then get yourself an ultrabook.
They are sometimes also called mini-laptops. Netbooks feature small screens (10” – 11”), low
powered processors and less storage capacity. They often also come without optical drives, with small
keypads and weigh approximately 1 to 2 pounds. However, netbooks have a long battery life and are
frequently used in educational environments. Netbooks usually run on the Intel Atom platform or the
AMD Fusion platform. Although most modern netbooks run on Windows 7 Starter, netbooks running on
higher versions of Windows 7 are available as well.
One of the best and most popular netbook series is the Asus Eee PC series. The Asus Eee 1016P
offers a single core Intel Atom N455 processor running at 1.6GHz, 2GB DDR2 RAM, Intel Integrated
graphics, 250GB HDD and features a 10inch screen. It runs on Windows 7 Professional. Most netbooks
however, have only 1 GB RAM capacity.
With a netbook, you can perform daily tasks such as word processing and spreadsheet
management, surf the web, watch movies, listen to music and do most things, just not very system
intensive things like video editing, gaming or heavy multi-tasking. Netbooks aren’t meant for system
intensive tasks. Most netbooks have a battery life of around 6 – 8 hours. They are also much cheaper
than the ultrabook, with a price range of US$250-300. For people on the go who just need the basic
functions of a computer but need more flexibility than a tablet, a netbook should serve their needs.
However, netbooks are now being discontinued by manufacturers, as they are being replaced by the
new, more capable tablets and ultrabooks that are becoming thinner, lighter and more powerful.
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 13
A tablet computer is a portable computing device (weighing less than 1 pound), usually between
7” and 11”, featuring a touch-sensitive screen, that can be used as a writing or drawing pad, and runs a
mobile, or modified phone OS, like Google’s android. Examples of Tablets are Apple’s iPad, RIM’s
Blackberry Playbook, Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Barnes and Noble’s Nook.
Since they use a mobile OS like android, they have huge appstores. Apps are most plentiful for
Apple iPad, followed closely by Android devices. While the Kindle Fire and the Nook are essentially e-
readers with direct access to the Amazon and Barnes and Noble libraries respectively, they are also
small Android tablets.
Priced under $200, a 7" e-reader with wi-fi may be all you need if you have access to a wireless
network or hotspot, don't need a camera, and you're just web browsing, checking email, and social
networking. More powerful tablets (for eg., larger screen, camera) are available at higher prices.
Netbooks serve the same functions but generally include a camera, and start at $249. They also
have more storage space than tablets and can run the same software your PC runs. Tablets, however,
have better displays than netbooks, and run apps - software applications usually designed specifically for
mobile devices. Ultraportable laptops, or ultrabooks, are pricey compared to tablets but they are full-
fledged laptops with normal size keyboards, thin cases, fast processors and high resolution displays.
A handheld computer such as a Palm PDA (Personal Digital Assistant),
iPhone or a Blackberry, feature a small keyboard or touch sensitive screen
and is designed to fit into a pocket, run on batteries, and fit in the palm of
your hand. PDAs are almost obsolete, as they have been replaced by the
increasing functionality of smart phones. Handheld computers lack the
power of a desktop or notebook PC, but offer features for users who need
limited functions and small size. They have very small keyboards, so they
cannot be easily used for word processing or other applications that require
you to enter a lot of data.
The term “workstation” has two meanings. Computers advertised as workstations are usually powerful
desktop computers designed for specialized tasks. Some workstations may contain more than one
microprocessor to increase its processing speed, additional memory and enhanced capabilities for
creating and displaying 3-D and animated graphics. They are used mainly by scientists, engineers, and
people who work with graphics, such as in medical imaging, computer-aided design, and game
development. They are more expensive than the everyday personal computers.
A second meaning of the term “workstation” applies to an ordinary personal computer that is connected
to a network.
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 14
A videogame console such as Nintendo’s GameCube, Sony’s PlayStation, or Microsoft’s Xbox, is a
computer, but videogame consoles have not been considered a computer category because of their
history as dedicated game devices that connect to a TV set and provide only a pair of joysticks for input.
Today’s videogame consoles, however, contain microprocessors that are equivalent to any found in a
fast personal computer, and they are equipped to produce graphics that rival those on sophisticated
workstations. Addons such as keyboards, DVD players, and Internet access, make it possible to use a
videogame console to watch DVD movies, send and receive email, and participate in online activities,
such as multiplayer games. A videogame console however, is not a replacement for a personal
GENERATIONS OF COMPUTERS
The First Generation of Computers (1946 through 1959)
of the ENIAC –
tubes. Computers based in this technology
were very fragile and prone to breakdown. The computer called the Universal Automatic Computer
(UNIVAC I) was developed by Mauchly and Eckert for the Remington-Rand Corporation. This was the
first commercially available computer.
