The ICT Lounge
Section 5.3:
Microprocessor-Controlled Devices in the Home

Microprocessors are tiny little computer chips that are used in electronic devices in order to control something.

There are lots and lots of modern devices that we use everyday that are controlled by a microprocessor. These devices affect our lifestyles both positively and negatively.

Use the information provided to fill out the research sheet which can be downloaded from the bottom of this page.

Key Concepts of this section:

Understand what a microprocessor is and what they are used for .
Be able to describe what positive effects microprocessors have on people's lifestyles.
Be able to describe what negative effects microprocessors have on people's lifestyles.

Microprocessor-Controlled Devices
Key Words:
Microprocessor, Control, CPU, Chip.
What is a microprocessor?
A microprocessor is really just a tiny cpu built onto a single chip.

Microprocessors are tiny chips that are used to control devices).
Alarm systems are controlled by microprocessors.
Intelligent ovens help us prepare our food to perfection.
Intelligent fridges keep food at optimum temperatures and help reduce wastage.
We talked about a microprocessor called a CPU in unit 1.

Click this link here to revisit.

Microprocessors are put into electronic devices to control how they function.

Microprocessor controlled devices affect our lives in lots of different ways including in our homes, our leisure time, how we interact socially. They even have an affect on our needs to actually leave our houses.

Examples of typical household devices that contain a microprocessor are listed below:

Computer System:
Your desktop PC or laptop will contain a microprocessor called a CPU (powerful machines will contain more than one).

The CPU controls all the processing that go's on within the computer.

Washing Machines:
Washing machines contain microprocessors to control things like:
  • Water temperature
  • Valves to let water in
  • Valves to let water out.

Alarm Systems:
The microprocessor inside a burglar alarm is used to detect intruders and they also set the alarm off.

Some even contact the police for you automatically.

Heating Systems:
Heating systems use microprocessors to control things like:
  • When the heating is switched on / off
  • Keeping a constant temperature
  • Some can make the temperature different from room to room.

Intelligent Ovens:
The microprocessor inside intelligent ovens can read the barcodes on packaging and then automatically set the temperature and cooking time to the perfect levels.

Intelligent microwaves work in much the same way.

Intelligent Fridges:
Intelligent fridges can read the barcodes on food and determine the 'use by' dates.

Food that is due to good bad is then automatically moved to the front of the fridge so that you use it first.

Some videos:

Here are some links to videos that discuss so of the microprocessor-controlled devices discussed above:
  Smart fridges  

Effects of Microprocessor-Controlled Devices on Leisure Time
Key Words:
Free time, Leisure time, Fitness, Productivity.
Microprocessor-controlled devices allow us to do our daily tasks quicker. This gives us more time for leisure and other things that we might enjoy.

Microprocessors controlled devices are tackling many of our tasks which gives us more free time.
More free time means more leisure time where we can pursue our interests.
Increased leisure time can be spent improving
our fitness .
More free time means more time to relax.
Increased free time can lead to laziness and
decreased fitness if we spend it unwisely.
ICT has given us more leisure time but what we do with it is up to us.

We can spend it wisely and pursue activities or getting fit. We can also waste it by lazing around.
For Example:
We could set the washing machine to wash and then dry our clothes while we read a book or watch a movie.

Other ways in which microprocessors can affect how we spend our leisure time are listed below:

Positive effects of microprocessor-controlled devices on
leisure time:
Increased free time:
Laptops, PDA's, Mobile Phones, IPads etc, allow us to work on the move which means we get to enjoy more free time.

For example: I could complete my work for the evening using a laptop on the train. This means I don't have to do it when I get home.

Increased leisure time:
Microprocessors in household appliances can make sure that the task is completed without you actually being there.

Once you have started the appliance you can go off and sky dive.... or whatever you want.

Increased fitness:
Because microprocessor-controlled devices can reduce the amount of time it takes us to complete our every-day tasks we are left with more free time.

Some people choose to spend some of this extra time in the gym getting fit.

Increased relaxation:
Extra leisure time can be spent watching t.v, surfing the net, listening to music, gaming or other relaxing pastimes.

Increased productivity:
With microprocessor-controlled devices taking care of household chores, people are freed up to tackle more work-related tasks.

For example: A businessperson could email clients while an intelligent oven cooks their dinner to perfection.

Negative effects of microprocessor-controlled devices on leisure time:
When devices do a lot of our tasks for us it is easy to become lazy.

For example: Instead of vacuuming the floor I could let a robotic vacuum do the job while I go sit and eat ice-cream.

Decreased fitness:
Because microprocessor-controlled devices do most of the work for us it means that we are not doing as much hard manual work as we used to.

For example: Before we had washing machines, doing the laundry was actually quite a demanding task. You had to wash the clothes by hand and then hang them on a washing line. Now all we need to do it put them in the machine and press 'go'.

Some videos:

Here are some links to videos that discuss some of the microprocessor-controlled topics discussed above:

Effects of Microprocessor-Controlled Devices on Social Interactions
Key Words:
Interact, Social, Networking, Friend / Family, Isolation.
Microprocessor-controlled devices like computers and mobile phones have made it easier for use to contact and stay in touch with friends and family.

Mobile phones make it easy to interact with people.
Social Networks allow us to message friends/family.
VoIP services offer cheap calls around the world.
Emails can be used to interact and talk to people.
ICT allows the elderly and disabled an easy way to interact with loved ones.
Over-reliance on ICT to interact can lead to social isolation (not having actual physical friendships) .
For Example:
If we want to chat to a friend we can either call/text them on a mobile, skype them, chat on msn or even email.

