General Purpose Application Packages
A word processor package enables a user to prepare text information such as reports, documents etc. Text data may be entered, automatically organised into lines and pages, and stored, viewed, edited, transmitted to remote stations, retrieved from local or distant sources and printed as desired. The common word processor applications are Wordstar, MS Word, WP, Lotus, Anipro etc.
DTP: Desktop Publishing Systems - systems that combine computers and suitable peripherals with software that can produce attractive page layouts complete with pictures and text printed in a variety of type faces or fonts. The common packages used are Aldus Pagemaker, MS Frontpage and Ventura Publisher.
Spreadsheet: Spreadsheets are used for processing columnar data, generally numeric figures as in accounting packages. It divides the display area into cells arranged in rows and columns. One item of data is entered in each cell. Numeric data in the cells can be totalled, averaged or summarised according to specified rules. Relationships may be setup between columns. Generally, data can be presented graphically too.
Common spreadsheets are Lotus 123, MS Excel etc.
DBMS: Data Base Management Systems (DBMS). As the name implies, data base management systems are special computer programs that enable users and application programs to define data fields, place fields into records, combine records into files, and then manipulate and retrieve stored data in various ways to produce reports according to the user's requirement.
DBMSs allow the user to access and process records from two or more files at the same time. With the use of DBMS data redundancy is reduced. During file updation when changes are made to any data item, every file containing that field is updated. Data is input into the system only once and is available to all the users. DBMS allows for adhoc or unplanned querying on data.
A language is a system of communication. A programming language consists of all the symbols, characters and usage rules that permit people to communicate with computers. Programming languages may be created for a special purpose or they may be general purpose tools that may be suitable for many types of applications. However, every programming language must have instructions that fall into the familiar.
- Input/ output
- Text manipulation/ calculation
- Logic/ comparison and
- Storage/ retrieval categories.
Machine Level Language: A computer's machine language consists of strings of binary numbers (0s and 1s) and is the only one the processor directly understands.
When first-generation computers were introduced, the programs were in binary based machine level languages.
Machine language is the most basic form of programming and hence explicit instructions are to be given to the machine to perform every operation.
- Machine level languages make efficient use of storage-language instructions and their storage in computer memory can be controlled.
- Instructions of a machine language program are immediately executable. They require no compilation or translation steps.
- Machine-language instructions can be used to manipulate the individual bits in a byte of computer storage.
- Machine level languages are machine dependent.
- Programming in machine language usually results in poor programmer productivity due to the level of detail required and the use of binary code.
- Computer storage locations must be addressed directly.
- Machine languages require a high level of programming skill.
Assembly Level Language: In the 1950s mnemonic operation codes and symbolic addresses were developed.It was first introduced in the second-generation computers. The word mnemonic refers to a memory aid. Letter-symbols mnemonics were substituted for the numeric machine language operation codes. Each computer now has a mnemonic code although the actual symbols vary among different makes. Machine language is still used by the computer as it processes data, but assembly language software first translates the specified operation code symbol into its machine language equivalent.
Advantages: While writing in assembly language saves time and reduces the need for detail, fewer errors are made, and those made are easier to find. They are also easier to modify.
Disadvantages: However, coding in assembly language is time consuming. Further they are machine-oriented. That is, they are designed for a specific make and model of processor. Programs may have to be recorded for a different machine.
High Level Language: The earlier assembly programs produced only one machine instruction for each source programs instruction. Asingle macro instruction might produce several lines of machine-language code, e.g.: the programmer might write "READ FILE", and the translating software might then automatically provide a detailed series of previously prepared machine language instructions which would copy a record into primary storage from the file of data being read by the input device. Thus there was no need to write an instruction for each machine operation performed.
The development of mnemonic techniques and macro instructions led to the development of high-level languages that are often oriented towards a particular class of processing problems, e.g.: a number of languages have been designed to process scientificmathematical problems, and other languages have appeared that emphasise file processing applications.
