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Computing Principles on Your Mobile

Computing Principles on Your Mobile

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Computing Principles on Your Mobile

361 pages
2 hours
Apr 5, 2013


Optimized for use on mobile devices with a small screen.

Now published as a portable, learning, reference and subject revision guide, students, teachers and hobbyists can have their own low-cost portable version as an eBook on a mobile phone.

For easy reading, a comprehensive list of hundreds of topics each with a graphic image and explanatory text condensed to note form act as a useful exam revision reminder or reference tool for professionals.

Apr 5, 2013

Despre autor

Clive W. Humphris M0DXJ: Ex Technology Teacher. Software Developer, Author and Director of eptsoft limited. Married with two children and four grandchildren.Apprentice Instrument Maker at Marconi’s with Senor Technical Management roles in Radio Rentals and Alcatel Business Systems before starting eptsoft providing educational software to schools colleges and universities worldwide since 1992.Interests outside of developing digital products for eptsoft, include Running, Walking and Reading.

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Computing Principles on Your Mobile - Clive W. Humphris


Computer Science on your Mobile

by Clive W. Humphris 

Portable Learning, Reference and Revision Tools.

Copyright by eptsoft limited 2018

All rights reserved.


Our thanks and appreciation goes to John D. Ransley MIEE from Whitbourne in Worcestershire for all his help and expert guidance in developing this eBook and additional app content.


Colourful visual presentation assists the learning process as students will more likely remember, thereby increasing their personal confidence as they believe they are learning more as a result. Knowing the content is on their phone encourages them to dip-in in a spare moment more than open a traditional textbook.

4 9 2012-01-13T14:48:00Z 2012-03-20T09:27:00Z 5 2560 14596 eptsoft 121 29 17924 9.3821


Computer character codes are usually based on the ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange). Originally this was a seven-bit code, but now provides an extended character set of 255 characters using eight bits. Computer keyboards are connected to the CPU via a serial interface whereby the individual codes are transmitted as binary strings. The keyboard encoder generates a unique code for each key press. Key presses are listed to enable comparisons to be made. Note the difference between upper and lower case characters (only one bit changed).

Within the character set there are special characters which are not displayed, i.e. tabbing, line feeds and backspacing.

The keyboard encoder is based on a matrix of rows and columns. At each intersection there is a switch, which is made for that key press. The generated binary code is produced from a look-up table. Speed is unimportant and transmission rates are limited to those of the fastest typist.

Within the encoder circuitry it is normal practice to continually scan the rows and columns on the keyboard for a user key press. These scans take place thousands of times between individual key presses. In this example some keys are inactive, i.e. function keys. This is because they are based on combinations of key codes and would only serve to confuse if included.

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In addition to the computer keyboard the 'mouse' is also an input device. The computer interprets its movement and switch actions. The mouse pointer is moved relative to its current position by a system of pulses generated by movement sensors. The amount of movement in either direction is a result of counting the pulses derived from the slotted disks on the rollers.

One simple method of sensing direction is to use two infrared detectors 'a' and 'b', mouse direction comes from the detected relationship between digital pulses. A pulse at 'a' after 'b' indicates one direction, similarly a 'b' after 'a' indicates opposite direction. Output pulses are generated for both actions. A unique sequence of pulses can then be added to the beginning of the pulse train to indicate pointer direction. The output ceases when the mouse is stationary. The velocity of mouse movement and the number of pulses counted determine mouse pointer speed and screen pointer position.

The combined outputs from both sensors (North - South and East - West) will enable the screen pointer to be moved in any direction. To see this, remove your mouse ball and watch the pointer on the screen as you rotate each roller and then both together. In addition to mouse movements, switches generate the familiar 'click' and 'double click' actions.

Inside the CPU each mouse movement generates an 'interrupt' (the processor stops what its doing and reads the mouse input port). Think of this the next time you become impatient and try to hurry things along by wiggling the mouse.

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COMPUTER HARDWARE: Additive Colour Mixing.

