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Data is factual information and it needs to be accurately captured in order to be processed. There are many methods to input data and each situation warrants a different method. There can be several different ways to input the information and it can be done in an automatic fashion, as with a computer, or it can be done manually, as with a human writing the information down. For instance, printed questionnaires would best use a special scanning device called an optical data reader that uses optical mark recognition (OMR); when people complete the OMR form using pencils to fill in boxes on OMR paper an optical mark reader (OMR) can convert the pencil marks into digital data. The best method for a telephone survey would be the phone key pad since an integrated voice system (IVR) would be able to capture the touch tone responses. To input data from bank checks, the best method would be an image replacement document (IRD), where a paper facsimile that is the legal equivalent of an original check is transmitted electronically, since this reduces costs and fraud losses. Retail tags can be placed with a microchip, called a smart chip, that easily relays the product information when scanned with a radio-frequency identification (RFID) scanner and this would be the fastest, easiest method for inputting the data into the store’s computer system. Long documents would best be processed with a computer scanner so that the information on the document can be copied exactly and stored easily on the computer for reading or printing. Whatever the situation, there will be a satisfactory method to gather the information.
Once the data has been accurately gathered, the information needs to be produced in some format. This process, known as output, is the opposite of the initial input process. Again, it can be accomplished many ways. For a hand held computer, the best output method would be a small screen called a liquid crystal display screen (LCD) because this would be the best way to view the data. For a color photograph the best method of output would be on a high end ink jet printer that produces color photo quality images on photographic paper because a photo needs to be vivid and clear. For a resume, the best method of output would be a color injet printer because it can print on different types of high quality paper, in different colors, or in different fonts.
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Where there is input and output, there is always a place to store the information either long
term or temporarily. Computer systems need to store greater amounts of data, instructions, and information in a more permanent manner than the main memory of a computer will allow.
Therefore, secondary storage is required. Every individual situation determines which storage device would be the most effective way to store information. For example, a hard disk is best used to store information for long term, frequent use because it gives direct access to the information, such as a teacher having access to their students’ grades stored on a hard disk. A floppy disk is a portable way that data was transferred and was best used for information that needed to go from one application to another or one computer to another, such as a report that needed to be taken home after being created at work. It is not widely used anymore and was replaced by the compact disk read-only memory, or CD-ROM. The CD-ROM is a disk that cannot be recorded on once it has data written onto it, and is most appropriate for companies to store computer games or programs for the consumer to use. Random Access Memory, or RAM, is a storage device that is for temporary use, which is best used for running instructions while the computer is powered on. A flash/jump drive is a portable drive that can be used to store information that needs to be transported to different computers, such as a student saving their report and working on it using multiple computers. Tape is also an appropriate method to store data onto an audio- and videocassettes, when the information needs to be stored but does not need to be accessed quickly. This method is inexpensive and ideal for information that needs to be stored in case of a disaster. Different types of storage are optimal for different types of situations.
The speed of computer components is very important because input and output need to be processed efficiently. Random Access Memory (RAM) is temporary storage that can be lost in a disruption such as a power surge; the disk storage is often called "random access" because the reading head can move rather quickly from one piece of data to another, and does not have to read all the data in between. It’s speed is measured in megahertz and the greater the megahertz, the faster the RAM can read the data. The clock speed is a series of electronic pulses at a predetermined rate which affects the machine cycle time and the control unit executes an instruction in line with the electronic cycle, or pulses of the internal “clock.” Every instruction takes at least the same amount of time as the interval between pulses. The shorter the interval between pulses, the faster each instruction can be completed. Data on hard disks can be retrieved quickly because the disk spins. The faster the disk spins the fater it can transfer data and retrieve data. It is measured in megabites. Data on a CD-ROM can also be accessed quickly as the disk spins in the same way the hard disk spins and the faster it spins the faster the recoded data can be retireved from the CD-ROM. Data on a floppy disk is the slowest method which is why it is being phased out and replaced by faster methods like the CD-ROM. The different components of a computer all process and retrieve data at different speeds to efficiently complete input and output.
1. Stair, Ralph M., & Reynolds, George W. (2006). Fundamentals of Information Systems (3th ed.). Boston: Thomson Course Technology.
2. Wikipedia. (2007). Floppy Disk. Retrieved June 6, 2007, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Floppy_disk
3. Wikipedia. (2007). Random Access Memory. Retrieved June 6, 2007, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAM
4. Wikipedia. (2007). USB Flash Drive. Retrieved June 6, 2007, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USB_flash_drive