Microprocessor-controlled devices that make it easy to interact socially include:
Mobile Phones:
Mobile phones allow us many ways in which to interact or chat to friends and family. These ways include:
  • Calling
  • Text / SMS
  • Email facilities
  • Accessing social networking site and interacting there
  • Accessing chat rooms and chatting there
  • Instant messaging
    (E.g. Blackberry Messenger - BBM)

Social Networking Sites:
Social networking sites are growing more and more popular as a way to keep in contact with friends. Facebook alone has 1 billion active users.

These sites have many ways in which you can interact including:
  • Private Messaging
  • Status Updates
  • Commenting on images or statuses

VoIP Services
(like Skype):
Skype is a 'VoIP' (voice over Internet protocol) service which allows you to make very cheap phone calls over the Internet.

Skype is especially useful if you want to talk to someone in another country as the prices are very cheap, no matter how far apart you are.

Good old emails are still sent in their billions. They are quick and easy and allow us to send and receive messages, no matter where we are in the world, at the click of a button.

Emailing can now be carried out on the move thanks to portable devices (like mobile phones, IPads and laptops) and Wi-Fi.

Positive and negative effects of microprocessor-controlled devices on social interaction:
The table below summarises some of the positives and negatives of ICT on how we interact socially:

Positive effects:
Negative effects:
Easy to make new friends in chat-rooms, social networking sites or while playing online computer games.
You don't actually meet people face to face as much. This is known as 'social-isolation'.
Easy to find people with the same interests or hobbies as you in specialist chat-rooms.
Interacting through a computer does not require much physical activity and can lead to health problems like obesity.
Cheap Internet phone calls can be made using VoIP to friends and family all over the world.
Playing games online could mean that children don't take up actual sports.

This could lead to a decrease in the quality of athletes in the future.
Easy to spread the news of social events using social networking.
Old or disabled people can still interact with friends/family without having to leave their homes.

For example: a disabled person who cannot travel to visit loved ones can still interact over Skype or Facebook.

Some videos:

Here are some links to videos that discuss some of the microprocessor-controlled topics discussed above:

Effects of Microprocessor-Controlled Devices on the Need to Leave the House
Key Words:
E-Commerce, Teleworking, Online, Social Isolation.

ICT has progressed to a point where it would be possible to never have to leave your home.
Online stores (like Amazon) offer huge selections of goods that can be delivered to your home.
A computer with an Internet connection allows people to telework (work from home).
Computing devices and the Internet allow us to entertain ourselves without going outside.
Most banking needs can be taken care of online.
The Internet and search engines allow us to carry
out research from home.
People who physically cannot go outside can still manage their daily lives using ICT.
Not leaving the house and a lack of exercise can
cause health problems like obesity.
Many everyday tasks can be carried out at home using microprocessor-controlled devices.

Examples of how microprocessor-controlled devices reduce the need to leave the house are detailed below:

Online Shopping
Goods can be ordered over the Internet and delivered to your house.

Any device that allows you to connect to the Internet can be used to shop online.

Retailers that offer customers the ability to buy items online include:
  • Supermarkets
  • Entertainment businesses (DVD 's, Music, Games)
  • Clothing.

(working from home)

Many people work from home and use ICT to perform tasks and contact clients and colleagues.

Teleworking requires the following equipment:
  • A computer or laptop
  • Internet connection
  • Email facility
  • Videoconferencing software (business meetings be held over the Internet).

We can entertain ourselves very easily using microprocessor devices and the Internet. For example:
  • You Tube (videos, music etc)
  • Gaming
  • Social networking (to chat to friends)
  • Downloading mp3's to listen to
  • Downloading and watching videos
  • Chat rooms.

Online Banking:
Banking can now be carried out online. We can perform all sorts of tasks without actually visiting the bank. These tasks include:
  • Transferring money
  • Viewing statements to track spending
  • Payment of bills
  • Setting up new accounts
  • Applying for loans.

Research can be carried out using a computer with an Internet connection.

For example: we can find the following information online:
  • Bus timetables
  • Shop's opening / closing times
  • Movie showing times
  • Information for a school assignment.

Positive and negative effects of microprocessor controlled devices on the need to leave the house:
The table below summarises some of the positives and negatives of not having to actually leave the house:

Positive effects:
Negative effects:
Elderly or disabled people can still carry out day-to-day tasks such as shopping and paying bills.
Social-isolation can develop for those who don't go out and meet people.
You can find entertainment even if you cannot go outside due to bad weather.
Not leaving the house is bad for you.

A lack of exercise can lead to obesity and other health problems.
You can carry out day-to-day tasks even if you are sick and confined to bed.

Some videos:

Here are some links to videos that discuss some of the topics discussed above:


Click the above task and write-up the required information about how ICT can effect the need to leave the house.


Previous - Effects of ICT on Working Patterns

Links to Theory Units:
Section 4: Networks and the Effects of using them
Section 6: ICT Applications
Section 7: The Systems Life Cycle
Section 8: Safety and Security
Section 9: Audience
Section 10: Communication
Links to Practical Units:
Section 11: File Management
Section 12: Images
Section 13: layout
Section 14: Styles
Section 15: Proofing
Section 16: Graphs and Charts
Section 17: Document Production
Section 18: Data Manipulation
Section 19: Presentations
Section 20: Data Analysis
Section 21: Website Authoring