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Representing and manipulating data in computers

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Computers are all around us: in cars, kitchen scales, digital cameras, etc. But how do they store the data they hold? This free course, Representing and manipulating data in computers, will help you to understand how the data in a computer represents something in the outside world. You will also explore how ASCII code and Unicode are used to control data.

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • understand what all the terms highlighted in bold in the text mean
  • understand how the following types of data are represented in a computer, and what the limitations of such representations are: positive and negative integers; fractions; analogue physical quantities such as weight; true/false quantities; still pictures; text; moving pictures; sound
  • understand at an introductory level what data compression is and why it is useful
  • understand at an introductory level how input and output subsystems support the conversion of various types of information to and from data types usable by a computer
  • describe what a computer program is and how it utilises the memory and the processor.

By: The Open University

  • Duration 20 hours
  • Updated Tuesday 29th March 2016
  • Intermediate level
  • Posted under Computing
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Representing and manipulating data in computers


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Computers are designed to receive, store, manipulate and present data. This course explains how computers do this, with reference to the examples of a PC, kitchen scales and a digital camera. In particular it explores the idea that the data in a computer represents something in the real world.

This OpenLearn course provides a sample of level 2 study in Computing & IT [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

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