Using all its parts together, a computer converts data into information by performing various actions on the data. For example, a computer might perform a mathematical operation on two numbers, then display the result. Or the computer might perform a logical operation such as comparing two numbers, then display that result. These operations are part of a process called the information processing cycle, which is a set of steps the computer follows to receive data, process the data according to instructions from a program, display the resulting information to the user, and store the results.
The information processing cycle has four parts, and each part involves one or more specific components of the computer:
» Input. During this part of the cycle, the computer accepts data from some source, such as the user or a program, for processing.
» Processing. During this part of the cycle, the computer’s processing components perform actions on the data, based on instructions from the user or a program.
» Output. Here, the computer may be required to display the results of its processing.
For example, the results may appear as text, numbers, or a graphic on the computer’s screen or as sounds from its speaker. The computer also can send output to a printer or transfer the output to another computer through a network or the Internet. Output is an optional step in the information processing cycle but may be ordered by the user or program.» Storage. In this step, the computer permanently stores the results of its processing on a disk, tape, or some other kind of storage medium. As with output, storage is optional and may not always be required by the user or program.