The Second Generation of Computers (1959 through
Transistors. The invention of Transistors signaled the
start of the second generation of computers. The transistor
meant more powerful, more reliable and less expensive
computers that would occupy less space and give off less
heat than did vacuum-tube-powered computers. The cost
of a computer during the first, second and part of the third
generations represented a significant portion of a company’s budget. Computers
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 15
The Third Generation of Computers (1964 through 1971)
Integrated Circuits (IC). These have up to a few thousand transistors on a
single chip. What some computer historians consider being the single most
important event in the history of computers occurred when IBM announced
their System 360 line of computers on April 7, 1964. The system 360
ushered in the third generation of computers. The demand for small
computers in business and for scientific applications was so great that
several companies manufactured only small computers. These became
known as minicomputers.
The Fourth Generation of Computers (1971 - )
Large Scale Integrated (LSI) and Very Large Scale Integrated (VLSI)
Circuits. These have hundreds of thousands to millions of transistors on a
single chip. The base technology of today’s computers is still the integrated
circuit. This is not to say that three decades have passed without any
significant innovations. In truth, the computer industry has experienced a
mind-boggling succession of advances in the further miniaturization of
circuitry, data communications, the design of computer hardware and software
and input/output devices.
One of the most significant contributions to the emergence of the fourth generation of computers is the
microprocessor. The microprocessor, which can be contained on a single silicon chip, is a product of
the microminiaturization of electronic circuitry. The first fully operational microprocessor was invented
The microprocessor is the processing component of the small, relatively inexpensive but powerful
microcomputer. The microcomputer also called a personal computer has made it possible for small
businesses and individuals to own computers.
THE BIRTH OF THE PERSONAL COMPUTER (PC)
A keyboard, video monitor and memory were attached to the microprocessor and the
MICROCOMPUTER, also known as the Personal Computer (PC) was born! Its price is low and no
computer operator is between the user and the PC.
PCs were made possible by 2 technical innovations in the field of microelectronics: the integrated
circuit (IC); and the microprocessor. The IC permitted the miniaturization of computer-memory circuits
and the microprocessor reduced the size of a computer’s CPU to the size of a single silicon chip. These
factors lowered a computer’s price making it affordable to both home and business users.
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 16
Evolution of the PC
The first desk-top size system specifically designed for personal use appeared in 1974; it was offered by
MITS. The computer was called Altair, retailed for slightly less than US$ 400. Computing was now
made available to individuals and small companies. Altair was designed around the Intel 8080
microprocessors. The first major electronics firm to manufacture and sell personal computers, Tandy
Corporation (Radio Shack), introduced its model in 1977. Cassette tape was used to store the
information at that time.
Around 1975, two young engineers - Stephen Wozniak and Steven Jobs started a new computer
manufacturing company named Apple Computers. They introduced inexpensive data storage and color
graphics into their microcomputers. Apple Computers went on to become the fastest-growing company
in U.S. business history.
In 1981, IBM tossed its hat into the personal computer ring with its announcement of the IBM Personal
Computer, or IBM PC. By the end of 1982, 835,000 PCs had been sold. Less than four months after
IBM introduced the PC, Time Magazine named the computer "man of the year". When software
vendors began to orient their products to the IBM PC, many companies began offering IBM-PC
compatibles or clones which were somewhat cheaper than the brand name IBM PC, but had the same
architecture as IBM PC and could run any software that could run on IBM PC. IBM-PC compatibles
are manufactured by companies such as Dell, Lenovo etc. that are compatible with the original brand
The term personal computer (PC) is applied to microcomputers whose design is similar to IBM’s first
In 1984, Apple Computer introduced the Macintosh desktop computer with a very “friendly” graphical
user interface which made computers easy and fun to use. Graphical User Interface (GUI) has changed
the interaction between human and computer from a command driven interface to the now familiar
WIMP interface – Windows, Icons, Menus, and Pointing Devices.
Microsoft introduced Windows, a GUI for IBM PC compatible computers in 1985; however, Windows
did not enjoy widespread acceptance until 1990 with the release of Windows 3.0
Though the 2 main competitors in the microcomputer market were originally Apple and IBM, today’s
PC market consists of a number of manufacturers – IBM, Apple, Dell, Acer, HP, Gateway, Lenovo,
Compaq, Samsung, Toshiba etc.
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 17
The Basic Hookup for your Laptop/Desktop PC
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 18
The Four Fundamental Components of a Personal Computer System
A computer system has four fundamental components:
c) output, and
These four components together constitute the hardware of the computer. Hardware refers to those
components of the computer that you can see and touch – not just from the outside, but inside the system
unit as well.
a) Data can be entered to a computer system for processing (input) via a keyboard, a microphone (for
voice and sound input), or a point and draw device, such as a mouse.
b) The processor provides the intelligence for the computer system, performing all computation and
c) Output (the results of processing) can be routed to a monitor, audio speakers, or a printer.
d) Storage of data and software in a computer system is either temporary or permanent. Random access
memory (RAM) provides temporary storage of data and programs during processing. Disks and
tapes provide permanent storage for data and programs.
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 19
Devices like the printer, various permanent storage devices, monitor, scanner, microphone etc. are
referred to as peripheral devices.
