Simply Seniors Computer Tutor here.
You know when you sit back and think about it our computers are REALLY amazing! I was thinking about just how amazing they are and thought I would share a Blog on "How a computer works".
This information is not overly 'techie' but it does include a minimum amount of geek speak. So with that I will attempt to explain in easy to understand terms whenever possible.
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The brain of the computer is called the Central Processing Unit (CPU). It is located inside the main box on a printed electric circuit called a Motherboard; it is a 'micro-chip', a piece of ceramic-like material that has billions of microscopic electrical connections etched onto it. Any form of information (words, pictures, sounds, numbers) can be converted to electric signals that are 'input' to the chip. The electric connections on the chip allow these signals to be compared to one another and combined with one another according to a 'program' that 'processes' or manipulates the information into a new form, which becomes the 'output' electric signal from the chip. Everything else in a computer is designed to take human information and convert it to the input electric signals for the chip, or to take the chip's output signals and convert them back to a form that humans can recognize. These other components are called 'peripherals', or just input and output devices.
What you see when you look at a typical computer workstation is: OR (The parts of the computer)
a Monitor -- looks like and basically is a TV screen and controls (today these are very streamlined, in the past they were very large and heavy like TVs and took up a lot of desk space).
- a Keyboard -- like a typewriter but with many useful extra keys
- a Mouse -- a palm-size gadget that rolls on a ball and has buttons on it
- a Printer -- inkjet or laser-xerox miniature printing machine a microphone and speakers --(of course not every computer has a printer but it's just as common as having speakers so I have included it here)
- a pair of stereo Speakers (also sometimes a Microphone to speak into)
- a miniature TV camera -- (possibly arched to your computer or bought as an extra, many new laptops come with this 'web cam' built into the LCD screen.
the BOX -- (also called your tower, or to most 'the actual computer' ) contains the CPU microchip and all the really important components.
So then, what are the 'important' tiny little pieces inside the tower?
On the Front of the box:
- On/Off switch (sometimes on the side)
- Reset button -- only on some machines
- Floppy-disk Drive -- you put in a square disk that contains information
- CD-ROM drive -- you put in a digital CD platter that contains a lot of information
- USB ports
- Card reading ports (on some new models)
- Other ports (places to plug stuff into) are located on laptops - standard to laptops but different from desktops.
- On/off light, Hard Disk Operating light, miscellaneous lights and buttons
Inside the Box.
What you see on the front is just the opening slot of the actual drives. A 'drive' is a storage device. In addition to the CPU chip and the input and output devices, computers need places to store information either temporarily or more permanently (for reuse later), the short-term storage is called RAM (random-access memory) and is expensive. For longterm storage various kinds of disks are used; like CDs. The drives read the information off these storage media and pass it on to the CPU; some drives can also write new information onto the disk or CD or other media.
- The CPU and RAM memory chips on the 'motherboard'
- The HARD DRIVE -- the main longterm storage system for programs and info
- The Disk and CD/DVD-ROM drives -- the main part of them is inside the box
- The specialized 'Boards' -- these run the input and output devices
- The Modem -- one of the boards; connects to the telephone line
- Network Card (aka Ethernet Card) -- another board, connects to the LAN (see below)
- Video Card -- connects to the monitor and mother board
- An electic power supply, battery, and a lot of connecting cables called ribbon cables, SATA and more...
Every input device and output device is connected first to a specialized Board that has its own microchip to convert signals and pass them on to the CPU (on the main or Mother Board).
On the back of the Box. This is where all the input/output peripherals are connected to the Box, and the Box is connected to the electric outlet, the telephone system (for a modem), and the local area computer network (LAN) cable system. There are a lot of confusing cables back here. Sometimes they come lose. The specialized Boards (cards) stick out the back slightly, just like the drives stick out the front slightly. The Boards have connector sockets called Ports where the keyboard, mouse, printer, monitor, etc. are supposed to be plugged in.
The Operating System
The operating system is the master program that runs the computer behind the scenes while you work. It translates your instructions into actions by the machine. It also heads off conflicts between one part of the machine and another, making them all take turns. The most common operating systems are Windows, MacOS, and Unix. DOS is an older system that is now a small part of Windows.
So, what does happen when you hit the power button on your computer? The power supply gives power to the motherboard. The software connected to the processing chip, the BIOS goes through the task of checking all of the hardware components. If new hardware has been added since the last time you ran the computer, it can pick on that also and install the right type of drivers for the component. The BIOS* then starts loading all of the necessary components, such as the video card, sound card, keyboard, mouse and RAM before it initializes the operating system. It allows the operating system to take over once your computer passes the necessary amount of hardware and software checks.
The operating system has it own sets of tests and things to load before you are reading to start playing on the computer. It manages the processor, memory, devices, storage and other applications. Whenever you open another instance of software, such as Word or Internet Explorer, it is the operating system that checks for the program and loads it from memory.
From there your operating system provides your other software programs and you are able to progress as you normally would. Remember, while you are typing that email or shopping online, there are a lot of components inside the computer making it possible. Now I wanted more information on the BIOS and I have researched that for you so you can understand what it is as it is spoke about in the tech world but not ever explained to the average computer user.
How BIOS Works: From www.howstuffworks.com
One of the most common uses of Flash memory is for the basic input/output system of your computer, commonly known as the BIOS (pronounced "bye-ose"). On virtually every computer available, the BIOS makes sure all the other chips, hard drives, ports and CPU function together.
Every desktop and laptop computer in common use today contains a microprocessor as its central processing unit. The microprocessor is the hardware component. To get its work done, the microprocessor executes a set of instructions known as software. You are probably very familiar with two different types of software:
The operating system - The operating system provides a set of services for the applications running on your computer, and it also provides the fundamental user interface for your computer. Windows 98 and Linux are examples of operating systems.
The applications - Applications are pieces of software that are programmed to perform specific tasks. On your computer right now you probably have a browser application, a word processing application, an e-mail application and so on. You can also buy new applications and install them.
It turns out that the BIOS is the third type of software your computer needs to operate successfully.
I learned that I can tell you alot more about the BIOS but it really isn't necessary. Knowing that it is an important piece of software that acts like the glue of the computer making all of the parts work as one.
I hope you find all of this information as geekishly fun as I do! Thanks for reading the blog - I am always looking for topics so feel free to comment!
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