Overview: Computing Systems

Overview: Computing Systems


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.. 

    • Related Articles

    • Overview: Impacts of Computing

      Context Humans engage with technology through a process of discovery and creation.
    • Overview: Data and Analysis

      At the core of computing lies data and analysis. The earliest computers were designed to handle repeated calculations. According to Virginia Computer Science SOL Introduction, “Data and Analysis involves the data that exist and the Data Analysis that ...
    • Overview: Cybersecurity

      Context: Just as people in China built the Great Wall to keep out foreign invaders, and the Ancestral Pueblo people in the southwest United States build towns on mesa walls for defensive reasons, communities have always needed to keep themselves ...
    • Overview: Networking and the Internet

      Context: Humans are inherently social and connected creatures, and this drives much of the technology we create. In 1800 BC Chinese soldiers used smoke signals along the Great Wall of China to communicate dangers over hundreds of miles, while in the ...
    • Domains of Facilitation