CIE Computer Studies: The Range and Scope of Computer Applications

1. Applications Of Computers, Their Social & Economic Implications

1.1 The Range and Scope of Computer Applications

General Application Areas
The range of computer applications is vast. You should have an awareness of as many
applications as possible, and for each, try to know the following:

1 The purpose of the application.
2 The required outcome.
3 The overall system design, including both the computerised and the noncomputerised
parts of the application.
4 The necessary inputs to the system and the means by which any data is captured.
5 The overall organisation and processing of the data within the system.
6 The use and organisation of the major software and hardware components of the
7 The need for recovery in the event of a system failure.
8 The interface between the system and its users.
9 The effectiveness of the system in practice.
10 The effects of the application on individuals and organisations.

Communication And Information Systems

Data is exchanged between computers. The data can be in the form of text, images, sound or video.

  • Electronic mail (e-mail) simple message exchange. Can attach other files
  • Electronic conferencing can either be a text, voice or video conference

On-Line Services & Remote Databases
Computers are often placed in locations where the public can use them to lookup

  • Information retrieval online databases, encyclopaedias, dictionaries, bus timetables, etc.
  • Library systems documents are stored digitally where they can be searched

Multimedia systems stored information contains text, sound, video, etc.

Commercial And General Data Processing
These are often batch-processing systems involving data being collected over a period of
time, and then processed later. The collected data is stored in a transaction file, and this is
used to update the master file to give a new master file.

  • Banking systems bank accounts are updated based on daily transactions
  • Personnel records employee’s pay is calculated based on hours worked
  • Stock control when items are sent / received, the stock is updated
  • Order processing received orders are dealt with

Industrial, Technical And Scientific Uses
Data is entered into the computer and the computer can then manipulate the data. In the
case of CAD systems, products can be designed and tested completely within the
computer’s memory. In forecasting systems, predictions are made about the future based
on previous data, and a model of how the system works.

  • Weather Forecasting try to predict weather, taking data from sensors, using computer models of weather systems
  • Computer-aided design (CAD) designs for objects can be designed, altered and tested within the computer, prior to manufacture

Monitoring And Control Systems
A computer is used to monitor a system through the use of sensors (such as light, heat,
etc.) The computer can then operate devices to control the system (such as pumps,
valves, etc.)

  • Monitoring hospital patients checks heart rate, etc. setting off an alarm if low
  • Nuclear power station control monitors temperature, etc. and adjusts coolant
  • Traffic survey and control checks the number of cars, alters traffic light timings

Automation And Robotics
The use of computers to control other mechanical devices. Usually requires some sort of
interface which allows the computer to receive data from input sensors, and to control
output devices such as motors.

  • Domestic automation washing machines, microwaves
  • Automatic navigation aircraft, ships, cars (GSM satellite navigation)
  • Industrial robots used to work on manufacturing lines. Can work non-stop,

24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Can work in hazardous areas

Expert Systems And Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the attempt to simulate the human brain, and its thought
processes, using computer hardware and software. Expert systems use AI techniques to
replace a human expert. All of the human’s knowledge on a subject is entered into the
computer as a series of rules.

  • Medical diagnosis data is fed into the system, and questions are answered. The expert system rules then come up with the best diagnosis (usually with a % confidence level)
  • Speech recognition checks voice patterns to determine what was spoken

Miscellaneous Areas
Some other applications of computers are:

  • Computer-aided learning (CAL) CD-ROMs, etc. where you can learn at your own pace, like having your own personal tutor
  • Computer animation for films and TV. Special effects, etc.

Notes submitted by Robinhoodmustafa. 

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