Basic Computer Hardware And Software

Unit 1.1General model of a computer
Unit 1.2Hardware and software
Unit 1.3Types of computers
Unit 1.4Advantages and disadvantages of computers
Unit 1.5Data and information management.

Basics of Computer Science Tutorial. Useful Resources.

  • Selected Reading. The following table highlights the points that differentiate a hardware from a software.
  • 80 Lectures 7.5 hours . Arnab Chakraborty.
  • 63 Lectures 6 hours . Abhilash Nelson. 54 Lectures 6 hours .
  • Abhishek And Pukhraj. 21 Lectures 2.5 hours . 12 Lectures 2 hours .
  • 69 Lectures 12 hours . Vijay Kumar Parvatha Reddy.
  • The hardware and the software make up a complete operating computer system.
  • Hardware is the mechanical device in a computer system that is interconnected for operation.
  • The user may not be able to see all the hardware devices because they are internal to the computer’s casing.
  • An example of this would be storage drives.
  • Most of the hardware devices are a part of the motherboard that is responsible for controlling the computer.
  • Software, on the other hand, works on the idea of instructing programs in computer language for execution.
  • They tell the device what to perform and how to do it using a set of instructions.
  • The software developers design the programs in such a way that there are instructions for all kinds of tasks.

This is by using a high-level programming language which is then translated to binary form for the computer to read.

But software and hardware cannot function without each other.

Hardware needs instruction to perform while software needs a processor to instruct. Thus they are dependent on each other. These devices are the ones that provide input/output to the computer externally.

They are auxiliary devices meant to form a connection with the device externally via a cable or Bluetooth to function.

Some examples are mouse, headphones, etc. The input device allows the user to send data or information to the computer to perform a task.

Keyboards, joysticks, mouse, etc. are some of the examples. The output device completes the task related to the data sent by the input device.

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They receive the data from the input devices and execute the tasks accordingly. Printers, monitors, headphones, etc. are some of the output devices. The place where all the data on the computer goes is a storage device. This allows users to access all the data safely and without any trouble.

This device is one of the core components of a computer system. It is a hardware device to store digital data in multiple forms like text, images, audio, etc. Some examples are – hard drives, USBs, memory cards, etc.

The components that are already a part of the motherboard and the system are internal components.

Features of application software

  • Computer memory is internal to the system, becoming a good example of this.
  • Many devices may become a part of the system from inside using ribbon cables and insertion cards.
  • Some examples are – RAM, CPU, etc.
Can a computer run without hardware?

When any of these devices start performing poorly, the system replaces or upgrades. This process of changing the device refers to hardware upgrades. Like users often upgrade their RAM to have more space in the computer.

Stay updated with latest technology trendsJoin DataFlair on Telegram!! The need for the hardware in a computer system depends on which device we are talking about.

  • Devices like a hard drive, keyboard, memory, etc, are essential to function. Absence or fault in any of these can lead to errors in the computer system.
  • Adding external devices like speakers, modem, etc. is not integral but can definitely improve user experience.
  • The software enables users to interact with hardware and complete tasks on the system. The software that runs the computer by activating, controlling, and coordinating the hardware is system software.
  • They also control the application programs on the computer. They differ according to the function they need to perform in the computer system.
  • Some of the examples are –. The most relevant example of system software is an operating system. It is an interface connecting the users to the computer hardware.

Linux, Windows, Edge, etc. are a few famous operating systems that people use. A basic input-output system is part of Read-Only Memory or flash memory.

The first software that users activate at their computer is BIOS because it loads the drivers to assist storage of operating systems. It has a set of commands to make the devices perform effectively. The starting up of a device refers to boot, the ROM commands automatic execution of loading boot in memory once the device starts. It is responsible for controlling computer hardware by providing an interface. The kernel uses this software to communicate with the processor. The operating systems usually have these drivers to work with hardware systems. It is a language program with input being an assembly and output being an object.

The programmer has a basic interpretation machine that uses hardware for fundamental instructions. It uses machine language to get machine memory in place.


System software that takes care of high-level languages by accepting the source program and producing a corresponding object program. An interpreter is a program responsible for executing a source program. FORTRAN, COBOL, etc.

may designate to a compiler and its associated language. A system software responsible for loading the program and executing it is a loader. Absolute, relocating, and direct-linking are some of the loading schemes. The assembler outputs the program to the device and the loader executes it. This is a smaller program compared to the assembler.

