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Definition: data processing

(1) The first name given to the IT industry. From the early 1900s to the 1960s, data processing meant tabulating machines and punch card processing. Thereafter, it referred to computer processing. By the 1980s, the industry title changed to management information systems (MIS) or information systems (IS) and then to the information technology (IT) of today. See punch card.

(2) Processing data, which includes text, images, audio and video. The term may refer to business processing (update orders, compute totals, etc.) or multimedia processing (encode/decode A/V frames). The most complex forms of data processing include quantum computing, AI and crypto.

Data and Processing - That's All There Is!
As simple as it may sound, essentially every action that takes place in the high-tech world is some form of data and some form of processing that views the data or changes the data in some manner (see 3 C's). See data, information, preprocessing and information processing cycle.

To the Computer, It's All Bits and Bytes
All data, no matter the format, are nothing more than bits and bytes to the computer. See data, bit, binary and file.

Data Processing for Nearly a Century
From the end of the 19th century to the mid-1980s, data processing meant punching holes in cards and running them through a variety of "electronic accounting machines." See punch card and Hollerith machine. (Image courtesy of IBM.)