Deep in the heart of town, hidden away in a shady street, is a RAID 5-star hotel called Hotel Network. Very few understand how this place runs or makes money.
A few curious detectives looked for clues in the documents, receipts, or any pieces of paper they could find that managed to leave the hotel. Every single one of them contained lines of 0s and 1s, nothing else!
What did these numbers mean?
Everything in computing is 0s and 1s. Imagine a soda stream flowing through a pipe – a mix of water (0) and carbon dioxide (1). This is data.
It can stay in one place, like a soda lake, or be moving, like a soda river.
The detectives assumed that the 0s and 1s were information of some kind. Technically, they were incorrect.
The 0s and 1s is just data. When it makes sense, it will become information. That’s the difference between raw data and information.
Hotel Network was notorious for not using phones or email. Everything was on paper, in 1s and 0s. Sometimes the 0s and 1s were on small scraps of paper. Sometimes the detectives found large sheets of paper with 0s and 1s written from end to end.
It was evident that the size of the paper corresponded to the information written on it.
This paper is called a File in computer terminology. A file can contain raw data. If you know what that data means, the file then contains information. Whatever floats your boat.
It was clear to the dumbest detective in town that there must be a system or set of rules to govern the way in which 0s and 1s were written, quite similar to the rules of grammar and spelling that govern language.
Depending on what the information is, the way in which it is written might change. E.g., one file might be a phone number in lipstick, another might be pink slip, or a bill for an extravagant meal, and yet another might be a tourism brochure promising clean blue water in dirt creek.
It’s almost like using the alphabet from one language, like English, e.g., to write in many languages. This is called a File System.
Without knowing the rules that govern each file system, it is almost impossible to gather what the 0s and 1s mean. Only those who know the rules can make sense of it. If a file falls in the wrong hands, its information is safe.
A data file is an organized collection of data. It could be a shopping list, a telephone directory, a photograph, an encyclopaedia or even the whole internet downloaded into a .txt file.
The size of the paper is the file size.
Each 0 or 1 is a bit. Eight bits make a byte. If bits are letters then bytes are words. The size of a file is traditionally measured in bytes.
What if the file contains data that is not just information, but a set of instructions to do something?
On one scrap of paper, investigators were able to gather that it contained a set of instructions on how to prepare a hamburger – a recipe!
Similar scraps were found in various paper sizes – depending on the complexity of the instructions.
A file ‘scrap’ with a set of instructions is called Code. A code is meant to be executed – no, not killed, but done. In other words, it’s a to-do list.
The person reading the file that contains code is meant to follow the instructions in the file.
Investigators also found code in gold-embossed paper in wooden handmade frames behind protective glass. To the casual observer they automatically screamed: “I’m precious! Look at me! I’m important!”
Obviously, they paid more attention to code that called attention to itself. This kind of code is called Software. Wares are what you sell in a marketplace. Code that is intended to be sold is called software.
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With so many files flying around Hotel Network, it was a miracle they got anything done at all. The detectives were stumped until someone pointed out one crucial fact:
Every piece of code had the same person’s fingerprints! This person was obviously very important, and he or she probably knew everything there was to know about the hotel.
If only they could find this person!
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