They are very close to the system. They have a very fast speed. These are difficult to design and understand.

They are less interactive. They have small size. These are hard to manipulate. They usually use low-level language. This type of software is for specific tasks related to end-users and their ease. Unlike system software, a computer doesn’t need them to function. The users can install and uninstall this software according to their needs.

They may have only one program or a collection according to tasks.

Some of its types are –. This software is for creating editable documents that users can keep going back to.

They can add textual content or edit the existing one when necessary. Other than this, multiple other features are depending on the particular application.

Some examples are – Ms Word, Google Docs, Wordpad, etc.

This is for making spreadsheets and deals with information/data.

It has grids and columns to tabulate all the data properly making it easy for the user to maintain records.

It enables data processing of even larger files. There is an option to calculate using different formulas as well.

Computer Software

Some examples are – Ms Excel, Google Sheets, etc.

  • These are for editing videos, audios, and texts and allows users to combine all of them as well.
  • They can improve their documents with interesting visuals and sounds using multimedia software.
  • Some examples are – VLC player, Premier Pro, Window Media Player, etc.
Computer Hardware Components

These are for particular business functions when the organizations have multiple tasks to take care of regularly. This may be for accounting, billing, inventory management, web traffic analysis, etc.

  • Some examples are – Mailchimp, Google analytics, customer support system, etc. These are software for writing other programs by translating programming languages into machine language.
  • The developers use them to create, debug, and maintain applications. Programming or software development tools are a few other names for it. Some examples are –Eclipse, Coda, Notepad++, etc.
Difference Between Computer Hardware and Software

Closer to the user. Easy to design and understand. Have a slow speed. Usually use high-level language. Easy to manipulate and use. Need large storage space in a device. Mostly no, a computer cannot function without installing software.

  • In absence of an operating system, the computer is likely to work with error or without output. Having software allows it to explore supplementary capacities. Users can save time with faster results using the software. A word processor is not necessary but is helpful for creating documents, cloud computing is not important but users can easily run programs on it.
  • Thus, the importance of software is unavoidable and we will keep using it for our daily tasks. It is a low-level program that performs a very specific function in guiding hardware for the execution of its tasks. They are mostly permanent and are difficult to manipulate after development. Some people believe that it is part of the hardware system but it is beyond this belief.
  • It enables the hardware to function by instructing. Don’t confuse it for the operating system as it cannot be changed after development. It controls specific devices but the operating system takes care of the functions above it.
  • They depend on each other to make the computer system work efficiently. The software needs the support of hardware to utilize its features. Hardware needs programs to operate which only software can provide.
  • For specific tasks, multiple software needs to be loaded in the hardware to perform. Hardware is a one-time investment while the software is a continuous one. Software is an interface allowing users to use hardware.
  • These are the two most fundamental concepts of computer aptitude. Not just for competitive exams but they are useful to understand the daily computer tasks as well. This is why government exams like UPSC, RRB, RBI, Banking, etc.
  • have this either in the computer aptitude or general knowledge section.

All the applicants should know about these terms to improve their practical skills and their exam results.

  • A communication device is a hardware device capable of transmitting an analog or digital signal over a wired or wireless connection. Examples include, a modem and a network interface card (NIC) that can be either wired or wireless

Software refers to the set of instructions a computer uses to complete any instructed task. Software is the program that is operated by the hardware. These include programs such as, Microsoft Applications or InDesign Creative Suite. As a result, hardware and software are interdependent.

Remember that this interdependence means that neither the software nor the hardware can function without the other one. Hardware cannot do anything without software because it depends on the processed instructions to provide input, while software cannot function without hardware to process the user’s instructions.

The two most important types of software are:

  • system software (including the operating system)
  • application software.

One of the primary outcomes of this subject is to teach you how to write your own software. This will allow you to use the power of a computer to make your life, and the lives of the people all around the world, better and easier!

You will learn more about the different types of hardware and software and the relationship between them.

Computer Hardware Architecture

System software is the specific type of software that manages the flow of data and the information contained on the computer. The operating system (OS) is the most important type of system software.

Examples of operating systems include Microsoft Windows, Linux, MacOS, iOS and Android. The OS is designed to control and coordinate the tasks and functions of computer hardware.

