Information technology

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Information technology (IT) is the use of computers to store, retrieve, transmit, and manipulate data, [1] or information, often in the context of a business or other enterprise. [2] IT is considered to be a subset of information and communications technology (ICT). An information technology system (IT system) is generally an information system, a communications system or, more specifically speaking, a computer system – including all hardware, software and peripheral equipment – operated by a limited group of users.

A computer is a machine that can be instructed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically via computer programming. Modern computers have the ability to follow generalized sets of operations, called programs. These programs enable computers to perform an extremely wide range of tasks. A "complete" computer including the hardware, the operating system, and peripheral equipment required and used for "full" operation can be referred to as a computer system. This term may as well be used for a group of computers that are connected and work together, in particular a computer network or computer cluster.

Data (computing) quantities, characters, or symbols on which operations are performed by a computer

Data is any sequence of one or more symbols given meaning by specific act(s) of interpretation.

Information that which informs; the answer to a question of some kind; that from which data and knowledge can be derived

Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it is that which answers the question of "what an entity is" and thus defines both its essence and nature of its characteristics. It is associated with data, as data represents values attributed to parameters, and information is data in context and with meaning attached. Information relates also to knowledge, as knowledge signifies understanding of an abstract or concrete concept.

Contents

Humans have been storing, retrieving, manipulating, and communicating information since the Sumerians in Mesopotamia developed writing in about 3000 BC, [3] but the term information technology in its modern sense first appeared in a 1958 article published in the Harvard Business Review ; authors Harold J. Leavitt and Thomas L. Whisler commented that "the new technology does not yet have a single established name. We shall call it information technology (IT)." Their definition consists of three categories: techniques for processing, the application of statistical and mathematical methods to decision-making, and the simulation of higher-order thinking through computer programs. [4]

Sumer Ancient civilization and historical region in Southern Mesopotamia

Sumer is the earliest known civilization in the historical region of southern Mesopotamia, modern-day southern Iraq, during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze ages, and one of the first civilizations in the world along with Ancient Egypt, Norte Chico and the Indus Valley. Living along the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates, Sumerian farmers were able to grow an abundance of grain and other crops, the surplus of which enabled them to settle in one place. Prehistoric proto-writing dates back before 3000 BC. The earliest texts come from the cities of Uruk and Jemdet Nasr and date to between roughly c. 3500 and c. 3000 BC.

Mesopotamia Historical region within the Tigris–Euphrates river system

Mesopotamia is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the northern part of the Fertile Crescent, in modern days roughly corresponding to most of Iraq, Kuwait, the eastern parts of Syria, Southeastern Turkey, and regions along the Turkish–Syrian and Iran–Iraq borders.

Cuneiform Old writing system used for many languages, including Akkadian and Hittite

Cuneiform or Sumero-Akkadian cuneiform, was one of the earliest systems of writing invented by the Sumerians in ancient Mesopotamia. It is distinguished by its wedge-shaped marks on clay tablets, made by means of a blunt reed for a stylus. The name cuneiform itself simply means "wedge-shaped".

The term is commonly used as a synonym for computers and computer networks, but it also encompasses other information distribution technologies such as television and telephones. Several products or services within an economy are associated with information technology, including computer hardware, software, electronics, semiconductors, internet, telecom equipment, and e-commerce. [5] [lower-alpha 1]

Television Telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images

Television (TV), sometimes shortened to tele or telly, is a telecommunication medium used for transmitting moving images in monochrome, or in colour, and in two or three dimensions and sound. The term can refer to a television set, a television program, or the medium of television transmission. Television is a mass medium for advertising, entertainment and news.

Computer hardware physical components of a computer

Computer hardware includes the physical, tangible parts or components of a computer, such as the cabinet, central processing unit, monitor, keyboard, computer data storage, graphics card, sound card, speakers and motherboard. By contrast, software is instructions that can be stored and run by hardware. Hardware is so-termed because it is "hard" or rigid with respect to changes or modifications; whereas software is "soft" because it is easy to update or change. Intermediate between software and hardware is "firmware", which is software that is strongly coupled to the particular hardware of a computer system and thus the most difficult to change but also among the most stable with respect to consistency of interface. The progression from levels of "hardness" to "softness" in computer systems parallels a progression of layers of abstraction in computing.

