What are Computer Systems?

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Just 60 years ago computers were mostly unheard of and unused with only a handful in existence, they were large cabinets of wires and circuit boards that would often span the length of an entire room. They could only process very simple calculations and used an extensive electrical supply. In today’s world, we live in a computer-rich environment where every object you see, touch and use has probably been created, designed or organised using a computer at some point within its production process. From expensive vehicles such as cars, boats and trains to everyday items such as bank notes, clothes and even our food & drink. Computers now assist humans in a vast range of production processes/workflows and are also built within electrical equipment such as washing machines, fridges and heaters.

Micro Computers

Microcomputers are a popular choice of computer system worldwide as they are based around serving one user at a time, they are commonplace in many homes and businesses. In 2013 136.7 million desktop computers were sold worldwide. They usually consist of a desktop casing with all internals – motherboard, RAM, hard drive, optical drives, graphics cards and external ports.

Desktop PC’s also include expansion room for storage, RAM, additional drives, additional PCI cards and adapters plus an interchangeable processor socket. With room for expansion and a fairly large casing, these personal computers can be highly specified and tuned for high performance personal computing tasks such as gaming, video editing and music production.

Mobile Computers

Mobile computers are the most popular and commonly used computer type worldwide. They take the shape of laptops, tablets and smartphones usually powered via an internal battery that is charged from a mains power supply. Usually harnessing the characteristics of a small, lightweight, all-in-one device mobile computers are easy to travel with allowing a single user access to digital content either locally or on the internet at any given time or place. This ease of use and access has led to the sharp increase in adoption of mobile computers to a point where in January of 2014 mobile internet usage exceeded that of conventional desktop PC usage.

However whilst their small scale favours mobility it also limits their capabilities as smaller components are generally less powerful, hold less storage and are also usually very difficult or impossible to upgrade so forth they are not future proof. We now live in a world that’s full of mobile deices, reported that 93% of adults in 2014 own/use a mobile phone and 61% of them are smartphones.

Mini Computers

Mini computers are large multi-user computers often referred to as servers and are usually installed for use within businesses and large institutes such as schools and colleges. They are powerful machines often built with high end multi-core processes, rapid storage/memory and high speed network cards all in order to serve multiple users with either demanding service tasks or large data stores. They are costly to build, maintain and run, in comparison with single user systems as they often require dust free and temperature controlled environments to protect them from damage and to prolong their life. For example in 2011 Facebook began building their main server farm on the edge of the Artic Circle in Lulea, Sweden for the main purpose of cooling the server farm from the naturally cold air within the environment. This move will have reduced Facebook’s carbon footprint and electrical consumption drastically.

Mainframe Computers

Mainframe computers are large powerful computers usually used by global corporate organisations and governments in order to store and process vast data and calculations within a short space of time. Mainframes act as a service provider to up to thousands of other computers to enable the sharing of a centralised facility running on the mainframe such as transactions of a bank. For example IBM is acting on the forecasted increase in digital payments online by recently introducing a new mainframe that can process up to 30,000 transactions a second. They are often centrally located per organization to allow immediate data sharing between them as unlike servers they are intertwined to perform tasks as one unit. However very much like servers they are greatly expensive to build, maintain and run, again needing a controlled environment to function correctly.

Super Computers

Supercomputers are the highest performance computers in existence today and are predominantly used to calculate large amounts of data in order to give a forecast or a prediction. For example the Met Office has just recently purchased a new £97M Cray supercomputer to replace the existing machine that has the processing power to calculate 16,000 trillion calculations per second. This processing power is far more advance than the technology we use everyday however they often consist of similar processing units found in high end computers but they hold tens of thousands of these processing units that all work together simultaneously.


Computers can only process binary data which is formed by something present, 1, or not, 0. In this case it’s the presence of an electrical current and recognising whether it is off or on, this is the job of the processing unit. To turn this binary code into something humans can make use of it must be decrypted by software. Software transforms combinations of 0’s and 1’s into the alphabet and symbols, which can then be used to code software; and data files for software programs to read. Without this software the computer hardware would be useless and without hardware the software would be useless, they both need the other to be realistically usable by humans. Due to this every single piece of hardware goes hand in hand with purposefully designed software whether it’s something widely available such as an MP3 decoder or something much more specialised such as the iOS for mobile Apple devices only.


Peripherals are the devices that are not required for the proper internal workings of a computer but, very much like software, peripherals are essential to enable humans the use of computers. They convert digital data into a form which humans understand both when outputting and inputting data; without them a computer wouldn’t be of any use. An example of this would be the monitor and keyboard, the monitor displays digital code into pixels of colours to create images and the keyboard displays letters, symbols and numbers to enable a person to enter data that data.

Having analysed both independent and 3rd party solutions to design an e-commerce website it has become clear that independent hosting is significantly more costly than simply buying a pre-defined package. The first year cost would accumulate to just short of £80,000 whereas a 3rd party package could be as low £280 per year however this would still require at least one member of staff to design and manage the site costing in excess of £20,000 per year.

Even though an independently hosted solution may be costly it will offer MuzicMedia full flexibility to fulfil its needs. For example, selling digital downloads via pre-designed packages could become very restricting and therefore not suitable for the business’s needs. Self-hosting the site would also give MuzicMedia the ability to chop and change any part of the system whenever it feels necessary allowing the company to stay in line with current trends and technological advancements such as streaming services.

The specific example above is appropriate for a large scale website with tens of thousands of hits per day but assuming MuzicMedia keeps to its small niche market this may be excessive for the company’s needs. So forth I believe my analysis of independently hosting the site could be scaled back to a more affordable price bracket by purchasing lower powered servers and cheaper services. If implemented correctly with cheaper components this would give MuzicMedia the perfect balance between flexibility and affordability. Due to this, I believe independent hosting would be the preferred solution for MuzicMedia’s e-commerce venture.


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