Relationship between Hardware and Software

Application software is a program that is built for a specific purpose, like sending a message, browsing the internet, or typing a document. Application software refers to any software that lets the user accomplish a function or create content. Application software requires system software in order to function. This type of software includes media players, spreadsheets and word processors. When multiple applications are packaged together it is called an application suite. Examples include Microsoft Office, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Skype. Games and mobile applications such as Spotify and Uber, are also considered application software.

2. Input devices

Let’s have a look at the table on the next page. The table shows the differences and uses between shareware, freeware, free open source software (FOSS) and proprietary software.

When a program is developed, the developers decide whether the code is proprietary or open source software (OSS). The table below explains more about open source software.

Keep in mind that there are safety precautions you should follow when downloading free or paid software. Nothing stops the developer from bundling the software with malicious software, malware (virus, worms, or spyware) and still make you pay for it. There is also a lot of freeware that is useless or ineffective and you need to be aware of the importance of practicing good software safety, so that you can choose the best software for your needs.

1.2.1Explain the difference between hardware and software.

1.2.2Explain the interdependency of hardware and software.

1.2.3Match column A with column B. Only write the question number and the alphabet letter, e.g. 1, M:

1.2.4a.Differentiate between system software and application software.

b.List two examples of operating systems.

c.List two examples of application software.

1.2.5a.Define shareware, freeware, free open source software (FOSS) and proprietary software.

b.Evaluate which categories given in question 1.2.4 a. above would most likely be used for the following:

i.a gamer

ii.a businessman who has online meetings

iii.a student researching for a project

iv.a teacher designing lesson plans

1.2.6a.Distinguish between the six main components of a computer system.

b.Provide an example for each of the main components of a computer system.

1.2.7What is a storage device? Give examples of those that you have in your computer lab.

1.2.8Read the following article taken from an eNCA report and answer the questions that follow.

Subdued growth to dominate SA’s ICT market


Johannesburg, 15 Feb 2018

South Africa’s overall ICT market is expected to reach $21.4 billion (R248 billion) by the end of 2018, and $23.4 billion (R273 billion) by 2021, representing a compound average growth rate of 2.9%.

This is according to market research firm IDC, which hosted its IDC Directions 2018 event in Johannesburg this week.

Speaking at the event, Mark Walker, associate vice-president for Sub-Saharan Africa at IDC, said this is in line with overall macro-economic growth expectations which are relatively subdued.

According to Walker, IT services, software and infrastructure roll-out are the fastest growth segments in SA’s ICT market.

‘The government and financial sectors dominate spend in South Africa,’ he noted. ‘In finance, this is driven by investment in upgrading legacy systems, compliance, as well as risk mitigation and improving customer experience.’

He pointed out that government spend is focused on maintaining and upgrading existing systems while rolling out infrastructure and improving connectivity as progress is made on various discrete smart city initiatives.

[Source: [Last accessed April 2019]]

a.ICT and IT are mentioned in the excerpt. Explain and describe the difference between these terms.

b.The term ‘legacy systems’ is used in the text. Research this term and explain its meaning in your own words.

c.Explain what in meant by ICT infrastructure.

d.What is meant by connectivity in this context?

1.3 Types of computers

  • state and differentiate between the types of computers
  • categorise computers/classification of computers.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if each morning, 10 minutes before your alarm goes off, your coffee machine automatically pours you a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate, your toaster makes fresh toast, your lights slowly turn on and music starts playing?

Less than 15 years ago these concepts could only be found in science fiction films. Today, thanks to the development of affordable computers, all these smart devices exist and are ready to make your life more comfortable. These devices are generally called smart devices or embedded computers and are one of the five types of computers you can find today.

Supercomputers, mainframe computers, minicomputers, microcomputers and mobile computers are the main categories under which computers can be classified.

5. Internal components

Computers can be classified as general-purpose computers, specific purpose computers or super computers.

General-purpose computers compute a range of tasks but lack super speed and efficiency. The purpose of computers in this category might differ from one another: Examples are:

  • desktop computers
  • laptops
  • tablets
  • smartphones.

Specific purpose computers handle a specific problem or task. It uses a high level of accuracy and processing power. Examples are:

  • servers
  • embedded devices.

Super computers are extremely expensive, and the applications are for specialised activities or tasks such as weather forecasting.

