By E. C. Coles and D. W. Hill (Auth.)
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Additional info for A Guide to Medical Computing
In a byte-organized computer, the 24 A PROGRAM INSTRUCTION bytes in the store are numbered serially from zero to the maximum in the store (typically tens or hundreds or thousands). Similarly, in a word-organized computer the words are numbered from zero onwards. Each byte or word is called a 'location' and each location has an 'address' within the store. The store may be thought of as being similar to the rows of pigeon holes in a postal sorting office. Each pigeon hole represents a location and each pigeon hole has an address.
001100010010100001001011 The structure of this (hypothetical) 24-bit word computer dictates that the first four bits contain the bit pattern of the code of the function to be performed - in this case 0011 represents the instruction ADD. The next ten bits contain the first address and the final ten bits the second address. It is convenient to represent the bit patterns as decimal integers in the context of this explanation, but it should be remembered that within the computer they are simply patterns of bits whose meaning is totally dependent upon their context.
Writing this pattern from internal to external storage and back again is a simple and rapid procedure. Maintaining files of data is, however, a more complex process. Many file processing systems centre on one or more files whose contents vary from time to time. Keeping the contents of each file sufficiently up to date and accurate for the users of that information requires a system that has three main elements. The first of these is a method of ensuring that any data which are to be written to the file, either to replace data already there or as new records for the file, should be as free from errors as is possible.