3. Hardware - computers, peripherals and networks

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3. Hardware - computers, peripherals and networks

Starting with things we can touch and see, there are a wide variety of objects - physical, mechanical, electronic, that are considered in the broad classification of "hardware". Networking and telecommunications are included although they are often considered separately.

Learning outcomes

  • explore the history of computing machinery
  • examine capabilities of a variety of operating systems
  • understand the idea of open source as it applied to operating systems
  • investigate the trends in computer hardware


  • hardware - basics (bits, bytes, MB, Gigs), history, mechanical calculators, tabulating machines, transistors, silicon, output devices, operating systems, open source - Linux, networks, telecommunication, server farms, blades [1, 2, 3, 8]

Selected media

  • Information Systems (CC-BY) - Chapter 3. How hardware and software contribute to efficiency and effectiveness, Chapter 10. Opportunities in the network age
  • Optional - Tomorrow's Technology and You - Chapter 2. Hardware Basics: Inside the Box, Chapter 3. Hardware Basics: Peripherals, Chapter 8. Networking and Digital Communication

Reference - Open Source

  • SourceForge - Fast, secure and free downloads from the largest Open Source applications and software directory. http://sourceforge.net/
  • Geeknet - Online Network for the Global Geek Community - sites include: SourceForge, Slashdot, Freecode and ThinkGeek. http://ostg.com/
  • sourceforge (@sourceforge) on Twitter twitter.com/sourceforge
  • Apache HTTP Server Project - an open-source HTTP server for modern operating systems including UNIX and Windows NT, to provide a secure, efficient and extensible server that provides HTTP services in sync with the current HTTP standards. http://httpd.apache.org/

Study questions

  • What are some of the original hardware devices? How have these changed over time?
  • What are some of the hardware devices that have been replace by newer devices?
  • What are some of the hardware devices that are no longer needed? Why not?


NOTE: Your assignment submissions must reflect college-level writing. You must include your own thoughtful analysis and comments as well as factual summaries of information from other sources. Points will be deducted for spelling and grammar errors.

  1. Before you start the reading and the assignments, take a few minutes to think about what you already know about the topic - Hardware. Write a sentence or two about this in the I know... discussion.

  2. Read, view, listen to the selections in the Suggested media list for this module.

  3. Choose 1 word from the Keywords list for this module. Find 3 web articles that provide information about the word and how it relates to the course. Rate each article on a scale of 1 to 5. To determine the score, identify 5 characteristics of each article (good and bad). If there are 3 good things and 2 not-so-good things about the article, you give it a rating of 3/5. Do this for the articles you select. Post the word, links to your selected web articles, the article score and the list of good and not-so-good characteristics, and a brief description about your selection for each, to the discussion Hardware keywords. Follow links provided by 3 other students, review their suggested articles, and write a brief reply to the author for each.

  4. TED Talks: Every year, a thousand “thought-leaders, movers and shakers” get together at a four-day conference called TED (which is short for Technology, Entertainment and Design). http://www.ted.com In this collection, you’ll find various talks presented at the conference. They usually run about 5-20 minutes. Find a TED Talk about a technology or an information system. Attend the virtual lecture. Why is this interesting? Post the link to the session you visit and 2-3 sentences describing the topic and your experience to the Virtual Lectures discussion.
    Discussion Tip: Change the Subject for your discussion reply message to something appropriate to your posting. The Forum automatically fills in the Subject from the message that you are replying to. Remember to change the Subject each time you reply to a discussion.

  5. "A picture is worth 1000 words." An image or diagram is an important and powerful form of expression. Find an image on the web that that depicts the essential components of an Information System or shows a development lifecycle process. Include a link to the image and provide a brief description of why you selected this image. Post your image link and description to the discussion IS Diagrams. Make sure that your image or a link to your image are included. Review the images and descriptions of 3 other students and ask a question about their images. Check back to the discussion topic over the next week and answer any questions about your posting.

  6. Design challenge - Don't reinvent the wheel. Check out the listings at SourceForge. There are 1000s of applications available to download, use and modify. Browse the SourceForge listings. Describe some specific applications that you might incorporate into your Lifecycle information system in 2-3 sentences. Post your reply to the discussion topic Design - using Open Source.

  7. Information System Lifecycle Project - This is the first stage in the process of building an information system. This week, pick an Information System topic that you will "develop" over the duration of the course. Some examples are listed below, or you can select one of your own (applicable to your job, for example). This week, start with the concept development phase. Outline the "big" ideas about your Information System, who the users are, what information they need from the system, what information is available to the system. Post your outline to the discussion topic Lifecycle - Concept Development. Also, add the same information to your own WikiEducator user page. By the end of the course, you will have copied the weekly development phase descriptions so you you will have a record of your entire Lifecycle Project presentation.
    There are tutorials and Editing help available if you need them.

  8. Information System Lifecycle Project - Continuing the process of building your selected Information System topic that you will "develop" over the duration of the course, this week identify more specific requirements your Information System - specific data elements for input, what will users receive as output - content, format, frequency. If there are specialized hardware components necessary, include those in your Requirements statement. Post this information to the discussion topic Lifecycle - Requirements. Also, add the same information to your own WikiEducator user page.

  9. Throughout the quarter, watch for news items on the web about information systems. For extra credit, post the link to the news item page and a 1-2 sentence note about why you think the news item is applicable to this class to the X. News Item - Extra Credit forum. These can be submitted anytime during the quarter. The X. Extra Credit forums are in a separate topic at the end of the main CIS50 course page. It is always active and any News Items should be posted in this separate topic regardless of the week.
    Extra credit assignments are optional. Extra credit points are intended to reward extra effort researching and reporting topics of interest to you, over and above the regular assignments work. These can be submitted anytime during the quarter.
    Comment on News Items and comments posted by other students.

  10. Reflection - Read Things You Really Need to Learn http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2006/08/things-you-really-need-to-learn.html What is the best advice? What is the worst advice? This should be 1-2 paragraphs. Use the I Think... 3 assignment to submit your note.

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