When you mention the word “technology,” most people think about computers. Virtually every aspect of our lives has some computerized component.
The appliances in our homes have microprocessors built into them, as do our televisions. Even our cars have computers. But the computer that everyone thinks of first is typically the personal computer, or PC.
A PC is a general-purpose tool built around a microprocessor. It has lots of different parts including memory, a hard disk, a modem, and more that work together.
“General purpose” means that you can do many different things with a Personal Computer. You can use it to type documents, send e-mail, browse the Internet and play games.
PCs trace their history back to the 1970s. Today, when someone says PC, chances are they mean a machine running on the Microsoft Windows operating system with an x86-compatible microprocessor. While Apple Macintosh computers are technically personal computers, most people wouldn’t call them PCs.
A PC has the following components integrated together to make it function as it does.
Central processing unit (CPU) - The microprocessor “brain” of the computer system is called the central processing unit. It’s a chip that holds a complete computational engine.
It uses assembly language as its native language. Everything that a computer does is overseen by the CPU.
Memory - This is very fast storage used to hold data. It has to be fast because it connects directly to the microprocessor. There are several specific types of memory in a computer:
Random-access memory (RAM) - Used to temporarily store information with which the computer is currently working. Read-only memory (ROM) - A permanent type of memory storage used by the computer for important data that doesn’t change.
Basic input/output system (BIOS) - A type of ROM that is used by the computer to establish basic communication when the computer is first powered on. Caching - The storing of frequently used data in extremely fast RAM that connects directly to the CPU.
Virtual memory - Space on a hard disk used to temporarily store data and swap it in and out of RAM as needed. Flash memory - a solid state storage device, Flash memory requires no moving parts and retains data even after the computer powers off.
Motherboard - This is the main circuit board to which all of the other internal components connect. The CPU and memory are usually on the motherboard.
Other systems may be found directly on the motherboard or connected to it through a secondary connection. For example, a sound card can be built into the motherboard or connected through an expansion slot. Power supply - An electrical transformer regulates the electricity used by the computer.
Hard disk - This is large-capacity permanent storage used to hold information such as programs and documents. Traditional hard drives contain moving parts the drive has platters on which it stores data.
The drive spins the platters to record and read data. But some newer hard drives are flash-based with no moving parts. These drives are called solid-state drives.
Operating system - This is the basic software that allows the user to interface with the computer.
Integrated Drive Electronics (IDE) Controller - This is the primary interface for the hard drive, CD-ROM and floppy disk drive. Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) - This is a very high-speed connection used by the graphics card to interface with the computer.
Sound card - This is used by the computer to record and play audio by converting analog sound into digital information and back again.
Graphics card - This translates image data from the computer into a format that can be displayed by
Some graphics cards have their own powerful processing units (called a GPU graphics processing unit). The GPU can handle operations that normally would require the CPU.
Ports - In computer hardware terms, a port is an interface that allows a computer to communicate with peripheral equipment. Real-time clock - Every PC has a clock containing a vibrating crystal.
By referring to this clock, all the components in a computer can synchronize properly. Complementary Metal-oxide Semiconductor - Cooling systems keep computers from overheating.
There several other parts, we shall look at them next time.