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How Does A Computer Work? Photo KnowInsiders

Computers work thanks to a series of hardware devices that are closely interconnected. When looking at a computer from the outside, the basic parts are the system case, which may be a tower for a desktop machine or the body of a laptop; the monitor; and the keyboard.

A mouse or trackpad may or may not be essential to the functioning of a computer, depending on the type and model. Many computers also have a CD or other disc drive in the case.

What is a computer?

Photo easytechjunkie
Photo easytechjunkie

A computer is a machine composed of hardware and software components. A computer receives data through an input unit based on the instructions it is given and after it processes the data, it sends it back through an output device. How does this come together to make the computer work?

The input devices of a computer can depend on the type of computer we are dealing with but most typically we will find a mouse, keyboard, scanner or even applications (software) installed on the computer. Once the data has been received, the central processing unit (CPU) along with the help of other components, takes over and processes the information it was given. Once the data is ready, it will be sent back through an output device which can be a monitor, speaker, printer, ports, etc.

When Was The First Computer Invented and Who Invented? When Was The First Computer Invented and Who Invented?

The computer is a modern device and popular nowadays! But, have you ever thought about when was the first computer invented and who invented it.

What do computer components consist of?

Photo makeuseof
Photo makeuseof

Here are the main components of a computer:

CPU – or Central Processing Unit is considered the most important component in a computer and for good reason. It handles most operations that make it function, by processing instructions and giving signals out to other components. The CPU is the main bridge between all the computer’s major parts.

RAM – Random Access Memory, or RAM for short, is a computer component where data used by the operating system and software applications store data so that the CPU can process them quickly. Everything stored on RAM is lost if the computer is shut off. Depending on the applications you use, there is typically a maximum limit of RAM you will need for the computer to function properly.

HDD – Also known as Hard Disk Drive, it is the component where photos, apps, documents and such are kept. Although they are still being used, we have much faster types of storage devices such as solid state drives (SSD) that are also more reliable.

Motherboard – There is no acronym for this component but without it, there can’t be a computer. The Motherboard acts as the home for all other components, allows them to communicate with each other and gives them power in order to function. There are components that don’t require a physical connection to the Motherboard in order to work, such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi but, if there is no connection or signal what so ever, the computer won’t know it’s there.

Video and Sound Cards – Two components which help the user interact with the computer. Although one can use a computer with a missing sound card, it’s not really possible to use it without a video card. The sound card is used mainly to play sound through a speaker. However, a video card is used to send images on the screen. Without it, it would be like looking at an empty monitor.

Network adapter – Even though it is not actually required to operate the computer, the Network adapter improves the user’s experience as it provides access to the internet. Modern computers with operating systems such as Windows 10 will not offer the user all of its features without an Internet connection.

What is the difference between a laptop and computer?

While both laptops and computers fall under the category of personal computers, they look quite different. A computer is an enclosed device with an attached video screen, keyboard and some type of pointing device (i.e a mouse). Laptops are not only portable, but are smaller and lighter, making them a better choice for many people for work and school.

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What is a computer program?

As you can read in our long article on computer history, the first computers were gigantic calculating machines and all they ever really did was "crunch numbers": solve lengthy, difficult, or tedious mathematical problems. Today, computers work on a much wider variety of problems—but they are all still, essentially, calculations. Everything a computer does, from helping you to edit a photograph you've taken with a digital camera to displaying a web page, involves manipulating numbers in one way or another.

LCD calculator sitting on a laptop keyboard

Photo: Calculators and computers are very similar, because both work by processing numbers. However, a calculator simply figures out the results of calculations; and that's all it ever does. A computer stores complex sets of instructions called programs and uses them to do much more interesting things.

Suppose you're looking at a digital photo you just taken in a paint or photo-editing program and you decide you want a mirror image of it (in other words, flip it from left to right). You probably know that the photo is made up of millions of individual pixels (colored squares) arranged in a grid pattern. The computer stores each pixel as a number, so taking a digital photo is really like an instant, orderly exercise in painting by numbers! To flip a digital photo, the computer simply reverses the sequence of numbers so they run from right to left instead of left to right. Or suppose you want to make the photograph brighter. All you have to do is slide the little "brightness" icon. The computer then works through all the pixels, increasing the brightness value for each one by, say, 10 percent to make the entire image brighter. So, once again, the problem boils down to numbers and calculations.

What makes a computer different from a calculator is that it can work all by itself. You just give it your instructions (called a program) and off it goes, performing a long and complex series of operations all by itself. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, if you wanted a home computer to do almost anything at all, you had to write your own little program to do it. For example, before you could write a letter on a computer, you had to write a program that would read the letters you typed on the keyboard, store them in the memory, and display them on the screen. Writing the program usually took more time than doing whatever it was that you had originally wanted to do (writing the letter). Pretty soon, people started selling programs like word processors to save you the need to write programs yourself.
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What's the difference between hardware and software?

Photo software

The beauty of a computer is that it can run a word-processing program one minute—and then a photo-editing program five seconds later. In other words, although we don't really think of it this way, the computer can be reprogrammed as many times as you like. This is why programs are also called software. They're "soft" in the sense that they are not fixed: they can be changed easily. By contrast, a computer's hardware—the bits and pieces from which it is made (and the peripherals, like the mouse and printer, you plug into it)—is pretty much fixed when you buy it off the shelf. The hardware is what makes your computer powerful; the ability to run different software is what makes it flexible. That computers can do so many different jobs is what makes them so useful—and that's why millions of us can no longer live without them!