In addition to the hardware, we also have the software. Computers can’t operate without instructions –
step by step procedures that tell them what to do and when to do it. These instructions, are called
programs or software, and are usually written by specialists called programmers.
There are basically two types of software:
a) systems software, and
b) applications software.
Systems software includes the operating system which is probably the most important software on your
computer. Without this software your computer is totally useless. A popular operating system on
today’s computers is Microsoft’s MS Windows, of which there are different versions. Windows Vista is
the most recent. Microsoft recently announced that it will call its next-generation operating system
"Windows 7." The system is scheduled to be officially released later this year (2009).
Other operating systems are MacOS (running on Apple computers), DOS, UNIX and Linux.
The term platform refers to the underlying hardware and software for a system. For example, the
platform might be a Pentium 4 processor running Windows XP. The platform could also be machines
running UNIX operating system on an Ethernet network. The platform defines a standard around which
a system can be developed. Once the platform has been defined, software developers can produce
appropriate software and managers can purchase appropriate hardware and applications. When
purchasing additional hardware and software for your system, it is important to know what platform
your system is running on. This will ensure that the new hardware and software are compatible with,
and will work on the existing hardware and operating system of your computer.
There are 2 main PC platforms
Windows (IBM-PC and IBM-PC compatibles), and
Macintosh (Apple computers)
Applications software allows you to perform different tasks. Tasks that you work on with a computer
are called applications, and the programs or software that you use to perform them are called application
programs or applications software. For example, an application could be writing a letter, and the general
category of application program that you use for this application is a word processing program.
Microsoft’s MS Word is a specific example of such word processing software. The application program
you use depends on the task you want to perform. There are application programs today for practically
anything you can think of – in areas of business, personal, desktop publishing, communications,
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 20
Computer Careers and Certification
With billions of dollars in annual revenue, the computer industry is one of the larger world-wide
industries. This emphasis on computers has created many new high-tech jobs, even in non-computer-
related companies. Job opportunities in the computer industry generally fall into these areas:
General business and government organizations
Computer equipment industry
Computer software industry
Computer service and repair industry
Computer education and training industry
Computer consulting industry
General business and government organizations
Businesses and government offices of all sizes use computers. Nearly every organization uses
computers for basic document preparation. Nearly all employees use business software such as word
processing to prepare daily documents. Other employees use computers for specialized activities such
Most organizations have networks to help ensure smooth communications among employees, vendors,
and customers. Many businesses use computers to answer and route telephone calls, update inventory,
and manage accounting, billing, and payroll activities.
Businesses and government offices also use computers and the Web to provide the public and customers
with a means to access their facilities.
To manage their computers and operations, businesses and government offices have a variety of
computer-related job opportunities. Most have an information technology (IT) department that employs
people in computer-related jobs. Employees in the IT department are responsible for keeping all the
computer operations and networks in the organization running smoothly. They also determine when and
if the company requires new hardware or software.
Job titles in an IT department include Computer operator, Computer technician, Help desk specialist,
Systems analyst, Programmer, Database administrator, Network administrator and Webmaster among
The Computer Equipment Industry
The computer equipment industry consists of manufacturers and distributors of computers and
computer-related hardware such as disk drives, monitors, printers and communications and networking
devices. In addition to the companies that make end-user equipment, thousands of companies build
components that most users never see. These companies manufacture chips, motherboards, power
Careers in this industry involve the design, manufacture and production of computer equipment. Jobs
include designing and fabricating computer chips, testing internal components, assembling computers,
and packing computers and peripherals.
Computer equipment manufacturers include such companies as Intel, AMD, Apple Computer, Cisco
Systems, Dell Computer, Gateway, IBM, Compaq, Motorola, Sony and Kingston.
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 21
The Computer Software Industry
The computer software industry consists of companies that develop, manufacture, and support a wide
range of software. Some software companies specialize in a particular type of software such as business
software or utility programs. Other software companies, especially larger firms such as Microsoft,
produce and sell a variety of programs.
Career opportunities in the software industry involve designing and programming all kinds of software,
including operating systems, utility programs, business, graphics, multimedia, home, personal,
educational, entertainment software, network software, and web page authoring software.
Job titles in this field include programmer, software engineer, systems analyst and computer scientist.
Leading software companies include Adobe Systems, IBM, Macromedia, Intuit, Novell, Oracle and
Computer Careers in the Service and Repair Industry
The computer service and repair industry provides preventive maintenance, component installation, and
repair services to customers. Typical job titles for workers in this field include service technician, and
A computer technician installs, maintains, and repairs hardware; installs, upgrades, and configures
software; and troubleshoots hardware and software problems.
Computer Careers in Sales
Computer sales representatives must have a general understanding of computers and a specific
knowledge of the product they are selling. They generally determine a buyer’s needs and match it to the
correct hardware and software.
