Have you ever wondered why some DVDs wont work on some DVD players? Or why some pieces of hardware won’t work on newer Operating Systems but did on older ones?
In a perfect world all hardware and software would be able to communicate with each other without any problems. It would be like a world where everyone spoke the same language – that language would be called a Standard Language.
The world of ICT is not perfect. Although standards do exist, and are managed by dedicated organisations such as the W3C and ISO, manufacturers produce their products to so many standards that not all hardware and software are compatible with each other.
For humans it comes easy...we understand instructions even if they are said in different ways. A computer can only do exactly what it is told. A standard is a set of rules that a computer must follow. Different standards mean different rules. If a computer only knows how to deal with certain rules then other rules will just confuse it and it wont do as it is told.
Although it is possible to upgrade components of a computer, overtime you will eventually find yourself having to buy a new computer system. As time goes by, new standards are released or old ones are updated. This means old hardware wont be able to meet the new rules of the standards and wont be able to talk to the new components. Its a bit like modern day man trying to talk to someone in Shakespeare's time. We understand some bits but the rest is confusing!!
Software is a little different... Standards exist but usually exist for different operating systems. Ideally, you would be able to open up any word processed document in any word processing application...but this is not always the case. Sometimes software can be patched (updated) but there can still be some difficulties.
Cost is a major problem for organisations. In order to be successful they need to keep costs down. Other problems include availability of hardware/software for a specific task. Technical Support may not be readily available either.
Cost: – If a purchased computer doesn’t meet standards that you require then upgrading may become expensive. – Sometimes different pieces of hardware are required to work together...if they aren’t compatible then you may incur further costs.
Availability: – Companies will only product hardware/software that is in demand. – If your company needs unusual hardware/software then there may be a lack of supply...this could be costly as limited availability usually means a higher price!
Technical Support: – If hardware/software availability is limited then so might be the technical support. – It costs a lot of money for companies to have technical support for their products...limited supply means that support might be more costly or harder to come by.
It could be said that the consumer is hardest hit by the lack of standards. If we have to upgrade hardware and software because newer versions are compatible with older versions who do you think benefits? The organisation!
They can stop providing support for old products and they can count the pennies as new products are purchased!! It could also be argued that this process drives innovation. – New products have to be designed and need to be made better. – If people are happy with old products would they bother to buy new ones if the old still worked? – Companies would have little encouragement to introduce new products...they would make money through technical support.
If a company takes over another company then this can cause problems for them. They may have internal standards but the two companies may be applying different standards to their systems. This can cause all kinds of problems: – Inability to communicate data between two systems. – Data is able to pass from one system to another but some data may become corrupted and may go unnoticed. – New equipment needs to be purchased. – Some staff may need extra training
Give a definition for the term Hardware and Software, giving an example for both. What is a standard? Describe two effects on a user of having different hardware standards. What are the problems of having different standards? Using web pages as an example, why might different web browsers display websites differently? What are the advantages of a lack of standards for organisations?