ECDL/ICDL - Module 1
Basic Concepts of Information Technology

1.1 Getting Started

1.1.1 Hardware/Software Information Technology



  System unit








  Two major kinds of software

   System Software

   Application Software

System Software

      System Software

   A collection of programs

   Enables the application software to interact with the hardware

   Background software that helps the computer manage its own resources


Application Software

      End-user software

      Two major categories

   General purpose

   Special purpose


Information Technology

      Information Technology includes:




   Software engineering

   Administration and

   Use of computer

1.1.2 Types of Computer Distinguish Between Main-frame Computer, Minicomputer, Network Computer, PC, and Laptop.
Slide 1 of 3

      Make sure you understand the following terms:

    Mainframe computer



    Networked computer

    Laptop computer


      What is the difference between a PC and a Mac? Distinguish Between Computers in Terms
of Capacity, Speed, Cost, and Typical Users.
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      Mini and Mainframe Computers

    Very powerful, used by large organisations such an banks to control the entire business operation.  Very expensive!

      Personal Computers

    Cheap and easy to use.  Often used as stand-alone computers or in a network.  May be connected to large mainframe computers within big companies. Understand the Terms Intelligent
and Dumb Terminal.
Slide 3 of 3

      An intelligent terminal, for example a PC: -

    Performs a lot of the processing locally

    You could use a PC, linked to a mainframe

      A dumb terminal: -

    Has very limited processing capabilities itself, but allows you to connect to a large powerful computer such as a mainframe. 

    When you process your data from the dumb terminal, it is the mainframe at the other end of the network that is performing all the calculations.

1.1.3 Main Parts of a Personal Computer Know the Main Parts of a Personal Computer:
The Central Processing Unit (CPU)
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       The CPU (Central Processing Unit) is normally an Intel Pentium (or equivalent) and it is one of the most important components within your computer.

     It determines how fast your computer will run and is measured by its MHz speed.

     Thus a 600 MHz Pentium is much faster than say a 400 MHz Pentium CPU.

     It is the CPU that performs all the calculations within the computer. Know the Main Parts of a Personal Computer:
The Hard Disk
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      Hard disks are the main, large data storage area within your computer. 

      Hard disks are used to store your operating system, your application programs (i.e. your word processor, games etc) and your data. 

      They are much faster than CD-ROMs and floppy disks and can also hold much more data. Know the Main Parts of a Personal Computer:
Common Input/output Devices
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      Input devices




    Digital cameras

      Output Devices

    Monitor (VDU Visual Display Unit)

    Speakers Know the Main Parts of a Personal Computer:
Types of Memory
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     The RAM (Random Access Memory) is where the operating system is loaded and also where your applications are copied to when you load an application, such as a word processor or database program. 


     The ROM-BIOS (Read Only Memory - Basic Input Output System) chip is a special chip held on your computer's system (mother) board. 

     It contains software that is required to make your computer work with your operating system Know the Main Parts of a Personal Computer:
Diskettes, Zip Disk & CD-ROM
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    They are very slow compared to hard disks or CD-ROMs, and hold relatively small amounts of data (1.44 Mbytes). Unreliable

      Zip and Jaz Drives

    Similar concept to diskettes, but hold a lot more data!

      CD-ROM & DVDs

    Similar to the audio devices familiar in home use but hold computer data rather than music Know the Main Parts of a Personal Computer:
Understand the Term
Peripheral Device
Slide 6 of 6

      A peripheral device is any device that you can attach to your computer. 

    Thus you could attach a scanner or modem to the back of your system unit.

1.2 Hardware

1.2.1 Central Processing Unit

Central Processing Unit

      Main components of CPU

  Control Unit

  Arithmetic and Logic Unit

  On-board cache memory

Control Unit

      Responsible for loading and interpreting the individual instructions that comprise the computer program.

Arithmetic and Logical Unit

      The ALU is responsible for carrying out arithmetic operations such

      as addition and subtraction as well as logical decisions such as whether one number is bigger than another.