After a PC boots, you can control it through an operating system, or OS for short. As of this writing, most non-Apple PCs run a version of Microsoft Windows or a Linux distribution. These operating systems are designed to run on various kinds of PC hardware, while Mac OS X is designed primarily for Apple hardware.

An operating system is responsible for several tasks. These tasks fall into the following broad categories:

Processor management -- breaks down the processor's work into manageable chunks and prioritizes them before sending them to the CPU.

Memory management -- coordinates the flow of data in and out of RAM, and determines when to use virtual memory on the hard disk to supplement an insufficient amount of RAM.

Device management -- provides a software-based interface between the computer's internal components and each device connected to the computer. Examples include interpreting keyboard or mouse input or adjusting graphics data to the right screen resolution. Network interfaces, including managing your Internet connection, also fall into the device management bucket.

Storage management -- directs where data should be stored permanently on hard drives, solid state drives, USB drives and other forms of storage. For example, storage management tasks assist when creating, reading, editing, moving, copying and deleting documents.

Application interface -- provides data exchange between software programs and the PC. An application must be programmed to work with the application interface for the operating system you're using. Applications are often designed for specific versions of an OS, too. You'll see this in the application's requirements with phrases like "Windows Vista or later," or "only works on 64-bit operating systems."

User interface (UI) - provides a way for you to interact with the computer.

READ MORE: 45 Basic but Essential Shortcuts on Computer Keyboards

How Does a Computer Work?

Illustrative photo
Illustrative photo

A computer processes the input to produce the desired output, but how does a machine outperform the human brain?

Conventional computers don't try to mimic the human brain. Instead, they run commands sequentially, with data constantly moving from input and memory to the device's processor. Neuromorphic computers, on the other hand, process data at the same time, making them faster, energy-efficient, and closer to the structure of the human brain.

Overall, a computer works in four steps

1.Input: Input is the data before processing. It comes from the mouse, keyboard, microphone, and other external sensors.

2.Storage: The storage is how the computer retains input data. The hard drive is used for long-term and mass data storage while the data set for immediate processing is stored temporarily in the Random Access Memory (RAM).

3.Processing: Processing is where input gets transformed into output. The computer's Central Processing Unit (CPU) is its brain. It's responsible for executing instructions and performing mathematical operations on the input data.

4.Output: Output is the final result of data processing. It can be anything from images, video, or audio content, even the words you type using a keyboard. You can also receive the output through a printer or a projector instead of directly through your device.

The Future of PCs

Since the first PC hit the market, newer and better models have made older models obsolete within months of production. Drive technologies like SATA replaced IDE, and PCI expansion slots replaced ISA and EISA. The most prominent gauge for technological progress in a PC, though, is its CPU and the microprocessor within that CPU.

Silicon microprocessors have been the heart of the computing world since the 1950s. During that time, microprocessor manufacturers have crammed more transistors and enhancements onto microprocessors. In 1965, Intel founder Gordon Moore predicted that microprocessors would double in complexity every two years. Since then, that complexity has doubled every 18 months, and industry experts dubbed the prediction Moore's Law. Many experts have predicted that Moore's Law will reach an end soon because of the physical limitations of silicon microprocessors.

As of this writing, though, processors' transistor capacities continue to rise. This is because chip manufacturers are constantly finding new ways to etch transistors onto the silicon. The tiny transistors are now measured in nanometers, which is one billionth of a meter. Atoms themselves are approximately 0.5 nm, and the most current production processes for microprocessors can produce transistors that measure 45 nm or 32 nm. The smaller that number goes, the more transistors will fit onto a chip and, thus, the more processing power the chip is capable of. As of May 2011, Intel was working on a 22-nm manufacturing process, code-named Ivy Bridge, which uses transistors with an energy-conserving design called Tri-Gate [sources: BBC, Intel].

So what happens when we reach the end of Moore's Law? A new means of processing data could ensure that progress continues. Potential successors are those that prove to be a more powerful means of performing the basic computational functions of a processor. Silicon microprocessors have relied on the traditional two-state transistor for more than 50 years, but inventions such as quantum computers are changing the game.

Who invented the first computer?

A man named Ed Roberts started selling computer kits based on a microprocessor chip designed by Intel in the 1970s. He called his computer the Altair 8800 and sold unassembled kits for $395. While the Altair 8800 was the first, real personal computer, it was the release of the Apple II that made the PC a sought-after device.

What are the seven main parts of a computer?

The main parts of a computer include the motherboard, Central Processing Unit (CPU), power supply, Random-Access Memory (RAM), hard drive, case and cooling devices.

What is a personal computer?

A personal computer is a general computing device with a microprocessor. It is typically designed for use by one person at a time and runs an operating system to interface between the user and microprocessor. It’s cost, size and capabilities make it possible for an individual to own and use.

Is a laptop a personal computer?

Yes, a laptop computer is a portable personal computer. It was the 12-pound IBM PC Convertible that brought the laptop concept into production in 1986.

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