IntroductionHave you ever wanted to send letters to people on the other side of the world, play cards against someone in the United Kingdom, or race indycars against someone in Italy? Well now, with a computer and the Internet, you can do all these things and a lot more. There is a lot more to computers than just fun and games, though. What about computer hardware, software, and on-line systems such as the Internet; I shall be discussing all of these issues.
HardwareThe term hardware means the physical parts of the computer such as the monitor, keyboard, printer, and system unit. Since the first computers were made many years ago, the hardware and size of the hardware has changed greatly. These first computers could be as large as city blocks yet they could only perform the functions of today's pocket calculator. The main invention responsible for this size difference is the microchip.
The invention of the microchip was a huge milestone in computer technology. It meant that new computers would only need to be a fraction of the size of their predecessors. Instead of using valves or transistors in computers printed circuits were used on chips of silicon. This is called microcircuitry. Today all computers use microchips and therefore they can sit comfortably on a desktop.
Not all computers sit on a desktop, though. Some computers are portable and are carried around by people. These computers are called laptops or notebooks. Another type of computer is a supercomputer such as a Cray 2. These computers take up the space of a small room and are used for very complicated and specific functions.
Another recent, ground-breaking development in the computer field is multimedia. This basically means the use of sound, graphics, animation, and video on a computer and this is possible due to the invention of CD ROM. The CD ROM is like a normal audio CD for computers. It holds huge amounts of data and is written to and read from using lasers, thus having a very high quality of playback. Multimedia is used a lot in computer games and graphical presentations.
SoftwareNevertheless, the computer would just sit there and do nothing if it wasn't for the instructions that tells the hardware what to do. These instructions are called programs or software and are written in a complicated language called the programming language. People who make the programs, called the programmers, need to know this language before they are able to write software.
One area of computer software is games. This is one of the biggest areas and there are many software companies that only make games and no other programs. Some of the biggest companies are Lucasarts, Electronic Arts, and Origin. The computer games field today is what really pushes the technology to keep on getting better and better as the games become more realistic looking, better sounding, and more detailed.
Another major area of software is office applications. This area is for helping people to manage day to day work in the office. It's made up of spreadsheets (used for tabulating and charting information), wordprocessors (used for typing up text such as letters), and databases (used for keeping files of people or other information). Computers make work in the office a lot easier and faster.
The InternetThe Internet can also be a great source of information and help to people working in the office. The Internet, also called the Information Superhighway or the Worldwide Web, is a network of 3 billion or so computers from all over the world linked up together through telephone lines and satellites. To have access to the Internet you would need a modem; this is a piece of hardware that allows your computer to access other computers. Using the Internet gives you access to a huge amount of information, for example you can access the Australian Archives through the Internet as well as communicate with people all around the planet.
As well as the vast amount of information available, there are also a lot of disadvantages of the Internet. One of the main disadvantages is that there is mass pirating. Pirating is copying software illegally without paying the company that made it. Pirated software can be found all over the Internet and is very easy for anybody to obtain. Pirating costs software companies billions of dollars each year.
Another issue about the Internet is the security of data. Viruses can creep onto your computer while you are on the Internet. Viruses are programs that reproduce themselves and spread from computer to computer. They usually corrupt, delete, or change data and can cause huge amounts of damage, especially to major companies.
Hackers are similar to viruses in that they can access your computer without you knowing and tamper with data. Hackers are computer geniuses whose hobby is to use other people's computers for their own devious purposes. Often hackers try to steal money, information, or programs from other people. One such hacker is Kevin Mitnick, one of the most dangerous hackers in computer history. He stole huge amounts of data including an unreleased program worth millions from the Unix Software Company, as well as transferring money from a bank account via the computer. Hackers can wreak huge amounts of havoc and are a menace to computer users.
ConclusionComputers are having an enormous influence on our society in the way that we work and play and the industry is expanding at a rapid rate. People in this new age of technology will need to become more and more computer literate and aware because the computer revolution has been started and you'd better believe that they're going to be around for a long time yet.
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