On-board cache memory

      Faster data transfer from RAM

      Intermediate storage

1.2.2 Computer Performance

1.2.1 Know Some of the Factors That
Impact on a Computer's Performance

      CPU speed

      RAM size

      Hard disk speed and capacity

Speed of CPU

      The speed of a CPU is measured by the maximum number of pulses it is able to handle.

      This is measured in

   MHz (megahertz, millions of pulses per seconds)

   GHz (gigahertz, thousands of millions pulses /sec)

1.3.2 Types of Memory Understand RAM & ROM.
Slide 1 of 2

      RAM - Random Access Memory

    The main 'working' memory used by the computer. 

    When the operating system loads from disk when you first switch on the computer, it is copied into RAM. 

    As a rough rule, a Microsoft Windows based computer will operate faster if you install more RAM.Data and programs stored in RAM are volatile (i.e. the information is lost when you switch off the computer). Understand RAM & ROM.
Slide 2 of 2

      ROM Read Only Memory

    Read Only Memory (ROM) as the name suggests is a special type of memory chip that holds software that can be read but not written to. 

    A good example is the ROM-BIOS chip, which contains read-only software. 

    Often network cards and video cards also contain ROM chips.


1.3.3 Measuring Memory Know How Computer Memory Is Measured
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   All computers work on a binary numbering system, i.e. they process data in one's or zero's.  This 1 or 0 level of storage is called a bit.


   A byte consists of eight bits.


   A kilobyte (KB) consists of 1024 bytes. (1 page) Know How Computer Memory Is Measured
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   A megabyte (MB) consists of 1024 kilobytes. (1 book)


   A gigabyte (GB) consists of 1024 megabytes. (1000 books)


   A terabyte (TB) consists of 1024, gigabyte, equal to whole library Know How Computer Memory Is Measured
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      We use very large numbers of bytes for storing files and records.


   Records Know How Computer Memory Is Measured
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      Understand how computer memory measurement is expressed using the metric system.


1.2.2 Input Devices Devices for Inputting Data
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      The Mouse

    Used to drive Microsoft Windows

      The Keyboard

    The keyboard is still the commonest way of entering information into a computer

      Tracker Balls

    an alternative to the traditional mouse and often used by graphic designers Devices for Inputting Data
Slide 2 of 2


     A scanner allows you to scan printed material and convert it into a file format that may be used within the PC

       Touch Pads

     A device that lays on the desktop and responds to pressure

       Light Pens

     Used to allow users to point to areas on a screen


     Many games require a joystick for the proper playing of the game Devices for Inputting Data
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      Bar code reader

1.2.3 Output Devices Common Output Devices
Slide 1 of 2


    The computer screen is used for outputting information in an understandable format for humans


    There are many different types of printers. 

    In large organizations laser printers are most commonly used due to the fact that they can print very fast and give a very high quality output. Common Output Devices
Slide 2 of 2


    A plotter is an output device similar to a printer, but normally allows you to print larger images.


    Enhances the value of educational and presentation products.

      Speech synthesisers

    Gives you the ability to not only to display text on a monitor but also to read the text to you

1.3 Storage

1.3.1 Memory Storage Devices Compare Memory Storage Devices
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      Internal Hard Disks



     Very fast! 

     The speed of a hard disk is often quoted as "average access time" speed, measured in milliseconds.  The smaller this number the faster the disk.


     Enormous!  Often in excess of 10 Gigabytes.  A Gigabyte is equivalent to 1024 Megabytes.


     Hard disks costs are falling rapidly and normally represent the cheapest way of storing data. Compare Memory Storage Devices
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     External Hard Disks



    Normally slower that internal disks, but more expensive versions offer the same performance as internal hard disks.


    Same as internal disks.


    More expensive than internal disks. Compare Memory Storage Devices
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     Zip Disks



    Slower than normal hard disks but ideal for backups.


    100 or 250 Megabytes.


    You have to consider both the cost of the drive, plus the cost of each disk that you wish to use in the drive.  Often suppliers will sell the drive plus a pack of 5 disks at a bundled discount price. Compare Memory Storage Devices
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     Jaz Disks



    Slower than normal hard disks but ideal for backups


    Around 2 Gigabytes (2048 Megabytes).