Some sales reps work directly for computer equipment and software manufacturers such as Apple
Computer, Dell, Hewlett Packard and IBM. Others work for resellers, including retailers that sell
personal computer products such as Best Buy, Circuit City, Office Max (U.S.), NT Computec, and Starr
The Computer Education and Training Industry
The increased sophistication and complexity of today’s computer products have opened extensive
opportunities in computer-related education and training. Schools, colleges, universities, and private
computer schools all need qualified educators and trainers.
Consulting in the Computer Industry
After building experience in one or more computer-related areas, some people decide to become
computer consultants. A computer consultant is a professional who draws upon his or her expertise in a
specialized area of computers, including service and advice. Many companies hire a computer
consultant to offer advice on technology related concerns. Qualified consultants are in high demand for
tasks such as computer selection, system design, communications and network design and installation,
and Web development.
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 22
Nowadays, the typical off-the-shelf PC is configured to run multimedia applications. Multimedia is the
combination of two or more media (text/hypertext, graphics, audio, animation and video) into one new,
blended, medium. Multimedia applications combine text/hypertext, sound, graphics, motion video,
and/or animation. Computer-based encyclopedias, such as Microsoft’s Encarta, online books, movies,
music videos and video games, provide a good example of multimedia applications. Long touted as the
future revolution in computing, multimedia applications were, until the mid-90s, uncommon due to the
expensive hardware required. With increases in performance, and decreases in price, however,
multimedia is now commonplace. Because of the storage demands of multimedia applications, the most
effective storage media are CDs and DVDs.
But more than just integrating different presentation types, multimedia is expected to allow some form
of interactivity, allowing the user a certain amount of control over the flow of the piece. This is
multimedia’s true strength.
Types of Media
Since multimedia is made up of a combination of several types of media to earn its "multi-", it makes
sense to examine each of these building blocks individually.
This includes all alphabetic (uppercase and lowercase) characters, numbers and special characters.
Text or Hypertext?
Text, by its very nature, is linear. That means that you can usually expect to read any given
document from beginning to end. And most of the time the author intended you to do so.
Hypertext allows text to follow a flow that doesn't take a straight line. This term was first
coined by computer scientist Ted Nelson in 1963, and was conceived as a way to describe
non-linear texts. With hypertext, the reader chooses his or her way through a series of
interconnected text segments. This may sound more than a little familiar, since the concept of
the hypertext was brought to the general public in the form of the Internet and especially the
World Wide Web. Documents on the Web are written in Hypertext Markup Language
(HTML), and their strength lies in the fact that they can be connected to any number of other
documents on the Web.
Hypertext refers to text that contains hyperlinks, or commonly known as links. These are
most commonly encountered on web pages. Hyperlinks can also be incorporated into a MS
Word document, an Excel spreadsheet, or a MS Powerpoint presentation. Hypertext allows
the user to interact with the application or web page by clicking on the link and moving from
one location to another.
Hypertext is an important part of multimedia, because it puts control of the document flow in
the hands of the reader. Even a document containing only text, but linked with hypertext can
be considered multimedia, because of the interactivity with the reader.
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 23
Text is good, but the old adage still holds true: a picture is worth a thousand words. There are
countless types of graphic files, but a few types have stood out over the years as being
particularly well suited to multimedia.
Types of Graphics
The bitmap graphic is the basic Windows graphic. This file format supports 16.7
million colors and can be used for a variety of graphics applications, such as
.bmp photographs illustrations and drawings. However, because bitmap graphics are
uncompressed, they tend to take up a very large amount of disk space.
(Tag Image File Format) is a platform-independent graphics file format supported by most
photo-editing software packages. Scanners and digital cameras commonly store images in
.tiff TIFF format. They support 16.7 million colors and can easily be converted into other
graphics file formats. It is not however supported by most browsers.
The Graphics Interchange Format type of graphic uses decent compression, but GIF images
can only contain 256 colors. However, because of the small file size and long history of this
file type, it is has become a standard, especially on the Web, for small graphical elements. It
is also commonly used for putting animations online (GIF animations). It however has the
drawback of certain license restrictions.
The Portable Network Graphic (PNG) file type is a compressed format alternative to GIF.
An advantage to the PNG is that file types can contain trillions of colors, making it a good
.png choice for complex images as well. It does not support animation, however, which is a
drawback. Unlike GIF, PNG is a public domain format without any restrictions on its use.
JPG (aka JPEG) is the Joint Photographic Experts Group image type. JPGs use a
compression method that is best suited to very complex and detailed images like
photographs. Because of the small file size for such detailed images, JPG has become the de
.jpg facto standard for showing photographs on the Internet and in multimedia pieces. The 24-
bit format supports 16.7 million colors. When creating or converting an image in JPEG
format, you can control the level of compression and the resulting file size.
There are various ways in which you can work with graphics on your computer. You can create them
with graphics software such as MS Paint, or Adobe Photoshop. When you have a printed image, such as
a photograph, a page from a magazine, or a picture from a book, you can use a scanner to convert the
printed image into a graphic. You would use a digital camera to take pictures of real world objects,
which stores the picture in digitized format. Digital cameras allow you to preview images while they are
still in the camera and delete those you don`t want.
