As new technology gets smaller, cheaper, and capable of new functions, devices like smartphones are becoming more powerful – all thanks to CS.
Apps are essentially software programs: they “understand” certain basic functions, such as sending a text or playing a game, and execute these as they receive your instructions. They’re coded in a variety of programming languages (like Microsoft’s Xamarin), depending on your phone’s new technology operating system (OS) and what the app’s creator was working with. “If you see yourself as imagining what the future might be, coding is where you could help realise it,” says Professor Maurice Pagnucco from the UNSW Sydney.
CS: Computer programs (code)
The phone’s OS (e.g. Android’s Nougat) is its most important software program, as it enables the phone to run and coordinate multiple programs at once. The central processing unit (CPU) executes a few lines of code from each app at a time, and how they’re cycled in and out is determined by the OS.
CS: Software (code)
Another important program is your phone’s voice-activated assistant (e.g. Google Assistant), which translates your words into a digital signal, then uses its vocabulary and language software to recognise the signal and respond.
CS: Software (code)
STAY IN TOUCH
Touchscreens are a capacitive new technology, which means they’re equipped with electronic sensors that register where our electricity-conducting fingers touch the screen. These sensors send a signal to the microprocessor, which works out what you’re asking the phone’s software to do.
CS: Electrical engineering (combining the technology of hardware and microprocessors)
When you make a phone call, the sound waves – your voice – are converted into a digital signal by the phone’s microphone. This signal is transmitted to your friend’s phone, and then converted back to sound by their phone’s speaker.
CS: Hardware (microphone)
Bluetooth technology, in the form of a tiny computer chip and transceiver, uses low-power radio waves (between 2.402 GHz and 2.480 GHz) to connect smartphones with – and send data to – other devices, like a car’s stereo, without using cables.
CS: Computer chips, transceiver
IN THE CLOUDS
The cloud (internet) servers that allow us to access and store music, emails and other data and programs can be divided into two parts: the software interface that we interact with; and the data server storing this information on a remote computer, like at a Google data centre. Once we make a request, the two systems communicate via the internet and enable you to access or download the information.
CS: Distributed computing data storage
A smartphone’s built-in GPS receiver communicates via radio waves with at least three global positioning satellites to pinpoint your location. It then communicates the information to the phone’s software so you can see your location and get directions to your destination.
CS: GPS satellites
– Laura Boness
GIFs via GIPHY
Author: Eliza Brockwell
Eliza is the Digital Producer for Careers with STEM. Eliza is passionate about creating content that encourages diversity of representation in STEM.