    You have to consider both the cost of the drive, plus the cost of each disk that you wish to use in the drive.  Often suppliers will sell the drive plus a pack of 5 disks at a bundled discount price. Compare Memory Storage Devices
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     Diskettes (Floppy Disks)



    Very slow!


    Normally 1.44 Mbytes.


    Very cheap. Compare Memory Storage Devices
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     CD-ROM Disks



    Much slower than hard disks.  The original CD-ROM speciation is now given a value of 1x speed, and later, faster CD-ROMs are quoted as a multiple of this value.


    Around 650 Mbytes.


    Below £100 each (UK sterling). Compare Memory Storage Devices
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     DVD Drives



    Much faster than CD-ROM drives but not as fast as hard disks.


    Up to 17 Gbytes.


    Slightly higher than CD-ROM drives.

1.4 Software

1.4.1 Types of Software Know the Meaning of the Terms;
Operating Systems Software & Applications Software

      Operating systems software

    The operating system is a special type of program that loads automatically when you start your computer. 

    The operating system allows you to use the advanced features of a modern computer without having to learn all the details of how the hardware works

      Applications software

    An application program is the type of program that you use once the operating system has been loaded. 

    Examples include word-processing programs, spreadsheets and databases

1.4.2 Operating System Software Understand the Main Functions
of an Operating System.
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      The link between the hardware and you, the user

      Makes the computer easy to use without having to understand bits and bytes! Understand the Term
Graphical User Interface (GUI)
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      A Graphical User Interface (GUI) is simply an additional part of the operating system that displays windows and drop down menus, and also enables you to drive your computer using a mouse. 

      Examples of operating system that use a GUI include Windows 3.1, Windows 95/98/2000, Windows NT and IBM's OS/2. The Main Advantages of Using a GUI Interface.
Slide 3 of 3

      All programs look similar.

      When you switch from a program supplied by one manufacturer to one from a different manufacturer, you will find the transition very easy.

      Application programs work in the same way as the underlying operating system.

      The GUI also allows programmers to easily write consistent looking programs.

1.4.3 Applications Software List Some Common Software Applications
Together With Their Uses.
Slide 1 of 2

      Word processing applications

    Microsoft Word

    Lotus Word Pro



    Microsoft Excel

    Lotus 123


    Microsoft Access

    Lotus Approach List Some Common Software Applications
Together With Their Uses.
Slide 2 of 2


    Sage software

      Presentation tools

    Microsoft PowerPoint

    Lotus Freelance

      Desktop publishing

    Abode Photoshop

      Multimedia applications

    Microsoft's Encarta CD-ROM based encyclopaedias

1.4.4 Systems Development Understand How Computer-based
Systems Are Developed

      Feasibility Study




1.5 Information Networks

1.5.1 LAN and WAN Know the Definitions of Local Area Networks (LAN)
and Wide Area Networks (WAN).
Slide 1 of 2


    A LAN (Local Area Network) is a system whereby individual PCs are connected together within a company or organization


    A WAN (Wide Area Network) as the name implies allows you to connect to other computers over a wider area (i.e. the whole world). Know the Definitions of Local Area Networks (LAN)
and Wide Area Networks (WAN).
Slide 2 of 2

1.5.2 The Telephone Network in Computing Understand the Use of the Telephone Network in Computing and Understand the Terminology
Slide 1 of 4


    PSDN or Public Switched Data Network is simply the technical name for the telephone system in use today.


    Stands for "Integrated Services Digital Network."  ISDN dates back to 1984, and allows much faster transfer rates than when using modems. Using ISDN, you can transfer 64K or 128K of data per second.


    Satellite communications makes it possible for you to make a telephone call or access the internet from almost anywhere on the planet. Understand the Use of the Telephone Network in Computing and Understand the Terminology
Slide 2 of 4


    A fax machine allows you to transmit printed material over the telephone system. 

    The sending fax machine scans the page and converts the information into sound. 

    The receiving fax converts the sound back into an image of the page for printing. 