Digital cameras provide you with several options that are set before a picture is taken. Three of the
more important options are the resolution, compression, and image file format in which the camera
should save the picture.
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 24
The resolution of an image refers to its quality in terms of sharpness and clarity. A high-resolution
image would have better quality than a low-resolution image.
The resolution of a graphic is usually expressed as the number of horizontal and vertical pixels it
contains. For example, a small graphic for a Web page might have a resolution of 150x100 pixels – 150
pixels across and 100 pixels high.
High-resolution graphics contain more data than low-resolution graphics. With more data, it is possible
to display high-quality images that are sharper and clearer than images produced using less data. For
example, a photograph taken with an inexpensive digital camera might produce a graphic with a
resolution of 1600x1200, but a more expensive camera with 2272x1712 resolution contains more pixels
and produces a high-quality image.
Camera manufacturers express the resolution of digital cameras as megapixels (MP). A megapixel is 1
million pixels. A camera with a resolution of 1600x1200 has the capability of producing photos
containing 1.9 megapixels. A camera with 2272x1712 resolution is technically 3.88 megapixels, but
might be rounded off and called a 4.0 megapixel camera by the manufacturer.
Each pixel in a graphic is stored as a binary number in bits. The more pixels in a bitmap, the more bits
needed to store the file, and hence the bigger the file size.
While a camera may allow for a very high resolution for a large print, you may choose to take a picture
at a lower resolution if the image does not require great detail or must be a small size. For example, you
may be looking at conserving space on your memory card, or you may want to use the image on a Web
page where smaller file sizes are beneficial.
The image resolution you used determines the Picture size. The table below shows the image file sizes
for varying resolutions taken with a 4 MP camera
Resolution in Pixels Picture size in inches
If you print a 640x480 image as an 8”x10” size, it will appear pixelated.
Another way to reduce file sizes is by using compression. Higher compressions, however, may result in
loss of some image quality.
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 25
Most digital cameras allow you to choose between the .tiff and .jpeg formats. The .tiff file format saves
the image uncompressed. All of the image detail is captured and stored, but the file sizes can be large.
The .jpeg file format is compressed. The resolution of the image may be the same as the .tiff file, but
some detail may be lost in the image.
The photos you want to keep can be transferred to your computer’s hard disk. This can be done in
various ways, some of which are described below:
Direct cable transfer. If your camera and your computer have FireWire ports (also called IEEE-1394
ports), you can connect a cable between these two ports to transfer the photo data. You can use a similar
transfer method if your computer and your camera have USB ports or serial ports. A USB-2.0 port or
FireWire port provides good transfer speed; USB-1.1 ports are somewhat slower, and serial ports are
Infrared port. Some cameras can “beam” the data from your camera to your computer`s infrared port.
This method eliminates the need for a cable but is much slower.
Card readers. A card reader is a small device designed to read data contained in a memory card. Card
readers can be connected to your computer`s USB port or built into the system unit. To transfer data
from a memory card, you remove it from the camera and insert it into the card reader.
Media transfer. If your camera stores data on floppy disks or CDs, you can simply remove the media
from your camera and insert it into the appropriate drive of your computer.
Regardless of the technology you use, transferring photo data from your camera to your computer
requires software, which might be supplied along with your camera, or with your card reader. This
software allows you to select a file format, specify a file name, and determine the location for each
image file. After you store your digital photos on your computer’s hard disk, you can modify them,
send them as e-mail attachments, print them, post them on Web pages, or archive them onto a CD.
So how do you save and manipulate these different graphic types? You need a piece of software known
as an image editor. Windows, for example, comes with a small image editor called Paint for creating
and editing simple graphic files. However, for the full digital editing experience, a larger package such
as Adobe Photoshop is needed. These larger image editors are very good for detailed photo editing,
which includes combining photographs together into new images. You can retouch old photographs to
eliminate creases, spots and discolorations. You can modify photos to wipe out red eye. You can even
design new pictures with images you cut and paste from several photos or scanned images.
There are 2 important factors to consider when using photographs and images on the Web: file size and
image quality. If you understand what each format does best and where each formats drawbacks lie,
you can make an educated guess about which format to choose for various images when preparing them
for display on the web.
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 26
Images will be the largest factor in terms of file size for a Web Site. With many people still accessing
the internet using slow dial up modems it's very important to keep file size to a minimum, as people will
not appreciate waiting longer than they need to for a huge photo to download. Even for people on faster
connections it is still good practice to keep the file size of images as low as possible by optimizing your
Although the term "Graphic" can refer to all types of images in print and web layout, it generally refers
to images that are non-photorealistic. Graphics and Line Art are generally simpler in composition than
photos and have large areas of solid color. For graphics images, you will notice that despite virtually no
visual difference between GIF and JPG images, the GIF image is considerably smaller than the JPG.