A colour monitor display output is derived from mixing three primary colours. For 'additive mixing' the output becomes whiter as each additional colour is combined. This is opposite to say the artist mixing paint (subtractive mixing) where the mix darkens as each colour is added. Colours are referred to as 'Hues'. The computer display is capable of reproducing any hue within the visible spectrum by illuminating certain proportions of each colour.

For example, by activating the red and green triad pixels, the eye is deceived into thinking it is seeing yellow. To make yellow appear orange then the red output is driven harder relative to the green. Increasing the intensity of all colours together increases the overall brightness of that colour. You can see the individual colour pixels by examining the colour bars on your PC screen with a magnifying glass.

A black colour bar cannot be shown unless its displayed against a contrasting background as all three outputs are turned off. White on the other hand is when all three outputs are set to maximum intensity (fully on).

Greys are produced when the same level of reduced intensity is applied equally to all three outputs, red, blue and green.

4 9 2012-01-13T14:48:00Z 2012-03-20T09:27:00Z 5 2560 14596 eptsoft 121 29 17924 9.3821

COMPUTER HARDWARE: Flat Panel Display.

Generating an image on the PC screen is done by a process of display pixel addressing. Beginning at the top left a counter addresses the columns left to right along each line, at the end the row counter is incremented and column count zeroed to the start of the next line before repeating. On reaching the bottom right, both row and column counters are zeroed to the top-left ready to begin the next scan to refresh the screen.

The vertical and horizontal screen resolution and therefore monitor quality will depend on the number of RGB elements called pixels i.e. (1024× 768) and the number of horizontal scanned lines, each separated by a distance called the dot pitch. The smaller the dot pitch the sharper the image. The picture reproduced will be a result of sequential pixel addressing at the same time varying intensity of the pixel light output, i.e. colour mixing of each pixel triad. Modern PC screens are capable of reproducing millions of different colour combinations.

The reason we are able to see a screen image at all, is due to human persistence of vision. By continually repeating the scan before the image in our brain has faded enables us to view a steady picture. If the scanning process is less than about 50 times a second then screen flicker will be observed. Slow it right down and you would see the scanning process as demonstrated here. If all of the screen were driven all of the time, it would consume enormous amounts of wasted power.

Modern thin display screens as used in portable computers are called TFT (thin film transistor), in which each pixel is controlled by transistor drivers. The TFT technology also known as active matrix LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) provides the best resolution of all the flat-panel techniques.

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COMPUTER HARDWARE: Simple Graphics Adaptor.

Before graphics can be displayed on the screen they have to first be written to addressable RAM memory locations. These are now called graphics adapters, but more accurately described as Video RAM (VRAM). VRAM locations are then scanned and the resulting output from each cell activates a corresponding pixel on the screen display.

Our example is a simple monochrome two level display, there can be no shades between black and white and there are just 150 locations. Writing and reading the VRAM contents would normally be continuous, occurring many thousands of times a second. Monochrome displays only require one bit per pixel that is set to binary 1 or 0 ON or OFF. Monochrome displays are less common now and frequently had a green screen background with a lighter shade for the text output. By today's standards the screen resolution was poor, graphics images had ragged outlines, as would this display if it were shown on a much larger screen size.

The amount of VRAM required grows as screen resolution increases, since each screen pixel needs a corresponding cell.

In practice all sorts of data compression techniques are applied to reduce the size of video RAM, mainly in an attempt to increase the refresh rate for high quality fast changing images.

4 9 2012-01-13T14:48:00Z 2012-03-20T09:27:00Z 5 2560 14596 eptsoft 121 29 17924 9.3821

COMPUTER HARDWARE: 256 Intensity Levels.

Having understood how the simple video RAM (VRAM) drives a monochrome two colour (black and white) display we can now develop this further to display shades of colour. Note in this example we only use one of the display colours of which we are varying the intensity.

