NET 101 - Networking Essentials I
Chapter 1, Digital Literacy
This lesson introduces the student to basic terms and
concepts used in the course. Objectives important to this lesson:
- Differentiate between desktops, laptops, tablets, and
- Describe the uses of smartphones, cameras, media players,
e-book readers, and other digital devices
- Differentiate between data and information
- Describe several methods of input
- Differentiate between the Internet and the web
- Understand the terms web, web page, web site, web server
- Understand the definition and use of the terms browser,
search engine, social network
- Overview of digital security, risks, viruses, malware,
- Overview of the difference between an operating system and
- Overview of communications, wireless and wired
technologies, uses of networks
- Understand that technology is used in most areas of
- Understand that technology is used in most areas of life
This chapter introduces several topics that are basic to
understanding computer based technology, several of which are developed
further in the chapters that follow.
The first topic is digital literacy, the
title of the chapter. It is defined as having
a current knowledge and understanding of:
- mobile devices
- the Internet
- related technologies
This definition is one that will evolve over time. As new
technologies are developed and made available to mass markets, there
will be new items that a technologically literate person will be
expected to understand. This does not mean that a
digitally literate person must understand how to build, install, and
service all digital devices. It means that a digitally literate person
will be reasonably familiar with these devices, and similar devices,
and will know what to look for when shopping or learning to use one.
Digital literacy will not make you a technician, but it is a first step
that a technician must take along the way.
A classic definition of a computer is offered. It is simple
and short so that it can include many different devices: a computer
takes input, performs some kind of processing,
and gives some kind of output.
- Input is often called data,
which is confusingly used as both a singular and a plural noun. It's
what we give to the device.
- Processing can be mathematical processing,
text processing, signal processing, and practically any other kind you
- Output is what the device gives to someone
(or something), not necessarily the person who provided the
input. When you talk on a cell phone, for example, one input may be
your voice, which is processed by several digital devices after
the one in your hand, and finally some other device typically produces
output to someone who is listening for it. You could be having a
conversation, leaving a voice mail, buying a product, or doing
something we can't imagine yet until it is invented and marketed.
- In general, data is processed to give it meaning to someone
when it is turned into output. Output of this type is often called
information. Think of data as raw facts and figures.
Think of information as something someone wants to
On page 11, the text presents an illustration of this process.
A clerk operates a point of sale system, inputting a customer's
purchases at a restaurant. The computer system would need to be told
what was purchased. Most such systems would "know" the prices of
individual items, so the clerk enters only how many of each item. The
system processes the order, calculates the bill, and produces a printed
output of the bill for the customer (and probably an electronic version
for the store).
The chapter offers several lists of items. These lists should
be considered examples of common types of things, not as complete lists.
Mobile devices and game devices
are grouped together, perhaps because you can play games on most mobile
- digital cameras
- portable media players
- e-book readers
- game consoles
A question: is there anything in the list above that a
smartphone can't do?
The chapter discusses common input devices,
which should be familiar to most students:
- pointing devices: mice, touchpads, touch screens
Common output devices are listed:
- displays: on phones, on laptops, on digital cameras, on
tablets, on monitors connected to anything
- speakers and headphones
Another question: if my printer outputs images sent by my
computer, isn't it receiving input too? If I plug a chip holding
pictures into a slot in the printer, and tell the printer what and how
to print, isn't the printer doing some processing?
A common feature of digital devices is the area in which they
store data and instructions: their memory.
- Digital devices typically load data into
one section of memory and instructions (programs)
- Data and processed data (information) may be placed in storage in between uses, but must be loaded into memory to be used
- Typically, memory means the random access, dynamic area that the processor needs while it it doing something.
When we want to hold data or information for a longer time
(more than a few minutes), we use storage media.
(Okay, pay attention. Media is a plural
noun. Medium is the singular form.
Your book does not seem to know this. You can know more than the book!)
Examples of storage media:
- hard disks (also called hard drives)
- solid state drives (all electronic, no spinning platters)
- USB Flash drives (They have nothing to do with the Adobe
product for showing animation. We should talk in class about it.)
- memory cards (various sizes and types)
- optical discs (Notice the difference in spelling for no
good reason. The book is right, it is people that are silly.)
