Digital Technology

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This is lesson 1 of 36 lessons on Creative Mathematics.

This first lesson places the digital revolution into context. You will learn how and why digital technology has made such a big impact on society, how information is encoded in binary (ones and zeros), and how data is transmitted and decoded. You will discover the different forms data take and understand the impact of the digital revolution globally, for example in the developing world in aloowing cheap communication and the spreading of news. You will experiment with sending a message using flashlights across a room and decoding it at the other end. The analogy will be made to how data is transmitted in real situations. 

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Do you know the different physical forms that data take?  It could be the sound of your voice sent across a mobile phone network, a video clip, a banking transaction, and so on. The information can be sent in different ways, for example by radio waves or microwaves through the atmosphere (mobile phone, radio broadcast) or pulses of light through optic fibres (in fibre optic broadband) or electrical pulses through a cable (in a LAN cable for example). In earlier times, Morse code was used to send telegraphs. Here is one sent from the Titanic.

The first attempts at connecting the USA to Ireland by telegraph cable was in the 1850s. There’s an exhibition on this at the Science Museum. There were major difficulties encountered in sending a signal such a long way or in laying the cable in the first place. 

Here are some examples of sending data in one form or another.

  1. Emailing a photograph
  2. Making a telephone call
  3. Sending a WhatsApp message
  4. Using a bank machine to withdraw money
  5. Sending a text message (an SMS)


Some vocabulary

ASCII: A universal coding system used for computer communications.

binary: A base-two number system that uses only 1s and 0s. It is the system used to store data in computer memories like RAM and ROM.

decoder: A device that converts the encoded data back to the original message.

destination: The position of the object or person receiving the signal or message.

encoder: A device that converts a message/signal into a code to prepare it for transmission. Therefore it is usually coupled with a transmitter.

encryption: The process of converting a message into a code.

retrieval: The third stage in data transmission (after encoding and storage) where stored information is accessed from the memory storage device.

storage: Any electronic device that stores data received making it accessible to the user.

The lesson will ionvolve two groups of students sending a message across the room using flasdhlight. Thjrough this analogy of a dfigital system, they will learn the concepts of computing.


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