GIF images work better for large blocks of color and sharp edges. If you are working on a large Web
Site, this difference in file size can quickly add up and increase download times.
JPEG/JPG is ideally suited for compressing photographic images. It has been designed so once the
image has been compressed you cannot see any difference in quality with the human eye. However if
you do zoom in on an image that has been compressed and compare it to the original you will be able to
notice a difference, so the more you compress the image to try and save file size the lower the quality of
the image will be. When you save your image as a JPG you will be given the option of what quality you
want your final image to be; the higher the quality the larger the file size will be. You need to decide at
what point you can start to see a visible difference in quality; as a rough guide this is normally around
When the GIF format is used for photographic images, the quality of the GIF image is lower. This is
because the GIF image is using its maximum of 256 colors but it still does not have enough colors to
display all the different shades of colors present in the photograph. JPG however can display millions
of colors; this is why it is better to use JPG for photographic images.
Compare the quality of the 2 photographs below. You can see the lower quality of the image (blurred)
on the left which has been saved as a GIF file. In the image on the right, which is a JPEG file, you can
see sharp, clearly defined outlines of the mountains, clouds etc.
GIF file JPEG file
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 27
Using the computer to record and create sound/music or playback audio (aka, audio editing) is
very much a big part of multimedia.
Audio can be stored in many different file types, but some of the more common ones you will
run across are:
Types of Audio files
This is Microsoft's default file type for uncompressed audio. WAV files can contain hi-fi stereo
.wav sound, but are extremely large - a 1-minute stereo WAV will take up approximately 10 MB.
Mpeg Layer 3 is an extremely well compressed audio file used on music download sites and for
streaming over the Web. The standard MP3 type, at 128kbps, takes up only 1/10 of the space a
WAV file does. The same 10 MB 1-minute stereo WAV file, compressed to an MP3 file, will
.mp3 only take up approx. 1 MB. MP3 is a lossy form of compression, though the loss of audio
quality is really only noticeable by audiophiles. 128 kbps MP3 would be comparable to good
stereo FM quality.
This Windows Media Audio is a compressed format used on music download sites. The files
can be copy protected. This format is promoted by Microsoft and is used at the Walmart Music
Downloads and at MSN Music sites.
The Advanced Audio Compression format is a compressed format. It is promoted by Apple and
.aac is used on the iTunes Music Store site. The files are copy protected and use is limited to
To play an audio file on your computer, you must use audio or media player software. Player software
support several audio formats. In the Windows environment, for example, you can use Windows Media
Player to play .wav, and .mp3 formats. The iTunes player is required to play the .aac format.
To listen to music when you are away from your computer, you can use a portable audio player such as
an MP3 player that stores digital music. Apple’s iPod supports several digital music formats, including
.aac, .mp3, and .wav.
You can create playlists that are collections of your favorite songs. You can set a playlist to be played
serially or shuffled.
Audio editing software records incoming audio, edits it and (usually) applies effects to it as well. It can
be used for anything from dividing up a recording into snippets of sound, or creating long mixes of
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 28
Video has become another integral part of most multimedia pieces. The advent of digital
video has ensured that it's now even easier for people to manipulate recorded video on the
computer. Just as the other media types, there are several types of video files that you will
most commonly encounter. We look at some of the popular video formats.
Types of Video Files
.mpeg This is a compressed video format. There are three major types of MPEG (Motion
Pictures Expert Group) files:
MPEG-1, with a maximum resolution of 352x240 pixels at 30 frames-per-second (fps).
Lower quality than television.
MPEG-2, with a maximum resolution of 1280x720 pixels at 60 fps. This is the video
standard used by DVD videos.
MPEG-4 is a newer standard, designed with better compression to bring high quality
image and sound over a narrower bandwidth (like the Internet).
It can be used on both the PC and Mac platforms.
Quicktime A compressed video file type and standard developed by Apple Computer. Quicktime
Movie works very well for desktop and streaming Web videos (playing it as it is downloaded -
.mov see below for more details on streaming). It can be used on both PC and Mac platforms.
.wmv This Windows Media Video format is used on PCs. It offers sophisticated compression
options and can be used for desktop video, PDA video, and streaming Web video.
.flv A compressed video format. Flash video is the most common sharing format on the web
today. You need the Adobe Flash Player to play videos in the FLV format. Almost all
video sharing sites, eg., YouTube, stream video in flash.
.avi This is the uncompressed file type for the Video for Windows file format, the main video
format developed by Microsoft for use in Windows. It is used for storing digital clips
from video cameras and is used for desktop video on the PC platform.
Once you store your .avi file on your computer, you can compress that .avi file using various
Digital Video Editing
As the price of digital recording equipment becomes more and more affordable, it becomes
easier to record live digital video, and transfer it to a computer for editing. A digital video
camera captures video data in digital format, which can then be transferred directly to a
computer for editing. This ranges from people editing their home videos to make them more
dynamic, all the way to independent filmmakers shooting and editing quality projects entirely
themselves, with a single computer. Even full feature Hollywood films are now being shot
completely on digital video. The recent Star Wars movies are a good example of this.
