by Jayaram V
Most of us by now should be familiar with the basic aspects of a
computer terminology, computer hardware refers to the
physical parts of the computer such as keyboard, monitor, motherboard,
hard drive etc. Computer software refers to the operating system, data
files and application or programming software which provide instructions
to the hardware to perform, essentially, four basic functions: input,
processing, output and storage. Here we focus basically on the computer
hardware and understand how a computer is structured physically.
Computer hardware basically consists of input (keyboard, mouse,
etc.) and output devices (monitor, printer, etc.), and the Central
Processing Unit , which is commonly known as the CPU. Data received by
the Input devices is sent in binary form to the CPU where it is
processed and either stored in a storage device such as hard disk or
sent to the output devices for display or further processing.
Input Output Devices and Ports
The most popular input and out devices are the keyboard and the
monitor. These communicate with the CPU through cables or wireless and
connection points called ports. If you have a computer you can see these
ports located usually on the backside of your computer case. Now a days,
however, it is not uncommon to see them on the front side of a computer
also. Some of the well known ports attached to a computer go by such
names as mouse port, keyboard port, usb ports, parallel port, serial
port, video port, network port etc. As you can see from these names, the
ports connect not only input devices but also output devices to the CPU.
Key Board: What we see now a days are the enhance keyboards
that come in many different shapes, colors and sizes and usually hold
about 102 keys. A keyboard can be attached through a keyboard port or a
usb port to the CPU usually by means of a cable but necessarily as we
have now a days wireless keyboards that can be managed remotely.
Mouse: A mouse is a pointing device whose invention and entry
into the computer world revolutionized the way we interact with the
computer systems. A traditional mouse contains a rotating ball at the
base and some buttons at the top.
The most important output devices are the monitor and the printer. As
said earlier these are connected to the CPU though through cables or
wireless at connecting points on the CPU called ports. Both the monitor
and the printers come in different shapes, sizes and types. The output
devices usually require an independent electric supply.
The Inside World of a Computer Case
If you look inside a computer case (not the empty one I mean) you
will see many parts and a confusing mass of data cables and power cords.
Especially, you should be able to see some of the most important and
widely known parts such as the following:
1. System board or the mother board consisting of the CPU and the accompanying
microchip/s or chipset, a coprocessor (in case of old computers), system
clock, ROM BIOS, Random
Access Memory (RAM), cache memory (optional), flash BIOS, CMOS configuration
chip with its battery, power supply connections, system bus with expansion slots,
jumpers and dip switches and ports. Of these some (CPU, ROM, BIOS etc.)
are replaceable or upgradeable while other are not. The system board is the most complicated part
of a computer hardware where most of the activity takes place. It is
very much like the brain with which all the devices in the computer need
to communicate some how. A system board as the name implies manages the
performance of all other devices that are connected to it either
internally or externally.
2. Depending upon the configuration storage devices such as one or
two floppy drives, one or more hard drives, one ore more CD-ROM/DVD-ROMs,
Zip drive and so on.
3. A power supply that receives electricity from outside and then
supplies it to all the devices inside the case. It usually contains a
cooling fan on the back to protect itself and other computer hardware
from over heating.
4. Circuit boards which enable the CPU to communicate with other
devices both with in and outside the computer case. The circuit boards
contain microchips or integrated circuits, which can be either CMOS
(complimentary metal oxide semiconductor) chips or TTL
(transistor-transistor logic) chips. These chips differ in their
functionality and also the way they use electricity, manage heat and
hold the data. But we won't go into these minor details.
5. Storage devices. The storage devices inside a CPU are either
primary storage devices or secondary storage devices. The primary
storage devices help the CPU to process data or instructions by holding information
temporarily. They are therefore temporary storage devices and the memory
they hold is called volatile memory.
Primary Storage Devices: The most common type of primary
storage devices are the memory chips which can hold either random access
memory (RAM) or cache memory or both. If cache memory is stored on the
system board it is called COAST (cache on a stick).
Secondary Storage Devices: In contrast to primary storage devices,
the data that is stored here is more permanent. that is they can hold
the data even when the computer has been switched off and will remain so
until some external agent or device physically removes the data. Anther
big difference is while the the CPU can process the data residing in the
primary storage devices directly, it cannot do so with the data residing
in the secondary storage devices. For that the data need to be moved to
the primary storage device.
This in brief is the basic configuration of computer hardware. If you are looking for new
computers, computer accessories or refurbished computers use this link.
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