Classification of computers in terms of data processing power and capacity could be done in the following grouping:

Examples of embedded computers are:

  • ATM machines
  • MP3 players
  • DVD players
  • Drones
  • Anti-lock braking system
  • Airbag control system
  • Digital watches.

1.3.1Identify the different types of computers illustrated below.

1.3.2Differentiate between the six types of computing devices.

1.3.3Which of the devices below are examples of embedded devices? Support your answers.

a.Mobile phone

b.Navigating system in a motor vehicle

c.A tablet

d.A robotic vacuum cleaner

d.Television decoder

1.3.4Your school wants to upgrade their computers in the media centre. A debate has started about whether to replace the desktop computers with laptops or tablets. Critique the options and give reasons for your choice.

1.4 Advantages and disadvantages of using computers

  • list the advantages and disadvantages of using computers.
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There are many advantages of using computers. However, the following are some of the most important ones to know:

1.Provides access to more information

2.Completes tasks that might be impossible for humans to complete

3.Saves time

4.Automates repetitive tasks

5.Allows for greater productivity

6.Allows for better communication and connections


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Unfortunately computers also have some disadvantages. These disadvantages include:

1.Social risks: computers provide humans access to social media, which can be addictive, make people less happy, lead to jealousy, and get in the way of real-world friendships. In fact, a study found that of 1 500 Facebook users interviewed, 62% said Facebook occasionally made them feel like they are not good enough, and 60% said that comparing themselves to other people on Facebook made them jealous.

2.Health risks: research has shown that excessive computer use can result in several medical problems, including back pain, eyestrain, obesity, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and repetitive strain injury (RSI). However, with good ergonomic practices, many of these health risks could be reduced or removed.

RSI (REPETITIVE STRAIN INJURY) – a painful inflammation of the tendons that often results from overuse. A tendon is tissue that attaches muscle to the bone

ergonomics – the study of how humans interact with fabricated objects, the goal is to create an environment that is well suited to the users’ physical needs

3.Security risks: computer security risk can be created by malware, that is, bad software, that can attack your computer system, destroy your files, steal your data, or allow an attacker to gain access to your system without your knowledge. Computers are programmed to follow instructions, and sometimes people program computers to act in a way that harms a user.

4.High cost: computers are expensive. Even the most affordable computers are still very expensive for the average person in South Africa. Since computers empower people, the high cost of computers puts pressure on people who are not able to afford them, and places them at a disadvantage.

5.Distractions/disruptions: if you have ever spent hours browsing the internet or watching videos on YouTube, then you know how distracting computers can be! Because of their high entertainment value, it is easy for computers to distract people and stop them from being productive.

6.Environmental impact: computers use a lot of electricity and in most cases the generation of electricity is harmful to the environment because of the carbon emissions. This has a huge impact on our planet.

1.4.1List any TWO advantages of computers.

1.4.2.List any TWO disadvantages of computers.

1.4.3.What do you use a desktop computer for?

1.4.4.In two teams, debate for and against the use of computers. Support your answers.

1.5 Data and information management

  • explain and differentiate between data and information
  • provide an overview of uses and examples of information within an organisation
  • explain why information is useful
  • provide an overview of a general model of an ICT system.

So far, we have spoken a lot about computers receiving data, manipulating the data, and then turning data into useful information. But what exactly is data and how does it differ from information?

Data can be defined as unprocessed numbers, or facts. Without first processing or changing data, it is meaningless. For example, your school might have data on the names, surnames, addresses, contact details, as well as the results of every class test, assignment, test, and exam of all current and past learners stored on a computer somewhere. While this data is important to store, it could be hundreds or even thousands of pages long and very difficult to interpret!

Information can be defined as facts and numbers that have been organised / processed so that it is useful / meaningful to people. For example, if your mathematics teacher wanted to see how well your current class is performing compared to last year’s class, she might ask your school’s database administrator to process the available data into averages for the two years. In that way, all those thousands of pages of data are processed into two numbers that can be compared easily. Similarly, the report you receive at the end of each school year takes all the data that teachers have collected during the year and turns that data into a single report that you can use to measure your performance.

One of the main functions of a computer is to take unprocessed data (data that is useless to humans) and then turn it into something that is meaningful and easy to understand for humans.

4. Secondary storage devices

Information is useful in an organisation because it will speed up the decision-making process, and help the business to improve their business service offering.