    Most modern computers contain a modem that is capable of sending/receiving faxes without the need for a separate, dedicated fax machine.


    Telex is an old system used for sending typed messages via the Telex network, which has largely been replaced by the fax and email systems. Understand the Use of the Telephone Network in Computing and Understand the Terminology
Slide 3 of 4


    Short for MODulate/DEModulate.  The modem sends information from your computer across the telephone system.

    The modem at the other end of the phone line, converts the signal back into a format that can be used by the receiving computer. Understand the Use of the Telephone Network in Computing and Understand the Terminology
Slide 4 of 4

      Digital vs. Analogue     

    A digital system uses 1 or 0 to transmit data or to represent data.  Thus a digital clock will display whole seconds, whole minutes and whole hours.

    An analogue system, such as a traditional clock, does not use multiples of 1 or 0, but rather uses the full range of numbers, including fractions.  In this way an analogue clock can display fractions of a second.

      Baud rate

    The baud rate tells you how fast a modem can send/receive data.  Most modern modems have a maximum baud rate of 56 Kilobits per second (Kb/sec).

1.5.3 Electronic Mail Understand the Electronic Mail and
Know the Uses of E-mail.
Slide 1 of 2

      When you send an email its transmission is often almost instantaneous. 

    This is especially useful when sending a message to someone in a different country. 

      This can be very useful in a business environment, however this facility can be abused and it is now possible for people to send email via the Internet to millions of people. 

    This rather stupid habit is known as Spamming by the Internet community and is very strongly disapproved of! Understand the Electronic Mail and
Know the Uses of E-mail.
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      To send and receive email you require a computer, plus the necessary hardware and software.

    Internal company emails are sent and received via your companys LAN (Local Area Network).

1.5.4 The Internet Know What the Internet Is.
Slide 1 of 3

      The Internet is a global network of interconnected networks.

      The unique thing about the Internet is the sheer amount of information that you can access from it. 

      Whatever your interest you can search for and find information on the most obscure topics. Know What the Internet Is.
Slide 2 of 3

      To search the Internet you use what are called Internet search engines. 

      These are easily accessed via your Internet browser (i.e. Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator/Communicator). 

      Within the search engine you enter a word or phrase and it will retrieve documents from the Internet based on the information you typed in. Know What the Internet Is.
Slide 3 of 3

      If you are sending a traditional letter to many people, then you have to pay a fixed price for each person that you are sending the letter to. 

    The great thing about email is that when you have the correct software you can send to one person or many people for almost the same price and that price will be a fraction of the cost of using traditional posted letters. 

      The other great thing about email is that transmission of the email is almost instant.

    Whether the recipient is in the next room or on the other side of the world. 

1.6 Computers in
Everyday Life

1.6.1 Computers in the Home Know Some of the Uses of the PC at Home

      Common uses for the computer within the home

    Computer games

    Home working

    Home banking

    Connecting to the Web

1.6.2 Computers at Work or in Education Know the Uses of Office Applications
Slide 1 of 5

      CBT (Computer Based Training)

    Computer Based Training (CBT) offers a low cost solution to training needs where you need to train a large amount of people on a single subject. 

    These programs are normally supplied on CD-ROM and combine text, graphics and sound. 

    Packages range from general encyclopaedias right through to learning a foreign language. Know the Uses of Office Applications
Slide 2 of 5

      Automated Production Systems

    Many car factories are almost completely automated and the cars are assembled by computer-controlled robots. 

    This automation is becoming increasingly common throughout industry. Know the Uses of Office Applications
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      Design Systems

    Many products are designed using CAD (Computer Aided Design) programs to produce exact specifications and detailed drawings on the computer before producing models of new products. Know the Uses of Office Applications
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      Stock Control

    Stock control is ideal for automation and in many companies it is now completely computerized. 

    The stock control system keeps track of the number of items in stock and can automatically order replacement items when required.

      Accounts / Payroll

    In most large organizations the accounts are maintained by a computerized system. 