Telecommunications equipment is a hardware which is used for the purposes of telecommunications. Since the 1990s the boundary between telecoms equipment and IT hardware has become blurred as a result of the growth of the internet and its increasing role in the transfer of telecoms data.

Based on the storage and processing technologies employed, it is possible to distinguish four distinct phases of IT development: pre-mechanical (3000 BC – 1450 AD), mechanical (1450–1840), electromechanical (1840–1940), and electronic (1940–present). [3] This article focuses on the most recent period (electronic).

History of computer technology

Zuse Z3 replica on display at Deutsches Museum in Munich. The Zuse Z3 is the first programmable computer. Z3 Deutsches Museum.JPG
Zuse Z3 replica on display at Deutsches Museum in Munich. The Zuse Z3 is the first programmable computer.

Devices have been used to aid computation for thousands of years, probably initially in the form of a tally stick. [7] The Antikythera mechanism, dating from about the beginning of the first century BC, is generally considered to be the earliest known mechanical analog computer, and the earliest known geared mechanism. [8] Comparable geared devices did not emerge in Europe until the 16th century, and it was not until 1645 that the first mechanical calculator capable of performing the four basic arithmetical operations was developed. [9]

Machine tool using energy to perform an intended action

A machine is a mechanical structure that uses power to apply forces and control movement to perform an intended action. Machines can be driven by animals and people, by natural forces such as wind and water, and by chemical, thermal, or electrical power, and include a system of mechanisms that shape the actuator input to achieve a specific application of output forces and movement. They can also include computers and sensors that monitor performance and plan movement, often called mechanical systems.

Tally stick ancient memory aid device used to record and document numbers, quantities, and messages

A tally stick was an ancient memory aid device used to record and document numbers, quantities, or even messages. Tally sticks first appear as animal bones carved with notches during the Upper Palaeolithic; a notable example is the Ishango Bone. Historical reference is made by Pliny the Elder about the best wood to use for tallies, and by Marco Polo (1254–1324) who mentions the use of the tally in China. Tallies have been used for numerous purposes such as messaging and scheduling, and especially in financial and legal transactions, to the point of being currency.

Antikythera mechanism ancient analog computer designed to calculate astronomical positions

The Antikythera mechanism is an ancient Greek analogue computer used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses for calendar and astrological purposes decades in advance. It could also be used to track the four-year cycle of athletic games which was similar to an Olympiad, the cycle of the ancient Olympic Games.

Electronic computers, using either relays or valves, began to appear in the early 1940s. The electromechanical Zuse Z3, completed in 1941, was the world's first programmable computer, and by modern standards one of the first machines that could be considered a complete computing machine. Colossus, developed during the Second World War to decrypt German messages, was the first electronic digital computer. Although it was programmable, it was not general-purpose, being designed to perform only a single task. It also lacked the ability to store its program in memory; programming was carried out using plugs and switches to alter the internal wiring. [10] The first recognisably modern electronic digital stored-program computer was the Manchester Baby, which ran its first program on 21 June 1948. [11]

Relay electrically operated switch

A relay is an electrically operated switch. It consists of a set of input terminals for a single or multiple control signals, and a set of operating contact terminals. The switch may have any number of contacts in multiple contact forms, such as make contacts, break contacts, or combinations thereof.

Valve device that regulates, directs or controls the flow of a fluid or a gas

A valve is a device that regulates, directs or controls the flow of a fluid by opening, closing, or partially obstructing various passageways. Valves are technically fittings, but are usually discussed as a separate category. In an open valve, fluid flows in a direction from higher pressure to lower pressure. The word is derived from the Latin valva, the moving part of a door, in turn from volvere, to turn, roll.

