Max Learning's Digital Dozen

Welcome! * Who's Who? * Why Theory? * Pronunciation * BrainAids * Theme * Categories * Wall Chart * AcroMaps
1. bit   2. Byte   3. Code   4. Data   5. Program   6. Chip   7. CPU   8. RAM   9. ROM   10. Computer   11. Peripheral   12. System

Instructions to the computer.
Languages, Operating Systems, Applications, Utilities--write, control, process, fix.
Acronym: Pro = Ittc-LOAU-wcpf (pronounced IT-see LOH-ow WIK-puf).

From now on, whenever you hear the Computerese term program, immediately translate it into its English synonym instructions. Non-computer examples of programs include meal recipes (Add 3 tsp of vinegar; blend 1 minute...), appliance operating instructions (Enter the desired minutes; push Start...), and device assembly steps (Take part A; attach to part B...).

Being made of hardware (electronics, metal, plastic), without programs a computer can't do much when you turn it on except get warm. Like an able assistant, you must tell a computer what you want it to do.


Imagine that you've hired a Private Investigator (PI). He knows how to do his job, but he won't know what you want him to do unless you give him a list of instructions. Similarly, a computer knows how to do its job, but it won't know what you want it to do unless you give it a list of Program Instructions (PI).

Program Categories/Functions

  • Languages write
  • Operating Systems control 
  • Applications process
  • Utilities fix


Acronym: LOAU-wcpf (LOH-ow WIK-puf)
Imagine that your Private Investigator is attending the 4th Annual PI LOAU in Hawaii (although a real Hawaiian party is called a luau.) Now imagine that while dancing the hula, he gets so warm he tries to wcpf a flaming Tiki torch, that is, blow out its wick with a puff of air. 

Languages--Programs used to write other programs.
Every program you use on a computer had to be written by a human using a special type of program called a language. Just as there are hundreds of human languages (English, Spanish, Russian, etc.), there are hundreds of computer languages (BASIC, C++, JAVA, etc).
Four Language Components (BrainAid: ESTO).
The Editor is a text processor (a small program in itself) that lets the programmer type and edit (modify) instructions on the computer screen.
Source Code
What the programmer types is considered the origin or "source" of the program. Source code typically looks a lot like English, but it follows special syntax (punctuation) rules.
Example: PRINT "THE SUM IS"; A+B.
In the box on the right, the words Source Code are displayed in script to help you remember it is written by a human.

The Translator (a small program in itself) converts the newly written source code into a form the computer can understand. Depending on the type of source code used, the translator could be one of three types: Assembler, Interpreter, or Compiler.
bject Code
The output of the translator is the end result or "object" of a programmer's efforts. Example: 10000101 0010001 1010011. Also called "machine" code, it resets the computer's switches to match and carry out the programmer's instructions.
Max, when I give an instruction to the computer am I "programming" it?
Not exactly, T.E. True programming involves writing new instructions to the computer. But you bring up a good point, so let's clarify the difference between a programmer and a user (BrainAid: PW-US).
Programmer--Writes the original instructions.
User--Selects existing instructions (usually from a menu or toolbar).
Exceptions: Programmers can "use" the instructions they write. And users can "program" short sets of instructions--called batch files, macros, or scripts--to automate repetitive tasks.
Think of a programmer as a restaurant owner who writes new food items on a menu. Think of a user as a customer who selects food items from the menu. 

perating Systems
--Programs that control hardware, programs, and data, and do housekeeping.
Without an Operating System (OS), a computer would not work. In fact, OS (OH-ess) programs must be the first ones loaded into your computer because they contain instructions for controlling and maintaining everything else. There are dozens of operating systems including DOS [DAWss] (Disk Operating System), Windows, UNIX, and Linux [LIH-nux].

Four Operating System Functions:

* Control Hardware
For example, when you type data, the OS instructs the computer to display it on screen. When you want to print, the OS verifies that the printer is ready and sends the data to it.
* Control Programs
For example, when you start a program, the OS instructs the computer to find and load it from disk. When you quit a program, the OS frees up the computer's memory to make room for new programs.

Acronym: CHP-DH
Controls Hardware Programs Data Housekeeping
Acrostic: California Highway Patrol--Dept. of Highways.

* Control Data
For example, when you save data, the OS finds an available address on disk and stores your data to it for later retrieval. When you retrieve data, the OS finds it on the disk at the indicated address.
* Do Housekeeping
For example, when you want to format a disk, copy, erase, or move disk files, or create new storage folders for files, the OS has commands that allow you to do so.
Imagine a policeman named OS (the boss). In one hand he holds a whistle to control three cars named Hardware, Programs, and Data. In his other hand he holds a Housekeeping broom to sweep up the streets (the city budget is tight!). 