- cloud storage (Really? Do the authors think some magic is
used in the cloud, and not some variation on the methods above?)
I suppose that the authors make a distinction between cloud
storage and the other types in this list because you can't hold it in
The text turns to a discussion of the Internet
that will continue in the next chapter. Basic points:
- the Internet (always capitalized) is the collective
network that exists by connecting many
networks of many types, including commercial, governmental,
- the World Wide Web (also called the web)
is only one part of the Internet, although it is the
part most users see and know
- a web page is essentially a document,
available on the web, that can be displayed in a browser,
software created to use the web
- a web site is collection of web pages
that are related in some way, such as all the pages created by me and
accessed through my web address
- a web server is a server that is running specific software,
connected to one or more networks, to provide access to web pages or
- web sites are characterized by graphics
(pictures, art, images) and graphic user interfaces (GUIs)
- a search
engine is a program or collection of programs that help a
user find information and web sites, typically on the Internet; some
search engines share the name of the company that created them (Google,
Yahoo) while others do not (Bing, Dogpile); the link in the line above
will take you to a list of popular
- social networks are more recent developments; people become
members so they can post information that is sent to other members who
may find it fascinating, exciting, useful, or pointless; lots of people
feel they have something to say, but that does not guarantee other
people want to see, hear, or read it
The text briefly discusses digital safety and security.
We will get another chapter on this, as well as several classes if you
are in that curriculum. Some topics in that area that people should know
- viruses and malware - how should you protect your computer?
- privacy - can you keep private information private?
- health concerns - typically a variation on the privacy
topic, this can include ergonomics and human safety
- environmental issues - disposal of computer and digital
equipment involves disposing of toxic materials
The text discusses several aspects of software:
- it finally mentions that there a is difference between operating
systems (programs that run the computer, and provide basic
services, like saving and copying files) and applications
(programs that allow you to do something specific, like write documents
or cruise the web)
- software has to be installed, and typically has to be set
up (configured) before it can be used
- using a program is also called running it, although it is
more correct to say that the computer is running the program while you
are using it
- historically, programs have had several types of user
interfaces, the best known ones being character based (text based) and
graphic based (mouse or touch based)
As a job related fact, the text mentions that computer
programmers may also be called software developers.
It says that application developer is also a common
term, but we should remember that applications are not the whole story.
There are also developers for operating systems and interfaces.
Several computer technologies can be grouped under the heading
- This includes any technology that involves establishing and
maintaining connections between devices, and sending data or
information from one to another.
- You should review the list of communication technologies
given in the text for discussion in class.
- Communications can include networking, cabling, wireless
technologies, and any kind of device used in these areas.
The text mentions three wireless technologies.
It is good to know some of the differences between them:
- generally used for short range connection to a network, such as
connecting a smartphone to a local network to get access to the
Internet (example: free Wi-Fi connection at a restaurant or store); the
effective range of a Wi-Fi hot spot (access point) varies with the variety of
equipment being used: check the range material in article I have linked
to, and you will see figures like 35 meters indoors, and 100 meters
- a very short range technology, often on the order of 10 feet,
frequently used to link two devices together, such as linking a head-set or ear-bud/microphone to a smartphone
- Cellular radio - By this, I presume your book means cellular
networks, such as those used by major wireless telephone
service providers. You should know basic information about them at this
stage, such as needing to have an authorized connection to a vendor's
system in order to use a cell phone. (Yes, a cell phone uses radio
waves to work. Microwaves.)
The text continues with a short discussion of networks. Its
definition leaves off an important part. Let's try this instead.
Networking can be defined with five features:
- users sharing
resources (like printers or
- across a common medium (like copper wire
or fiber optic cable)
- by way of specific rules
(like TCP/IP or other network protocols)
The text lists some uses that businesses have for networks,
which fit well with the general definition above. The uses listed for
home networks also include games, music, and other features that are
not often welcome in a business environment.
The text provides a discussion of the uses of technology in
society. It may suggest some uses that you have not seen or used
yourself, but the main idea is that technology can improve most aspects
of life, commerce, and recreation. The world is different now that most
of us have a cell phone/camera/calculator/game machine/Internet access
device in our pocket or on our belt. For those of you who have never
lived in a world without such things, watch some old movies, and you
may see some of the differences.