To enable up to 255 discreet shades requires eight levels of VRAM. The row and column positions are scanned exactly as before only this time a third value is calculated which is derived from the combination of the eight levels. This will produce a decimal equivalent value between 0 and 255. Zero turns the the pixel OFF and 255 driving it fully ON for maximum intensity.

The top left pixel position calculation is shown as an example. Refresh the screen and note the binary output the level of screen brightness for that pixel position.

Comparing this example with the previous topic it can be seen that to produce 255 shades requires eight times more memory.

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The final stage in developing our understanding of a full colour display shows the combination of three individual video memory (VRAM) matrices for an R,G,B output. Each colour is handled separately; turning any two pixels OFF of the three in the triad would result in a single colour display. The colour mixing takes place within the human eye where the red, green and blue pixels are activated to varying degrees.

As previously shown the eye integrates the colours at each triad of pixels and interprets the colours depending upon the intensity of each pixel. Red and green bombarded equally by electrons with blue OFF will be viewed as yellow. All three pixels activated to maximum intensity will produce a white output. Similarly when all three triad pixels are turned off, the result is a blank screen.

Graphics cards have their own dedicated video memory to store screen images and the more you have the better, especially when working with picture imaging. Typically a graphics card with 32MB or 64MB will suit most applications but this should be increased to 128MB or 256MB to cope with computer games for example.

A further term used in connection with video memory is FSAA (full screen anti-aliasing). This is a technique to reduce the jagged edges on sloping lines and is achieved by taking the average of two adjacent screen areas and inserting this averaged value between the first two, the step change is now half or what it was previously and therefore less noticeable.

4 9 2012-01-13T14:48:00Z 2012-03-20T09:27:00Z 5 2560 14596 eptsoft 121 29 17924 9.3821


Magnetic disk drives (floppy and hard drives) provide a permanent data storage. Capacities today are enormous compared to just a couple of years ago. Even so the basic technology remains the same, they are just bigger with faster access times. The default values given do not represent actual values used today but chosen to explain the principles involved. The fastest transfer rates of today's hard drives are more than 100Mbytes/sec.

Each disk consists of tracks to store the data, arranged within sectors. Disk formatting sets up the tracks and sectors. One track within one sector is the smallest amount of data that can be accessed. This group of bits is transferred to the CPU RAM, modified if necessary and written back to the disk. Individual bytes on the disk are not accessible.

To minimise access times, i.e. 'disk rotation and seek time', data is arranged on the disk in cylinders, not as you might expect, all in one part of a single disk. Combinations of sector tracks (at various locations) are known as clusters and will hold the data for a complete file.

A file allocation table (FAT) is a map of how the data is organised on the disk. Files don't follow consecutive locations, but are split up to fit in the next available free area. To see this in action run the 'disk defragmenter' program, in the Windows System Tools folder. Erasing a file does not actually delete the data on the disk it just modifies the FAT, which is the reason data can often be recovered successfully providing the released disk space has not been overwritten.

4 9 2012-01-13T14:48:00Z 2012-03-20T09:27:00Z 5 2560 14596 eptsoft 121 29 17924 9.3821


CD-ROM/DVD drives are fitted as standard on a modern PC. Their overriding advantage is the ability to store huge amounts of data, typically 640 Mbytes on a CD. Much higher capacity DVDs (Short for digital versatile disc) uses a read/write technology similar to the CD-ROM, where the track spacing and pit size is considerably smaller. A DVD holds a minimum of 4.7GB of data. Writeable disks basically work in the opposite direction to that shown where the laser diode burns the optical pattern onto the underside of the disk.

The data track is a spiral, not the discreet tracks found on a magnetic hard drive. Data is placed on the disk through a process of etching pits on the disk surface. The area left is referred to as land. When read back the laser diode is focused or out-of-focus as the pit or land passes by.

It would be a mistake to assume that a pit represents one logic level and the land area the other. The device is read by decoding the transitions from (light to dark and dark to light). Each transition determines the output state, which continually switches. The length of the pit is the number of bits in that state. The data pattern demonstrated can be seen by carefully observing the output

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