CS16 : Start ... All Programs

This section is about the distinction between hardware and software and the different types of software that computer systems use.

We are learning ...
  • About the types and categorisation of software
So that we can ...
  • Describe the difference between hardware and software
  • Recall the simple classification of software
    - System software (OS, utility, libraries, translators)
    - Application software 
  • Describe the difference between open source, closed source, off-the-shelf, bespoke software, expert systems
  • State examples of different types of software
  • Apply rules about program version management
  • Decsribe the applications of bespoke software
    - weather forecasting
    - computer aided design
    - robotics
    - computer generated graphics / animation
  • Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of Bespoke Software
  • Discuss the operation of expert systems

Hardware are the components of a computer system that you can touch. The 'hard' parts. Without software to run on the computer, it can't do a lot of useful stuff. But how do we classify software?

Activity 1 Software classification (70)

After the 'On your marks' activity that your teacher will take you through, you should learn that there are two types of software on computer systems ...
  • System software - helps the computer to run and perform administrative tasks
  • Application software - helps the user to do useful jobs / produce useful things
Software can be further classified according the the lovely GIF ...

Software can also be open source or closed source.

Open source basics (5:41)

Task 1.1 Poster time!

Using the Teach-ICT website (or equivalent) research software and produce a poster by hand! Include all the types of software from the animation, their function, examples (if appropriate) and classification. Make sure your poster includes information about open and closed source software as well.

On a poster : Use colour as much as possible for purpose. Remember ... no Publisher, no Prezi, no Paint, pure pencil and paper. That's it. Old school. Print your poster out for your notebooks.

ACTION : A beautiful, hand drawn poster on software classification.

Software Version Management (A Level Only)

First of all, read through this little introduction to 'Version Control' ...

Click to enlarge ... and read it!

You are probably using version control already - whenever you 'save as' a document you are working on to keep a backup copy just in case anything goes wrong. In software terms, however, version control makes sure that files are always kept to their latest version whilst maintaining the 'trunk' of development.

Task 1.2 Learning about VCS
Web browser

OK - there is a *lot* of reading to do in this task. Take your time because ...

  1. See how far you get through this web article before you lose interest. If you maintain your interest level until the end of the article, you have more patience than me :)

  2. If you're still alive, have a look at the version news for a particularly super piece of software called Goodsync (which I use to keep my files backed up). Can you see why this kind of things is done?

  3. Read the Sementic versioning rules given at http://semver.org/ - this is how most software versioning is done in practice, though there are no hard and fast rules on this.

  4. There is a small section on the Wikipedia article on Software versioning which describes the connection between the MAJOR.MINOR.PATCH versioning method and the MAJOR.MINOR-a/b/rc/r versioning system. Can you think where you have seen this before?

In your notebooks : After all this reading, I'd like you to give me three takeaways describing what you have learnt.

OUTCOME : Three 'takeaways' on software versioning.

Activity 2 Special purpose software, bespoke software and expert systems (75)

Special purpose software is 'off the shelf' software which is designed to perform one specific job very well, e.g. ...
  • Web browser
  • Payroll software
  • Finance software
Just like a Savile Row suit, bespoke software is tailor made for the needs of a specific user. This come with a cost which not everyone is willing to pay. However, for some, it's the bees knees.

Bespoke software can be used for ...
  • weather forecasting
  • computer aided design
  • robotics
  • computer generated graphics / animation / film production
  • expert systems

... because generally, you can't get this sort of software from PC World.

Task 2.1 Advantages and disadvantages?
Web browser

Visit the Alberon website and read the lovely, clear article that Dave Miller has written about the advantages and disadvantages of off-the-shelf vs bespoke software.

In your notebooks : Construct a suitable table to summarise the information contained in this article.

OUTCOME : Table summarising the advantages and disadvantages of off-the-shelf vs bespoke software solutions.

Expert systems (A Level Only)

An expert system takes the essence of human knowledge and expertise and applies a logical, computational process to it's application to solving problems. Throughout the past 50 or so years, computer system have become better and better at demonstrating 'articifical intelligence' and none have caused quite such as stir as the immensely powerful Chess playing computers like Deep Blue.

Click image to watch a video about "Deep Blue"

The development of any expert system requires the collection of an extremely large data set of human knowledge within a certain field, the creation of an 'inference engine' which can use the data set to make 'educated guesses' at likely outcomes of certain situations and a user interface to connect with the (non-expert) users.

Task 2.2 Expert systems - they are just so ICT!
Web browser

Visit the following website and read the text (from an old ICT GCSE course) which describes what expert systems are, how they are created and what they are used for. The article covers ...
  • What expert systems are
  • What expert systems are used for
  • How expert systems are created
  • How a typical expert system would be used
  • Examples of expert systems 
In your notebooks : Make notes on these five areas. Use no more than 140 characters to summarise each section.

OUTCOME : Brief notes about expert systems.

Extension Activities 

There are different ways of representing the relationships between hardware, software and users.

Use this diagram as a basis for a summary of what you have discovered in this section.

You may also have seen diagrams like this which show the relationship not just of the hardware and the software but of the user as well.

Copy this diagram into your notes and explain what each level involved.

What's next?

Before you hand your book in for checking, make sure you have completed all the work required and that your book is tidy and organised. Your book will be checked to make sure it is complete and you will be given a spicy grade for effort.