A major housekeeping function is to let you create folders (aka directories) to hold  files on your disk. Folders follow a hierarchical (top-to-bottom) order. For example, a main folder may contain two subfolders, one for your personal files and another for your business files. Your personal subfolder may contain two sub-subfolders, one for your family files and another for your school files, and so on.
Folder--Electronic storage unit for subfolders and files (BrainAid: ESU-SF).
File--Electronic storage unit for programs and data (BrainAid: ESU-PD).


Applications--Programs that process user data.
Applications are the programs users use to process raw data into useful information.
Five Major Applications:
Word Processing
--Electronic typing and editing. The most used application.
Spreadsheet (SS)--Electronic calculating with numbers "spread" over a full screen.
Database--Electronic filing cabinet for fast search and retrieval.
Graphics--Create business charts; presentations; draw; paint.
Communications (CO)--Transmit data between computers, primarily via Internet/email.

WP, SS, DB, GR, CO, Integrated, Suite

West San Diego Gas Co. Inc., Suite 5.
(The "5" refers to the five major applications that might be integrated or included in a suite.)

Application Packaging:
Standalone--Individual applications sold separately.
Integrated--Several application modules (which don't have all the features of a standalone) combined into and sold as a single application.
Software Suite(sweet)--Several standalone applications sold together for a lower price in order to capture a market.
A coworker told me that macros could save me a lot of time with my word processing and spreadsheet applications.
What's a MACRO?
A macro (MA-kroh) is a file that contains a list of application instructions. Your coworker was right, B.P., macros can save you loads of time. Let's say you needed to repeat a certain multiple-step procedure many times throughout your workday. Instead of performing those steps manually each time, you can turn on a macro recorder, perform the steps once, then turn off the macro recorder. Your steps are saved by the macro. When you want those steps performed again, you play back the macro. It's like audio taping a list of verbal instructions you'll replay when needed.


Utilities--Programs used to fix or maintain the computer system.
Generally speaking, every program that is not a language, operating system, or application falls into the utility category.
Three Utility Categories:
Device Drivers--Programs that tell a computer how to operate a particular device, like a printer, mouse, CD-ROM, or monitor.
Memory Managers--
Programs that tell a computer how to use memory (see RAM) efficiently; for example, making sure that multiple programs don't compete for the same section of memory.
Disk Utilities--
Programs that help keep your disk in order. Common tasks include format, copy, move, delete, backup, scan, defragment, compress, cache, and virus check. Many of these programs are included with an operating system's housekeeping files.

Device Drivers
Memory Managers
Disk Utilities

Dad Digs M&Ms, Do U?

I just bought a new printer, and it's not working properly. Something about the DEVICE DRIVER. What's wrong?
After internal hardware conflicts, incorrect device drivers are probably the biggest cause of computing problems, C.W.  Most people assume a device driver is hardware. They're fooled by the word "device" (which is indeed hardware, like a printer or monitor). But a "driver" is a utility program. Think of it as containing the instructions that tell your computer how to "drive" a specific device.
A device driver is like a User Manual. If you tried to operate Device X by following the instructions in User Manual Y, you'd naturally have problems.

Device drivers for many existing devices are included with your operating system or application programs. You simply select the desired device name from a list. But when you buy a new device, like your printer, there's usually a diskette or CD in the box that contains the new driver, which you must copy to your computer's hard disk. New or updated drivers can often be downloaded (copied to your hard disk) free from the Internet.
Max, I worry about getting a computer virus.
I don't blame you, K.N., but if you have an up-to-date virus utility, you can rest easier. The term virus sounds scary, but a virus is merely a program (instructions to the computer). The difference is that where most programs contains "good" instructions, viruses contain "bad" instructions. Viruses don't appear spontaneously; they are written by humans (as a prank, for a challenge, or with malicious intent). Some viruses are merely annoying; they may display a taunting message on your screen. Other viruses cause real damage; they may erase all the files on your computer.

Viruses can be spread through infected floppy disks, or they can sneak onto your computer via the Internet. Virus checking utilities scan your computer for known viruses or for virus-like activity (like a file that normally doesn't change suddenly growing in size). When a virus utility finds a virus, it will delete it for you. Since new viruses are being released all the time, it's important to update your virus utility regularly via the Internet.


Software AcroMap--Complete
At last! Here is the entire Software AcroMap. Whenever you have a spare moment, try to sketch it from memory until it's firmly embedded in your mind. Of course, the real goal is to know what each acronym stands for. Can you recite each term and its definition word for word?


Software Spine Acrostic
To memorize the spine of the Software AcroMap, imagine you were in a professional wrestling match and your opponent, whose name was Co, bit you. The next morning's sports headlines read that you were:
Bit by Co, Da Pro!

OAU Extensions
If you feel ambitious, add the following riblets to LOAU:
L--ESTO: Editor, Source code, Translator, Object code
O--CHP-DH: Controls Hardware, Programs, Data, Housekeeping
A--WSDGC-IS: Word processing, Spreadsheet, Database, Graphics, Communications, Integrated, Suite
U--DD-MM-DU: Device Drivers, Memory Managers, Disk Utilities


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