    Due to the repetitive nature of accounts a computer system is ideally suited to this task and accuracy is guaranteed. Know the Uses of Office Applications
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      Repetitive tasks

      Easily automated tasks

      Mathematical calculations

      Dangerous situations

1.6.3 Computers in Daily Life Be Aware of the Uses of
Computers in Every-day Life




      On-line banking

      Smart ID cards


      Working from home (Tele-working)


      Bank 'hole in the wall' cash machines

1.7 IT and Society

1.7.1 A Changing World Understand the Terms Information Society
and Information Superhighway.
Slide 1 of 2

      The concept of the Information society refers to the fact that it is now very easy to link computers together and access information stored on other computers. 

      The Internet is a good example. 

    By connecting to the Internet you gain access to millions of other computers that are connected around the world. 

      You can communicate via email with anyone on this planet (assuming they also have an email connection). Understand the Terms Information Society
and Information Superhighway.
Slide 2 of 2

      The phrase e-commerce is a buzz word that relates to buying or selling via the Internet. 

    Increasingly you can purchase directly via a Web site by selecting the goods or services that you require and entering your credit card details. 

1.7.2 A Good Workspace Understand What Elements and Practices
Can Help Create a Good Working Environment

      Frequent breaks away from the computer

      Appropriate positioning of screens, chairs and keyboards

      Provision of adequate lighting and ventilation.

1.7.3 Health and Safety Be Aware of Health and Safety Precautions
When Using a Computer

      Make sure that cables are safely secured

      Make sure that power points are not overloaded

      Also be aware of:

    Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

    Glare from screens

    Bad posture

1.8 Security, Copyright and the Law

1.8.1 Security Know About the Purpose and Value of
Backing Store of Computer Files
Slide 1 of 4

       The most important thing that you store on your computer is information. 

       Often the contents of a hard disk can represent years of work. 

       If the hard disk stops working one day you could lose all those years of work. 

       For this reason it is VITAL that you take regular backups of the information that is stored on the computer. Know About the Purpose and Value of
Backing Store of Computer Files
Slide 2 of 4

      Organize your computer for more efficient backups

      Complete vs. incremental backups

      Use 'off-site' storage

      Beware of  'open files' Know About the Purpose and Value of
Backing Store of Computer Files
Slide 3 of 4

      Use passwords

      Understand the Importance of shutting down your computer properly

      Use a UPS (Un-interruptible Power Supply)

      Use electrical surge protection Know About the Purpose and Value of
Backing Store of Computer Files
Slide 4 of 4

      Things computer like:

    Good ventilation

    Clean environment

    Stable, vibration free surface

      Things computer dont like:


    Drinking and eating over the keyboard

    Heat, Cold or Moisture

    Dont place objects on top of monitors.

    Dont place floppy disks near monitors.

1.8.2 Computer Viruses Understand the Term Computer Virus
Slide 1 of 3

      What are computer viruses? 

    Viruses are small programs that hide themselves on your disks (both diskettes and your hard disk). 

    Unless you use virus detection software the first time that you know that you have a virus is when it activates. 

    Different viruses are activated in different ways. Understand the Term Computer Virus
Slide 2 of 3

      How do viruses infect PCs?

    Viruses hide on a disk and when you access the disk (either a diskette or another hard disk over a network) the virus program will start and infect your computer. 

    The worst thing about a computer virus is that they can spread from one computer to another, either via use of infected floppy disk, or over a computer network, including the Internet. Understand the Term Computer Virus
Slide 3 of 3

      How to prevent virus damage

    There are a number of third party anti-virus products available.

    Most of these are better than the rather rudimentary products available within DOS and Windows, but of course you do have to pay for them! 

    The main thing about your virus checker is that it should be kept up to date. 

    Many companies supply updated disks on a regular basis or allow you to receive updates through an electronic, on-line bulletin board.

1.8.3 Copyright Understand Software Copyright

      Be aware or software copyright issues



      What about software that you find on the Internet?

      Software site licenses


1.8.4 Data Protection Act Know the Data Protection Act
in Your Country.

      If your computer system holds information about individuals then you have a moral and legal duty to treat that information with respect.

      In a free society you have a right to ensure that information held about you is not abused.

      In many countries this right is enshrined under data protection laws