For example, supermarkets and chain stores use ICT systems for a variety of reasons. Let’s look at an example of a Point of sale (POS) system, paying special attention to the processes of receiving, storing, conveying, and manipulating data.

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From the cashier and customer’s perspective, a supermarket’s ICT system is a standalone computer, called a cash register. However, it consists of much more than that.

Most products have a barcode, which is a pattern of narrow and wide stripes that is read by a barcode reader. The barcode consists of information about the product such as, availability in store, quantities, orders, etc. The scan reader will scan the barcode optically and convert the stripes into numerical data, which is then transferred automatically to the checkout computer (cash register). The barcode reader sometimes beeps after scanning an item to signal to the cashier that the item is now identified.

Look at the IPO table below to see how this process works:

Answer the questions, which are based on the three scenarios below.

Scenario 1

Increasingly, the internet and big data are combined with mobility and social networking to allow companies to respond speedily to customer demands. Let’s use the Red Robin restaurant chain in the United States as an example.

A while ago, they tested a new hamburger across the chain and gave their frontline waiters devices on which to input customer feedback – likes and dislikes – about the burger. Normally the testing, feedback and response loop would have taken 12 to 18 months. This time round they were able to get a new, improved burger on to the menu within four weeks.

Scenario 2

In South Africa, the Johannesburg Road Agency’s (JRA) Find and Fix app allows motorists to report issues such as potholes and broken traffic lights as they encounter them, with one or two clicks on a smartphone.

Scenario 3

The internet of things (IOT) is about four big trends: social, mobile, cloud and big data; by using data and information collected through things like mobility and sensors and the cloud to make smarter, better decisions or to provide better, quicker service. It helps to collect and analyse data faster, understand customers, make decisions faster, and provide better service to customers.

[Adapted from The Mail and Guardian, 4 June 2014 (]

1.5.1Explain the term ‘data’.

1.5.2List the examples of data in each scenario.

1.5.3List the examples of information in each scenario.

1.5.4What device do you think the Red Robin restaurant gave their waiters to capture customer feedback?

1.5.5Draw an input processing output diagram for each of the scenarios.

1.5.6Explain the advantages of having information for each of the scenarios above.

CONSOLIDATION ACTIVITY Chapter 1: Basic concepts of computing

1.Which ONE of the following options gives the CORRECT order of the information processing cycle?

a.Input, processing, output, storage

b.Input, output, processing, storage

c.Input, processing, storage, output

d.Input, storage, output, processing

2.Which one of the following best describes this definition: This is a combination of computer-based technologies (such as computers and smartphones) with communication technologies (such as telephones, cell phones and the internet).




d.None of the above

3.Which one of the following is NOT an output device?





4.Which ONE of the following is short-term memory?

a.Flash drive


c.Hard drive


5.Which type of software is built for a specific purpose, like playing a game?

a.System software

b.Application software


d.None of the above

6.Choose the answer and write TRUE or FALSE next to the question number. Correct the statement if it is FALSE. Change the word(s) in bold to make the statement TRUE where necessary. (You may not simply use the word ‘NOT’ to change the statement.)

a.A communication device is a device that allows a computer to connect to a network.

b.Hardware refers to the set of instructions a computer uses to complete any task.

c.Smartphones and tablets have less processing power than notebooks. They also do not have a dedicated keyboard.

d.Information is defined as raw, unorganised numbers, signals, or facts.

e.Supercomputers are devices designed for a single purpose.

7.Fill in the missing information at a, b, c, d and e.

8.Look at the following input-process-output table.

The processes have been jumbled up. Copy the table and place them in the correct order.

9.How do input and output devices differ from each other in terms of their function in a computing device?

10.Give TWO examples of a communication device.

11.What is the most popular input device on a smartphone?

12.What is the difference between data and information?

13.Briefly explain why software and hardware are interdependent.

14.Explain THREE disadvantages that computers have.

15.Explain what the function of a computer is in relation to data and information.

16.Your father has decided to buy the following computing device for his personal use. Use the specifications given to answer the following questions.

a.What category of computing device did he purchase?

b.What type of CPU is specified?

c.Give a disadvantage of this computing device.

17.Explain how an embedded computer differs from a general purpose computer. Give examples in your answer.

18.Complete the crossword puzzle below:

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