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 29
Because of this, there are more and more software packages appearing that allow digital
cinematographers to do everything themselves, but some like Adobe Premiere or Apple's
Final Cut Pro, stand out as popular choices.
Transferring larger audio files, movies, or animations is not always instantaneous over the
Internet. Particularly when the host server is located halfway across the world and you're only
armed with a 56K modem. To allow people with slower bandwidth to benefit from this type
of large file, file -streaming technology saves the day. Streaming works thanks to a process
called buffering: the computer downloads a certain amount of the file, then begins playback
from the beginning of that buffered data. The idea is that so long as the data is being
downloaded and added to the buffer faster than the computer can play it, the user can start
playing a file far sooner than it would take to download the whole thing.
There are many different types of files and software that are designed for streaming, but some
of the most common types you'll encounter are:
Real Audio (for streaming audio)
Shoutcast (for streaming audio)
Quicktime (for streaming video and audio)
Real Media (for streaming video and audio)
Animation has come a long way since the days of the first animated films, when animators
had to draw each animation frame by hand, and photograph them one by one to film.
Short for "in-betweening", tweening is where the computer program takes two images, and generates in-
between images of the content morphing from the state of the first image to the state of the second.
Sometimes you want to add an effect that is graduated over several frames.
One type of animation commonly found on Internet Web pages is the animated GIF. An
animated GIF is a series of GIF images saved into one file, that are displayed one after
another to create a simple form of animation. Because animated GIFs are compatible with
almost all Web browsers, they are an ideal choice for small animations on the World Wide
Animated GIFs can be created in most professional image editing applications (Adobe
Photoshop, Macromedia Flash, Macromedia Fireworks), as well as in smaller independent
applications devoted specifically to creating and editing animated GIFs.
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 30
Flash is an animation technology, used primarily for creating and running animation effects in
Web browsers. Flash is very Internet-friendly, because:
1. Flash animations can be streamed from the Web server to the browser, making it possible
for the viewer to watch the animations as they download.
2. Flash is run from a browser plugin. This ensures that no matter which Web browser the
plugin is hosted by, the Flash animation will always look the same. A browser plugin is a
small program that is integrated into a Web browser to extend its capabilities. Thus if the
webpage is designed to run with something that is not standard to the browser, the viewer
needs to down load an additional plug-in.
Following are some popular plug-ins:
Acrobat Reader: View, navigate and print PDF files (www.adobe.com)
Flash Player: View graphics and animation, hear sound and music, display web pages
QuickTime: View animation, music, audio, video and virtual reality panoramas and objects
directly in a web page (www.apple.com )
RealOne Player: Listen to live and on-demand audio and video; stream audio and video
content, play MP3 files, create music CDs (www.real.com )
Shockwave Player: Experience dynamic interactive multimedia, 3D graphics, streaming audio
Windows Media Player: Listen to live and on-demand audio and video; play or edit WMA and
MP3 files; burn CDs; watch DVD movies (www.microsoft.com ).
Macromedia Flash is the main program to create Flash graphics and animations, and
probably the most common.
Nothing is more interactive than simulation. Computer multimedia technologies are being
used for all sorts of simulations, from virtual tours of museums and galleries, to anatomical
simulations for surgeons to practice the latest medicinal techniques.
Many technologies (Quicktime, for example) allow you to create quasi-3D panoramic shots of
locations. More than a few real estate and tourism sites on the Internet make use of these
virtual tours to give Web site visitors a better idea of the full impact of how a location looks
when you're actually standing there.
Virtual reality is using technology that allows a user to interact with a computer-simulated
environment so make a person believe that they are immersed in an environment when they
actually are not. This is done by tricking the five senses: special screens or glasses make the
person see the virtual environment. Headphones allow them to hear the virtual world, and
special gloves can even let a person "feel" objects in the virtual reality. For example, medical
technology has been pursuing tactile virtual reality as a way to let surgeons practice surgery in
Virtual need not be as high-tech as that, though. By extension, any computer world that allows
the user to move through it in three-dimensional space can be called virtual reality.
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 31
Impact of Multimedia
Home and Business
Unsurprisingly, the presence of multimedia in business and home life has changed not only
the way activities are carried out, but even imposes a different way of thinking at the
conceptual stage. The following pages examine some of these changes more closely.
Multimedia, during the 1990s, turned into a huge business market in a very short amount of
time. Nowadays, at the beginning of the 21st century, multimedia business is divided by the
individual technologies, instead of everything being lumped under the one heading of
More possibilities for marketing
From a marketing standpoint, multimedia opens up huge new possibilities. Instead of just
being able to read about a product in a magazine, or watch a television commercial,
consumers can visit the manufacturer's Web site to interactively guide their own research into
a product. Real estate firms host virtual tours of listings using Quicktime technology.
Potential software users can "try out" a program's interface using a Flash-based presentation.