Z3 (computer) First working programmable, fully automatic digital computer

The Z3 was a German electromechanical computer designed by Konrad Zuse. It was the world's first working programmable, fully automatic digital computer. The Z3 was built with 2,600 relays, implementing a 22-bit word length that operated at a clock frequency of about 4–5 Hz. Program code was stored on punched film. Initial values were entered manually.

The development of transistors in the late 1940s at Bell Laboratories allowed a new generation of computers to be designed with greatly reduced power consumption. The first commercially available stored-program computer, the Ferranti Mark I, contained 4050 valves and had a power consumption of 25 kilowatts. By comparison the first transistorised computer, developed at the University of Manchester and operational by November 1953, consumed only 150 watts in its final version. [12]

Electronic data processing

Data storage

Punched tapes were used in early computers to represent data. PaperTapes-5and8Hole.jpg
Punched tapes were used in early computers to represent data.

Early electronic computers such as Colossus made use of punched tape, a long strip of paper on which data was represented by a series of holes, a technology now obsolete. [13] Electronic data storage, which is used in modern computers, dates from World War II, when a form of delay line memory was developed to remove the clutter from radar signals, the first practical application of which was the mercury delay line. [14] The first random-access digital storage device was the Williams tube, based on a standard cathode ray tube, [15] but the information stored in it and delay line memory was volatile in that it had to be continuously refreshed, and thus was lost once power was removed. The earliest form of non-volatile computer storage was the magnetic drum, invented in 1932 [16] and used in the Ferranti Mark 1, the world's first commercially available general-purpose electronic computer. [17]

IBM introduced the first hard disk drive in 1956, as a component of their 305 RAMAC computer system. [18] :6 Most digital data today is still stored magnetically on hard disks, or optically on media such as CD-ROMs. [19] :4–5 Until 2002 most information was stored on analog devices, but that year digital storage capacity exceeded analog for the first time. As of 2007 almost 94% of the data stored worldwide was held digitally: [20] 52% on hard disks, 28% on optical devices and 11% on digital magnetic tape. It has been estimated that the worldwide capacity to store information on electronic devices grew from less than 3 exabytes in 1986 to 295 exabytes in 2007, [21] doubling roughly every 3 years. [22]

Databases

Database Management Systems (DMS) emerged in the 1960s to address the problem of storing and retrieving large amounts of data accurately and quickly. An early such systems was IBM's Information Management System (IMS), [23] which is still widely deployed more than 50 years later. [24] IMS stores data hierarchically, [23] but in the 1970s Ted Codd proposed an alternative relational storage model based on set theory and predicate logic and the familiar concepts of tables, rows and columns. In 1981, the first commercially available relational database management system (RDBMS) was released by Oracle. [25]

All DMS consist of components, they allow the data they store to be accessed simultaneously by many users while maintaining its integrity. [26] All databases are common in one point that the structure of the data they contain is defined and stored separately from the data itself, in a database schema. [23]

In recent years, the extensible markup language (XML) has become a popular format for data representation. Although XML data can be stored in normal file systems, it is commonly held in relational databases to take advantage of their "robust implementation verified by years of both theoretical and practical effort". [27] As an evolution of the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML), XML's text-based structure offers the advantage of being both machine and human-readable. [28]

Data retrieval

The relational database model introduced a programming-language independent Structured Query Language (SQL), based on relational algebra.

The terms "data" and "information" are not synonymous. Anything stored is data, but it only becomes information when it is organized and presented meaningfully. [29] :1–9 Most of the world's digital data is unstructured, and stored in a variety of different physical formats [30] [lower-alpha 2] even within a single organization. Data warehouses began to be developed in the 1980s to integrate these disparate stores. They typically contain data extracted from various sources, including external sources such as the Internet, organized in such a way as to facilitate decision support systems (DSS). [31] :4–6

Data transmission

Data transmission has three aspects: transmission, propagation, and reception. [32] It can be broadly categorized as broadcasting, in which information is transmitted unidirectionally downstream, or telecommunications, with bidirectional upstream and downstream channels. [21]

