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G-11-ICT Lesson 3: System and Its Characteristics

What is a System?

The term ‘system’ is derived from the Greek word ‘system’ (to combine), which means an organized relationship among functioning units or components.

A system is a group of interacting or interrelated entities that form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its boundaries, structure and purpose and expressed in its functioning.

A system is an interrelated set of components with an identifiable boundary working together for some purpose.

A computer system refers to the hardware & software components that run a computer or computers and data & people that interact with the computer.

An information system is a system that collects, processes and stores data.

Characteristics of A System

A system has nine characteristics.

System Characteristics
Figure 1: System Characteristics

#1. Components:

  • A system is made up of components.
  • A component is either an irreducible part or an aggregate of parts, also known as a subsystem.

#2. Interrelated components:

  • The components are interrelated, that is, the function of one component is somehow tied to the functions of the other components.

#3. A boundary:

  • A system has a boundary within which all of its components are contained
  • Boundary separates temporarily one component from the other

#4. A purpose:

  • the system’s main reason for existing
  • all components work together to achieve common goal

#5. An environment:

  • Anything outside the system interacts and affects the system

#6. Interfaces:

  • the points at which the system meets its environment are known as interfaces
  • there are also interfaces between subsystems.
  • Functions of the Interface
    • Security protecting the system from undesirable elements that may want to infiltrate it;
    • Filtering unwanted data, both the elements leaving the system and entering it;
    • Coding and decoding incoming and outgoing messages;
    • Detecting and correcting errors in its interaction with the environment;
    • Buffering, providing a layer of slack between the system and its environment, so that the system and its environment can work on different cycles and at different speeds;
    • Summarizing raw data and transforming them into the level of detail and format required throughout the system (for an input interface) or in the environment (for an output interface).

#7. Input:

  • A system takes input from its environment in order to function. A system cannot function properly if inputs are inaccurate or faulty.

#8. Output:

  • Finally, a system returns output to its environment as a result to its functioning and thus achieves its purpose.

#9. Constraints:

  • A system must face constraints/limitations in its functioning because there are limits (in terms of capacity, speed, or capabilities) to what it can do and how it can achieve its purpose within its environment.