Information technology includes all the tools that we use to create, find, store, change, transmit and present information.
Ever since early humans first created and shared ideas, through such things as cave paintings or telling stories, information has played an important part in our lives. In the modern world, it is even more important.
The invention of written languages allowed people to start recording history, among other things. The invention of pens and paper improved things further and allowed people to send messages over great distances. Eventually, people started to create books. At first, these were written by hand.
The next important development in information technology was the invention of printing. Printed books and newspapers allowed writers to share ideas and information with much more people than before.
Many new developments, in the 20th and 21st centuries especially, have completely transformed the way we work, learn and play. The discovery of electricity made it possible for inventions such as the telegraph, morse code, telephones, radio and television. These meant that people could find and share information much more easily and over greater distances.
It is easy to forget how much these inventions affect our everyday lives. For example, even though you might not have seen an African lion in real life, you have probably got a very good idea what one looks like. You will have seen lions on television, in film or in books. Think what it was like for artists working in 12th-century Europe. When they were asked to paint lions, they had no idea what these animals looked like. They had to find someone who had seen one, or who knew someone who had seen one, and asks them what a lion looked like. Or they had to copy from a painting done by someone else who had never seen one. It is no surprise that they painted some very strange-looking lions. Today you will have stored many thousands of pictures and ideas in your brain without even realizing it. Information technology has provided you with so much more knowledge than people had just a few centuries ago.
THE INFORMATION REVOLUTION
Information technology has led to so much change in the past 20 to 30 years that people sometimes call it the Information Revolution.
Computers have completely changed the world of information. Computers began as mechanical machines for carrying out calculations. When electricity was introduced better calculating machines were possible. Electronic computers started in the 1940s. These have improved in leaps and bounds since. Developments in electronics mean that computers have become ever smaller, more powerful and cheaper. Now, computers process information in many areas of our lives.
In developed countries, most people’s jobs now involve information technology in some way. Even people who do not work in the computer industry itself use them in their jobs. Supermarkets and many other shops use computerized tills to track exactly what is sold so that they can restock popular items. Car mechanics can use computers to diagnose engine faults. Factories use computerized robots. Musicians compose songs with computers. You can probably think of many more examples.
WHAT IS INFORMATION?
If information technology processes information, what do we really mean by information? Information includes many things, such as words, numbers, sound, pictures and video.
Computers can store all these things and can change them, copy them or send them to other people.
You can use desktop publishing (DTP) to put together words and pictures and produce a magazine or newspaper. You can edit video and add special effects or edit sound.
The Internet has had a big effect on information technology. Although it was invented in the 1970s, it did not really take off until the 1990s. The Internet lets any computer in the world communicate with any other computer, no matter where it is. This means that people can share information very quickly and easily. You can use it to look up information. You can do your shopping or banking via the Internet. You can use it for learning. Some people can work at home by connecting their home computer to one at their workplace.