XML has been increasingly employed as a means of data interchange since the early 2000s, [33] particularly for machine-oriented interactions such as those involved in web-oriented protocols such as SOAP, [28] describing "data-in-transit rather than ... data-at-rest". [33]

Data manipulation

Hilbert and Lopez identify the exponential pace of technological change (a kind of Moore's law): machines' application-specific capacity to compute information per capita roughly doubled every 14 months between 1986 and 2007; the per capita capacity of the world's general-purpose computers doubled every 18 months during the same two decades; the global telecommunication capacity per capita doubled every 34 months; the world's storage capacity per capita required roughly 40 months to double (every 3 years); and per capita broadcast information has doubled every 12.3 years. [21]

Massive amounts of data are stored worldwide every day, but unless it can be analysed and presented effectively it essentially resides in what have been called data tombs: "data archives that are seldom visited". [34] To address that issue, the field of data mining  – "the process of discovering interesting patterns and knowledge from large amounts of data" [35]  – emerged in the late 1980s. [36]

Perspectives

Academic perspective

In an academic context, the Association for Computing Machinery defines IT as "undergraduate degree programs that prepare students to meet the computer technology needs of business, government, healthcare, schools, and other kinds of organizations .... IT specialists assume responsibility for selecting hardware and software products appropriate for an organization, integrating those products with organizational needs and infrastructure, and installing, customizing, and maintaining those applications for the organization’s computer users." [37]

Commercial and employment perspective

Companies in the information technology field are often discussed as a group as the "tech sector" or the "tech industry". [38] [39] [40] [41]

Many companies now have IT departments for managing the computers, networks, and other technical areas of their businesses.

In a business context, the Information Technology Association of America has defined information technology as "the study, design, development, application, implementation, support or management of computer-based information systems". [42] [ page needed ] The responsibilities of those working in the field include network administration, software development and installation, and the planning and management of an organization's technology life cycle, by which hardware and software are maintained, upgraded and replaced.

Ethical perspectives

The field of information ethics was established by mathematician Norbert Wiener in the 1940s. [44] :9 Some of the ethical issues associated with the use of information technology include: [45] :20–21

See also

Related Research Articles

Computing Activity that uses computers

Computing is any activity that uses computers to manage, process, and communicate information. It includes development of both hardware and software. Computing is a critical, integral component of modern industrial technology. Major computing disciplines include computer engineering, software engineering, computer science, information systems, and information technology.

Database organized collection of data

A database is an organized collection of data, generally stored and accessed electronically from a computer system. Where databases are more complex they are often developed using formal design and modeling techniques.

Object database Database management system

An object database is a database management system in which information is represented in the form of objects as used in object-oriented programming. Object databases are different from relational databases which are table-oriented. Object-relational databases are a hybrid of both approaches.

A relational database is a digital database based on the relational model of data, as proposed by E. F. Codd in 1970. A software system used to maintain relational databases is a relational database management system (RDBMS). Many relational database systems have an option of using the SQL for querying and maintaining the database.

SQL is a domain-specific language used in programming and designed for managing data held in a relational database management system (RDBMS), or for stream processing in a relational data stream management system (RDSMS). It is particularly useful in handling structured data, i.e. data incorporating relations among entities and variables.

Object-relational mapping in computer science is a programming technique for converting data between incompatible type systems using object-oriented programming languages. This creates, in effect, a "virtual object database" that can be used from within the programming language. There are both free and commercial packages available that perform object-relational mapping, although some programmers opt to construct their own ORM tools.

IBM Db2 Family relational model database server

Db2 is a family of data management products, including database servers, developed by IBM. They initially supported the relational model, but were extended to support object-relational features and non-relational structures like JSON and XML. The brand name was originally styled as DB/2, then DB2 until 2017 and finally changed to its present form.

A stored-program computer is a computer that stores program instructions in electronic memory. This contrasts with machines where the program instructions are stored on plugboards or similar mechanisms.