The World Wide Web itself basically can be seen as one huge marketing and consumer
Kiosks, with computer touch screens and speakers, allow business to carry out more sales
transactions automatically. Outside movie theatres you'll find touch-screen ticket vendors
where cinema-goers can browse the movies being played, watch trailers, purchase tickets and
even concession snacks. Tourism sites will use multimedia kiosks to guide travelers around a
site or an area, complete with audio-video presentations and even printers to print out coupons
for local businesses.
With the popularity of DVD and the wide acceptance of the home desktop computer as a
necessary household appliance, multimedia is not just a business trend. It's a reality. Watching
a movie is an interactive experience, instead of just a passive one.
The fact that almost all multimedia can be created and prepared for distribution on a home
computer is the most amazing thing about it. Anybody with an Internet account can publish
multimedia Web sites to the Internet. A CD-burner allows for creation of educational
multimedia CD-ROMs, or even just mix CDs of favorite music. DVD-burners take that one
step farther and Digital Video camcorders take that one step further. You could record home
movies, and with the right DVD authoring application, create DVDs to distribute to family
and friends. Many an independent filmmaker these days has started his or her career on the
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 32
Nowhere has multimedia changed things in a greater way than in the entertainment industry.
Some people seem to eat, breathe, and live video games. But this is certainly increasingly
possible, as video games are designed to be more and more an immersive experience.
Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Games (MMORPGs) like Runescape or Conquer
allow players to live and work, almost in real-time, in a virtual world over the Internet. A
person who plays a blacksmith in one of these games doesn't just click a button to make a
shield. The ore has to be found, mined, collected, and then melted down. The item has to be
designed, and then forged. It's almost like real work! Yet people love to do it, day after day.
Blu-Ray and DVD
With Blu-Rays and DVDs, consumers expect more for the money. No longer content to just
press play and watch a film from beginning to end, the consumer wants animated menus,
voice-over commentary tracks by the film-makers, extra footage, background documentaries,
and whatever else video and movie authors can add to the package. Watching a movie is no
longer a passive role, but an active experience, as the viewer chooses with the remote control
various options, and in what order they experience the added features.
Never underestimate the power of the Web. This medium in which anyone can self-publish
has changed the virtual landscape from one previously devoted only to education and
advertising to one where someone can express themselves artistically and interact with others
using many different media. Just like people expect more from the movie viewing experience,
people expect more from the reading experience on the Internet.
Self-teaching has always been acknowledged as harder to do than classroom learning.
Multimedia, with interactivity being the key component, brings new dimensions to learning.
Teachers use the computer in the classroom for multimedia demonstrations and simulations.
Using multimedia tools, students can add greater depth to the works they create.
Multimedia is enormously useful (and has been often used for) self-directed learning. In
Computer-based Training (CBT), users run through lessons, exercises, and tests on a
computer using pre-prepared multimedia training software. The important key here is that
students direct their lessons. On a computer, the students can learn whenever they have time
to devote to it, and can move at whatever pace suits their style of learning.
The Internet and the Web can take computer-based training even farther, allowing real people
to teach others live, no matter where they are located. Real-time animated whiteboards and
teleconferencing are two technologies that are being deployed across the Internet to enhance
distance learning for students.
Virtual reality for training (pilots, doctors, etc.)
As mentioned previously, virtual reality is a very powerful tool for practical simulation
training that has only just begun to be tapped. Computers can run increasingly realistic flight
simulators to help pilots begin their flight training when it's not possible or convenient to use
MNG 210 I. Introduction to Computers 33
real airplanes. Doctors can be walked through and even participate in, if the technology
permits it, virtual surgeries.
Because multimedia has really become part of every day life for many technology users, the
consumers want to be able to use their devices to accomplish more. Witness cellular phones
with digital cameras, or the large number of multimedia peripherals that are considered
"standard" on the home computer (especially soundcard, speakers, and CD-burner). Hardware
manufacturers are forced to come up with more flexible devices to keep up to the consumer
demands of multimedia.
Software has to be more all-encompassing, too. Instead of using many small programs to do
one or two specialized tasks, users are growing more used to relying on large all-in-one
software packages that can be used for a wide variety of tasks and creative purposes. At one
time, the Windows platform was just an operating system for keeping programs running on
the computer. Now, in Windows XP, the capability to write CDs, copy music, edit digital
photographs, and watch DVDs has been built right into the operating system.
The typical multimedia-configured PC includes the following components:
1. a microcomputer (including the processor, memory and other electronic components in the
2. a keyboard for input
3. a point-and-draw device for input (mouse, touchpad, trackball etc.)
4. a microphone (audio input)
5. a web camera (photos)
6. a monitor for soft copy (temporary) output
7. a printer for hard copy (printed) output
8. a set of speakers (audio output)
9. a permanently installed high-capacity hard drive for permanent storage of data and programs
10. optical drives such as CD, DVD and Blu-Ray
11. USB/FireWire ports
12. an operating system
13. application programs to perform various tasks for the user