Overview: Computing Systems

Overview: Computing Systems

Context:

This strand focuses on the hardware in computers. In computer science, hardware is not just about memorizing components, but rather asking the fundamental question - what makes something a computer? As computers get smaller and invade more areas of our lives this has impacts on how students understand and experience the world around them.

For a device to be a computer it must include:

  1. Input - a way of translating information into a digital format that the computer can process. Examples include keyboards, microphones and cameras
  2. Output - a way of translating the digital information computers process and store into a format humans can understand. Examples include screens, speakers and 3-D printers. 
  3. Processor - the part of the machine that controls storing digital information and caries out the instructions. At the elementary level it is often compared to the human brain, it is the control center for everything the computer does. 
  4. Memory - computers need things to process, this is stored in memory. On a mobile phone it might be pictures, and in a collaborative slide deck it might be stored in the cloud on a web  server. The process of input and output are digitizing the world humans inhabit so it can be stored and processed, then changing it back to a format humans can understand. Everything stored in memory is stored numerically in binary.
Beyond simply identifying the components of computing systems, students need to understand how hardware and software work together. The physical components of a computer determine how programs must be written and executed, and understanding the underlying physical devices deepens student's understanding of the processes involved in designing software.. 

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