Effect of ICT on Patterns of Employment

The personal computer (PC) was developed in the early 1980s. Before this date, computers were huge, expensive machines that only a few, large businesses owned. Now PCs are found on almost every desk in every office, all over the world.

Because companies now have access to so much cheap, reliable computing power, they have changed the way they are organised and the way they operate. As a result, many people’s jobs have changed...

Areas of Decreased Employment

Some jobs have been lost as a result of computers being used to do the same work that people used to do.
Some examples of areas have suffered job losses:
Many factories now have fully automated production lines. Instead of using people to build things, computer-controlled robots are used.

Robots can run day and night, never needing a break, and don’t need to be paid! (Although the robots cost a lot to purchase, in the long-term the factory saves money.)
Secretarial Work
Offices used to employee many secretaries to produce the documents required for the business to run.

Now people have personal computers, they tend to type and print their own documents.
Accounting Clerks
Companies once had large departments full of people whose job it was to do calculations (e.g. profit, loss, billing, etc.)

A personal computer running a spreadsheet can now do the same work.
Newspaper Printing
It used to take a team of highly skilled printers to typeset (layout) a newspaper page and to then print thousands of newspapers.

The same task can now be performed far more quickly using computers with DTP software and computer-controlled printing presses.
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Areas of Increased Employment

Although many employment areas have suffered job losses, other areas have grown and jobs have been created.

Sometimes people who have lost their old job have been able to re-train and get a new job in one of these growth areas.

Some examples of areas where jobs have been created:
IT Technicians
All of the computers in a business need to be maintained: hardware fixed, software installed, etc.

IT technicians do this work.
Computer Programmers
All of the software that is now used by businesses has to be created by computer programmers.

Hundreds of thousands of people are now employed in the 'software industry'
Web Designers
Much of modern business is conducted on-line, and company websites are very important.

Company websites need to be designed and built which is the role of web designers.
Help-Desk Staff
People often need help using computers, and software applications.

Computer and software company have help-desks staffed by trained operators who can give advice.
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Computerising the Workplace - Good or Bad?

As you have seen above, many jobs have changed over the past 30 years. But overall, is this a good thing, or a bad thing? It depends who you ask of course - If someone has lost their job because the work is now being done by a computer, that person will probably see it as a bad thing!

But, on the whole, the computerisation of repetitive, menial tasks (such as working on a factory production line, or calculating endless financial results) has freed people to do more pleasant, less dangerous jobs.

There are downsides though. Many people can now access their office network from home via The Internet. This means they can work from home (remote working) which sounds pretty nice. However it often results in people working longer hours and missing out on home life.
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Microprocessor-Controlled Devices in the Home

What is a Microprocessor?

A microprocessor is a small CPU built into a single 'chip' (see right).

Very powerful microprocessors can be found in PCs (the Core 2 Quad processor made by Intel is one example) but smaller, less powerful microprocessors can be found in many everyday devices in our homes.

Typically, a special type of microprocessor, called a microcontroller, is used in everyday devices.

In a single ‘chip’, a microcontroller contains:
  • A CPU
  • Some RAM
  • Some ROM (Used for storing the devices software)
Often microcontrollers also contain ADCs and DACs to allow easy connection to devices such as sensors and actuators.

(For more information about computer control systems, sensors and actuators, here).

Examples of Microprocessor-Controlled Devices

Many of the electronic devices that we use contain a microprocessor...

Some devices are used for entertainment:
  • Games consoles
  • DVD players
  • MP3 players
Some devices help to make our lives easier (labour-saving devices):
  • Programmable microwave ovens
  • Programmable washing machines
  • Home security systems
  • Mobile telephones
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When people talk about computer 'chips' they are referring to the little, black, square devices that you can see stuck to computer circuit boards.

Inside these lumps of black plastic are tiny electronic circuits that are built on slices (or 'chips') of a special substance called a semiconductor.

In the image above, the 'chip' has been revealed by taking the black plastic off of the top.

These miniature circuits can contain millions of tiny parts called transistors (you would need a very powerful microscope to see one of the transistors)

These computer chips have revolutionised our world. They have enabled us to pack huge amounts of computing power into tiny devices such as mobile phones.

The Effect of These Devices on Our Lives

Look at the list of devices above. Now try to imagine living without them - washing your clothes by hand! Life would be a lot tougher.

Microprocessor-controlled devices mean that we have more leisure time to relax and enjoy ourselves instead of doing household chores.

We are able to communicate with people very easily using computers, mobile phones, etc. We can become part of online social networks, making friends with people from all over the world.

Computers and Internet connections mean that many of the tasks that involved us leaving the house, for example, shopping for music, clothes or food, can now be done on-line.

Online shopping gives us more choice of products and saves us time. It is also great from those who are unable to get out of the house easily, such as the elderly, or the disabled.
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