Advantages: Unlike assembly programs, high-level language programs may be used with different makes of computers with little modification. They are easier to learn than assembly languages. They require less time to write. They provide better documentation. They are easier to maintain. A programmer skilled in writing these programs is not restricted to a particular machine.
Definition of Information: Information is a commonly used term. Underlying the use of the term in information systems are several common ideas: information adds to a representation, corrects or confirms previous information, or has "surprise" value in that it tells the receiver something that he did not know or could not predict. Information reduces uncert-ainty. It has value in the decision-making process in that it changes the probabilities attached to expected outcomes.
Information can be defined as data that has been processed into a form that is meaningful to the recipient and is of real value in current or future actions.
The relation of data to information is that of raw material to a finished product.
An information processing system processes data into information. More precisely, it processes data in unusable form into a more usable form. Although different, the terms data and information are often used interchangeably. What is data to one person may be information to another.
Characteristics of Information:
The value of information can be determined by certain characteristics which affect its value. They are:
- Meaning: Information must be meaningful to the receiver. If the format or the words used are unfamiliar, it becomes difficult for the receiver to evaluate or make use of the information.
- Relevance: Information must be relevant to the activity. Volumes of data become meaningless unless they are directly related to the task in hand.
- Conciseness: Information, to be any value, must be clear and concise. Report must be presented in such a way that the main point is immediately evident. Good reports are designed so that there is no unnecessary information.
- Accuracy: When processing methods are designed, one has to look out for sources of inconsistencies and errors which always creep in.
- Timeliness: One of the characteristics of information is that it can get outdated. The speed with which this can happen varies with the type of information. For example, a reservation clerk must have the latest status about seat availability at all times.
- Exception: When a business is new, one needs a lot of information to keep track of what is
happening. Once the activity is defined and the procedures understood, there is no longer any need for stacks of data giving details of daily status. Information must point out exceptions, departures from the norm and rare events. As an example, when reporting on the status of jobs in a machine room, it may be more useful to Highlight a job which is not on schedule or which has developed into a problem area, rather than requiring the manager to go through columns of routine data in which the manager may miss out important information.
The limits on the capacity of humans to process information and limits on the capacity of the information system to generate it requires various methods to be used to reduce the quantity of data stored and presented for human use. Two methods of providing information are summarisation and message routing.
Message summarisation is commonly utilised to reduce the stack of data to be sent to the person required without changing the essential meaning of the original message.
Formal summarisation is illustrated by the following example: The Managing Director of an organisation cannot normally review each sale to get information for decisions. Instead, the accounting system summarizes all sales into a "sales for the period". The system may provide more meaningful information for decision purposes by summarising sales product wise, area wise, or any other classification. The level of summarisation is directly proportional to the position of the decisionmaker in the organisation. For example, the Managing Director may need only the total sales by area, but the sales manager for the area may need sales representatives and sales by product.
Another method of increasing the efficiency of the system is message routing. Any particular message is only distributed to those individuals or departments which require the information for some action to be taken or decision to be made. For example, by sending copies of purchase order to only those departments (production, warehouse, accounting) which take direct action based on the information on the order. To others, summarised information might be required on a periodic basis.
Quality of Information: Even if information is presented in such a way as to be conveyed efficiently and interpreted correctly, it may not be used effectively.
The quality of information is determined by how it motivates people to take actions for effective decision-making. The quality of information with respect to the decision-maker depends on the following.
Utility of information: Information must be evaluated in terms of its utility which, besides accuracy of information, may facilitate or retard its use. Following are the three information utilities.
- Form utility
- Time utility
- Place utility
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- Files and Systems
It is convenient to store similar information together and this is the idea behind both manual and computer files.
- Data Communication and Networks
Information is carried out in data communication systems as signals between two or more points. To understand transmission one needs to study electrical form that the messages take while they are in transit and of media and transmission technologies.