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2.1: Introduction

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    Information systems are made up of six components: hardware, software, data, communication, people, and process. In this chapter, we will review hardware. Hardware is the tangible or physical parts of computing devices to function. We will review the components of information systems, learn how it works, and discuss some of the current trends.

    As stated above, computer hardware encompasses digital devices that you can physically touch. This includes devices such as the following:

    • desktop computers
    • laptop computers
    • mobile phones
    • smartphones
    • smartwatches
    • tablet computers
    • e-readers
    • storage devices, such as flash drives
    • input devices, such as keyboards, mice, and scanners
    • output devices such as 3d printers and speakers

    Besides these more traditional computer hardware devices, many items that were once not considered digital devices are now becoming computerized. Digital technologies are now being integrated into many everyday objects, so the days of a device being labeled categorically as computer hardware may be ending. Examples of these types of digital devices include automobiles, refrigerators, and even soft-drink dispensers. In this chapter, we will also explore digital devices, beginning with defining the term.

    Digital Devices

    A digital device is any equipment containing a computer or microcontroller; included in these devices are smartphones, watches, and tablets. A digital device processes electronic signals that represent either a one (“on”) or a zero (“off”). The presence of an electronic signal represents the “ on ” state; the absence of an electronic signal represents the “ off ” state. Each one or zero is referred to as a bit (a contraction of binary digit); a group of eight bits is a byte. The first personal computers could process 8 bits of data at once; modern PCs can now process 128 bits of data at a time. The larger the bit, the faster information can be processed simultaneously.

    Sidebar: Understanding Binary

    As you know, the system of numbering we are most familiar with is base-ten numbering. In base-ten numbering, each column in the number represents a power of ten, with the far-right column representing 10^0 (ones), the next column from the right representing 10^1 (tens), then 10^2 (hundreds), then 10^3 (thousands), etc. For example, the number 1010 in decimal represents: (1 x 1000) + (0 x 100) + (1 x 10) + (0 x 1).

    Computers use the base-two numbering system, also known as binary. In this system, each column in the number represents a power of two, with the far-right column representing 2^0 (ones), the next column from the right representing 2^1 (tens), then 2^2 (fours), then 2^3 (eights), etc. For example, the number 1010 in binary represents (1 x 8 ) + (0 x 4) + (1 x 2) + (0 x 1). In base ten, this evaluates to 10.

    As digital devices' capacities grew, new terms were developed to identify the capacities of processors, memory, and disk storage space. Prefixes were applied to the word byte to represent different orders of magnitude. Since these are digital specifications, the prefixes were originally meant to represent multiples of 1024 (which is 210) but have more recently been rounded to mean multiples of 1000.

    The following table contains a listing of Binary prefixes:

    Binary Prefixes and Examples





    one thousand

    kilobyte=one thousand bytes


    one million

    megabyte=one million bytes


    one billion

    gigabyte=one billion bytes


    one trillion

    terabyte=one trillion bytes


    one quadrillion

    petabyte=one quadrillion bytes


    one quintillion

    exabyte=one quintillion bytes


    one sextillion

    zettabytes=one sextillion bytes


    one septillion

    yottabytes=one septillion bytes