Lesson 2: Components of a Computer

[Previous] [Next]

In this lesson, we take a look at the different components of a computer system.

After this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Define the primary components that make up a computer.
Estimated lesson time: 10 minutes

As you might expect, the components of a computer reflect the function of the machine—specifically, the three stages of computing, as outlined in Lesson 1. Let's examine the components.


The following table lists the devices that are used to put information into the machine.

  Device Description
Keyboard The primary input device for a computer.
Mouse Used with graphical interface environments to point and select objects on the system's monitor. Can be purchased in a variety of sizes, shapes, and configurations.
Scanner Converts printed or photographic informa- tion to digital information that can be used by the computer. Works similarly to the scanning process of a photocopy machine.
Microphone Works like the microphone on a tape recorder. Allows input of voice or music to be converted to digital information and saved to a file.
CD-ROM Compact disc-read only memory: stores large amounts of data on a compact disc that can be read by a computer.


The CPU (central processing unit) is the heart and brain of the computer. This one component or "chip" is responsible for all the number crunching and data management. It is truly the centerpiece of any computer. It is so important that whole generations of computer technology are based and measured on each "new and improved" version of the CPU.

When we refer to the CPU, we are usually speaking of the processor. But the CPU also encompasses several other components that support it with the management of data. These components, when working in harmony, make up the computer we know today. The following table lists these components.

  Component Description
Motherboard The large circuit board found inside the computer. Without it, a computer is just a metal box. The motherboard contains all the remaining items in this table; for all practical purposes, it is the computer.
Chip set A group of computer chips or integrated circuits (ICs) that, when working together, manage and control the computer system. This set includes the CPU and other chips that control the flow of data throughout the system.
Data bus A group of parallel conductors (circuit traces) found on the motherboard and used by the CPU to send and receive data from all the devices in the computer.
Address bus A group of parallel conductors (circuit traces) found on the motherboard and used by the CPU to "address" memory locations. Determines which information is sent to, or received from, the data bus.
Expansion slots Specialized sockets that allow additional devices called expansion cards or, less commonly, circuit boards to be attached to the motherboard. Used to expand or customize a computer, they are extensions of the computer's bus system.
Clock Establishes the maximum speed at which the processor can execute commands. Not to be confused with the clock that keeps the date and time.
Battery Protects unique information about the setup of the computer against loss when electrical power fails or is turned off. Also maintains the external date and time (not to be confused with the CPU's clock).
Memory Stores temporary information (in the form of data bits) that the CPU and software need to keep running.


The following table lists some common devices, known as peripherals, used exclusively for output.

  Device Description
Printer Generates a "hard copy" of information.
Monitor The primary output device. Visually displays text and graphics.
Plotter Similar to a printer, but uses pens to draw an image. Most often used with graphics or drawing programs.
Speakers Reproduce sound. Optional high-quality speakers can be added to provide improved output from games and multimedia software.

Input and Output

Some devices handle both input and output functions. These devices are called input/output (I/O) devices, a term you will encounter quite often.

  Device Description
Floppy-disk drive Mechanism to read and write to low-capacity, removable, magnetic disks. Used to store and easily transport information.
Hard-disk drive High-capacity internal (and sometimes external) magnetic disks for storing data and program files. Also called fixed disks.
Modem Converts computer data to information that can be transmitted over telephone wires and cable lines. Allows communication between computers over long and short distances.
Network card An expansion card that allows several computers to connect to each other and share information and programs. Also called network interface card (NIC).
CD recorder Also called CD/R. You can create a CD with this device, but you can only write to a section of the disc once. Variations on this type of device include CD-RW (CD Read/Write) drives. These products allow you to read, write, and overwrite a special CD-ROM-type disc.
Tape drive Large-capacity, magnetic, data-storage devices. Ideal for backup and retrieval of large amounts of data. Works like a tape recorder and saves information in a linear format.

Lesson Summary

The following points summarize the main elements of this lesson:

  • All computer hardware can be classified by primary function (input, processing, or output).
  • Some hardware devices combine multiple functions (input and output).
  • Some hardware devices, such as network and modem cards, expand the communication abilities of a computer.
  • Data-storage capabilities have been increased with the use of CD-ROM and CD/R.

Microsoft Corporation - A+ Certification Training Kit
Microsoft Corporation - A+ Certification Training Kit
Year: 2000
Pages: 127

flylib.com © 2008-2017.
If you may any questions please contact us: flylib@qtcs.net