Online analytical processing, or OLAP, is an approach to answer multi-dimensional analytical (MDA) queries swiftly in computing. OLAP is part of the broader category of business intelligence, which also encompasses relational databases, report writing and data mining. Typical applications of OLAP include business reporting for sales, marketing, management reporting, business process management (BPM), budgeting and forecasting, financial reporting and similar areas, with new applications emerging, such as agriculture.

Electronic data processing (EDP) can refer to the use of automated methods to process commercial data. Typically, this uses relatively simple, repetitive activities to process large volumes of similar information. For example: stock updates applied to an inventory, banking transactions applied to account and customer master files, booking and ticketing transactions to an airline's reservation system, billing for utility services. The modifier "electronic" or "automatic" was used with "database processing" (DP), especially c. 1960, to distinguish human clerical data processing from that done by computer.

Manchester Baby first electronic stored-program computer

The Manchester Baby, also known as the Small-Scale Experimental Machine (SSEM), was the world's first electronic stored-program computer. It was built at the University of Manchester, UK, by Frederic C. Williams, Tom Kilburn, and Geoff Tootill, and ran its first program on 21 June 1948, seventy-one years ago.

Ferranti Mark 1

The Ferranti Mark 1, also known as the Manchester Electronic Computer in its sales literature, and thus sometimes called the Manchester Ferranti, was the world's first commercially available general-purpose electronic computer. It was "the tidied up and commercialised version of the Manchester computer". The first machine was delivered to the University of Manchester in February 1951 ahead of the UNIVAC I, which was sold to the United States Census Bureau on 31 March 1951, although not delivered until late December the following year.

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Cloud storage is a model of computer data storage in which the digital data is stored in logical pools. The physical storage spans multiple servers, and the physical environment is typically owned and managed by a hosting company. These cloud storage providers are responsible for keeping the data available and accessible, and the physical environment protected and running. People and organizations buy or lease storage capacity from the providers to store user, organization, or application data.

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Manchester computers Series of stored-program electronic computers

The Manchester computers were an innovative series of stored-program electronic computers developed during the 30-year period between 1947 and 1977 by a small team at the University of Manchester, under the leadership of Tom Kilburn. They included the world's first stored-program computer, the world's first transistorised computer, and what was the world's fastest computer at the time of its inauguration in 1962.

Manchester Mark 1 early english computer

The Manchester Mark 1 was one of the earliest stored-program computers, developed at the Victoria University of Manchester from the Manchester Baby. It was also called the Manchester Automatic Digital Machine, or MADM. Work began in August 1948, and the first version was operational by April 1949; a program written to search for Mersenne primes ran error-free for nine hours on the night of 16/17 June 1949.

Shadow table

Shadow Tables are objects in computer science used to improve the way machines, networks and programs handle information. More specifically, a shadow table is an object that is read and written by a processor and contains data similar to its primary table, which is the table it's "shadowing". Shadow tables usually contain data that is relevant to the operation and maintenance of its primary table, but not within the subset of data required for the primary table to exist. Shadow tables are related to the data type "trails" in data storage systems. Trails are very similar to shadow tables but instead of storing identically formatted information that is different, they store a history of modifications and functions operated on a table.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to databases:

Martin L. Kersten Dutch computer scientist

Martin L. Kersten is a computer scientist with research focus on database architectures, query optimization and their use in scientific databases. He is an architect of the MonetDB system, an open-source column store for data warehouses, online analytical processing (OLAP) and geographic information systems (GIS). He has been (co-) founder of several successful spin-offs of the Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI).

References

Notes

  1. On the later more broad application of the term IT, Keary comments: "In its original application 'information technology' was appropriate to describe the convergence of technologies with application in the broad field of data storage, retrieval, processing, and dissemination. This useful conceptual term has since been converted to what purports to be concrete use, but without the reinforcement of definition ... the term IT lacks substance when applied to the name of any function, discipline, or position." [6]
  2. "Format" refers to the physical characteristics of the stored data such as its encoding scheme; "structure" describes the organisation of that data.

Citations

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  33. 1 2 Pardede (2009), p. xiii
  34. Han, Kamber & Pei (2011), p. 5
  35. Han, Kamber & Pei (2011), p. 8
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Further reading