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The Computer: A User’s View

Personal computers have been around for quite a while now. They have moved on from the old Commodore 64. Now people have small laptops in their homes that have the same ability as a mainframe computer from the 80s.


What makes it tick?

PCs and laptops all need similar components to relay information to users. The basic requirements are a central processing unit (CPU), graphics processing unit (GPU), also known as a graphics card or video card, audio processor, and screen so the end result can be viewed. As well as being able to see that result, it needs to understand what is wanted, so a keyboard is there for us to input information.

A detailed look

The motherboard is where all the action takes place. It takes power from the power supply and distributes it to areas that need it, like fans to keep things cool. The motherboard has more than one integrated circuit. It has many, controlling thousands of actions needed to make everything run in unison.

The motherboard controls the communication between all the elements involved. The Central Processing Unit makes millions of computations. Now, this really is the brain of the machine. It takes the information that is given to it, breaks it down to a language that it understands, assembles language, computes that information, decoding and executing instructions, then generates a way for us to see it or hear it by passing it to the Graphics Processing Unit and or audio card. The GPU communicates directly with the display monitor or screen, giving a visual representation. Both the graphics card and audio card may be built into the motherboard’s circuitry; this is known as an integrated chipset, or it can be separate parts connected to the motherboard via a PCI slot.

The central processing unit gets very hot and therefore needs to be kept cool. A cooling system needs to be installed. This can be a high-powered fan that pulls the heat away from the CPU and out of the casing or can even be a water-cooling system.

Importance of Memory

All this information needs to be stored as it is generated, or it will be lost. In comes memory, this comes in two forms RAM (Random Access Memory). This memory stores data as the computer is being used and will lose all that data when the computer is restarted. As we need to have information stored in a way that it can be accessed after restarting the computer, storage drives are required, either a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) or, more recently, Solid State Drive (SSD). The hard disk drive makes a physical disk of the data needed to be stored and is read by a mechanical arm. An SSD has no moving parts, thus making it faster to access as no moving parts need to be activated. An SSD is rather like a sim card.

This is in no way a comprehensive guide to the internal workings of a computer but is meant as a simple, quick overview. 

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