Computer system hardware is made up of multiple components. These components are devices that can be classed as input, storage, output, and processing. Input devices are the components of hardware that allow for communication to flow between the end-user and the computer. Output devices are the components that allow for the communication to flow between the end-user and the computer. The main processing components are the central processing unit (CPU), the bus, the basic input/output system (BIOS), the complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) and the controller. There are two types of storage. Primary storage or random access memory (RAM) is the memory that the central processing unit, or CPU, uses to go directly to a byte of information instead of having to search sequentially. Secondary storage is archived. (Elchouemi, 2006)
There are different devices for input, output, and storage due to the many different tasks computers are expected to accomplish. Different devices were created or adapted to suit different needs, systems, and user preferences. Accuracy, quality, and convenience are all factors in choosing hardware.
Data input requires accuracy. Companies use printed questionnaires, telephone surveys, bank checks, retail tags, and various long documents. In the past, transcription was the most common method of input. For items such as telephone surveys and printed questionnaires, it often remains the best method of computer input. For other types of information, scanner technology has improved both the accuracy and speed of input. Optical character recognition, or OCR, is the mechanical or electronic translation of images of text into a format that is machine-editable. Where previously early systems could only read specific fonts, the more ‘intelligent’ systems can now even read the handwriting of many individuals. Advances have also been made in voice-recognition software, making telephone surveys much easier to input. (Stair & Reynolds, 2006)
Output devices vary more in terms of quality and convenience. For a hand-held computer a small but high-definition screen is necessary. The flat-screen LCDs are more usable in smaller devices. For a color photograph, a high-quality printer is the best option. A high dpi color laser printer would be the best option, as inkjet printers tend to smear if they are grabbed off the printer too quickly, or if they get wet. A quality laser printer is also the best option for a resume, as it produces clear, clean lines that feel slightly embossed to the touch. For reports and memorandums, it varies more on cost and speed issues. For a smaller company, an inkjet printer may be a better option, as it can be purchased cheaply and can print a quick document in color for a low cost. Laser printers print faster, but require a higher initial investment.
Storage is also a vital part of every companies needs. A hard drive is the most basic storage device, as most computers come with a hard drive already installed. Most modern hard drives can store over 100GB of information. Floppy disks are useful only for moving small files from one computer to another, as they are unreliable for long-term storage. As hard drives can (and do) fail from time to time, it is best to also back up data onto a CD. Files too large for email transfer or for a floppy disk can also be placed on CDs in companies that lack a central server for file transfer. Tape is considered less expensive than CDs. However, unlike CDs, tape drives require special readers and thus the information cannot be as widely disseminated.
Each company must evaluate their needs careful and weigh options against each other. It is well to want the most accurate, highest quality, convenient hardware device, but price is also a factor in most situations. It is important to buy the best you can afford rather than skimp on factors that may become vital in the future. (Holmes, 2007)
Elchouemi, Amr. (2006). CIS-319 Course Notes. Retrieved May 17, 2008, from University of Phoenix, Week Two, rEsource. CIS/319 Web site.
Holmes, Mike (2007). Buy the best you can afford for your IT needs. Business Day, p. 2. Retrieved May 19, 2008, from ProQuest Newsstand database.
Stair, Ralph M., & Reynolds, George W. (2006). Information Systems. [University of Phoenix Custom Edition e-Text]. Boston: Thomson Course Technology,. Retrieved May 17, 2008, from University of Phoenix, rEsource, CIS/319 Web site.