In this lesson, we take a look at the different components of a computer system.
After this lesson, you will be able to:
Estimated lesson time: 10 minutes
- Define the primary components that make up a computer.
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.
|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.
|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.
|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.|
Some devices handle both input and output functions. These devices are called input/output (I/O) devices, a term you will encounter quite often.
|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.|
The following points summarize the main elements of this lesson: