A computer is a device that is assembled with a combination of components and elements and is programmed to automatically complete logical and sequential operations. The term ‘computer’ is not any single part by itself but a ‘sum of many parts’ working together. The physical components or elements that can be seen and handled or felt are collectively called ‘computer hardware; these elements more or less constitute the computer system.
Components or elements that are a part of ‘computer hardware’ are the chips, computer data storage, hard disk drive, graphic cards, keyboard, memory, monitor, motherboard, mouse, sound cards etc. In contrast, ‘computer software’ cannot be seen; it is the set of instructions or commands or programs installed in the computer and run by the hardware.
Usually computer parts in a computing system are labeled in reference to a desktop which is the most often used. A laptop also has similar parts but they are put together in a precise and concise package that can be carried anywhere.
The hardware components of a computer system can be detailed as follows:
• System Unit – Usually in the shape of a rectangular box, this is the ‘core’ of the computer that houses the electronic components whose central function is to process information. One of the most important components is the Central Processing Unit (CPU or Microprocessor) which is the brain of the computer. This processing element handles logical operations; the order and sequence of operations can be changed by a control unit. The other important component is the Random Access Memory (RAM), which is the unit that stores information temporarily when the computer is in operation; once it is switched off, the information contained in the RAM is wiped off.
Almost every other component of a computer system is connected to the system unit through cables plugged into specific openings, called ‘ports’. Other elements not collectively in the ‘hardware’ are referred to as ‘peripheral devices’.
• Storage – generally a computer system has one disk drive or more; these are plastic or metal storage devices that store information when the computer is not in use.
• Hard Disk Drive (HDD) – the HDD is located inside the system unit and is the primary storage area of a computer system; it is a stack of rigid platters coated with a magnetic surface and can hold large amounts of information
• Compact Disc Drive – a CD (Compact Disk) Drive located in the front top portion of a system unit uses lasers to retrieve data from a CD; this way information can be shared from computer to computer by ‘reading’ CDs. A CD Drive also allows information from the computer system to be ‘written’ on the CD for storage or for sharing; it can be also used to play music CDs.
• Digital Versatility Disc – called the Digital Video Disc until a few years ago, the DVD Drive operates much like the CD Drive but is capable of reading and writing more complex formats. A DVD Drive is usually used on a computer to watch video clips and full-length movies.
• Floppy Disk
• Drive – though no longer relevant since the advent of Pen Drives that are known as Mobile Storage Units because files can be copied and carried in hand for use anywhere, the Floppy Drive was extremely popular at the beginning of computer usage for storing information and retrieving it later. Since they were not fool proof against tampering, damage and loss of data, these have become redundant although some computers still have these drives.
• Monitor – the monitor or screen of a computer displays text and graphics. The two basic monitor types are the Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT) which is now mostly relegated to the older models and the Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) ones which are the newest. LCD monitors are much lighter and thinner than CRTs.
• Keyboard – the keyboard has keys for the arrangement of letters and numbers on a typewriter keyboard; besides these, there are also special keys such as function and navigation keys. A keyboard can also do some of the functions that a mouse is programmed to do.
• Mouse – this term is very appropriate for the device as it resembles a mouse with a tail; the tail is the cable that attaches the ‘mouse’ to the system unit although modern wireless units have appeared. Its function is to point out items and elements on the computer monitor or screen and allowing the user to use ‘click’ procedures to operate commands. A mouse has two buttons; the left button is the primary one used for clicking and the other, the secondary. A wheel set positioned under the mouse between the two buttons allows the user to scroll down the screen and look at pages of information without having to scroll line by line.
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