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Introduction to Computers and Their Components

Defining what a computer is and some basic information on how computer hardware works.
by

Sean Parsons

on 12 June 2015

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Transcript of Introduction to Computers and Their Components

Introduction to Computers
& Their Components
What is a computer?
Unfortunately, many people picture something from the MATRIX when they hear “computer”.
lecture by Sean Parsons
Maybe we should provide some examples prior to defining what a computer is.
Personal computers and laptops,
Servers,
Cellphones,
Embedded devices
How would you answer, "What is a computer?"
Wikipedia states that a computer is a programmable machine that receives input, stores and manipulates data/information, and provides output in a useful format.
Technology writer Rickford Grant has referred to computers as, “...a collection of highly sophisticated parts...”. Let's look at those parts:
motherboard
CPU
GPU
volatile memory (RAM)
persistent memory (HDD, SSD, RAID)
A motherboard is the central printed circuit board (PCB) in many modern computers and holds many of the crucial components of the system, while providing connectors for other peripherals. The motherboard is sometimes alternatively known as the main board, system board, or, on Apple computers, the logic board. It is also sometimes casually shortened to mobo.
Central Processing Unit (CPU)
But, before we actually explain what a CPU is, let's look at a Weird Al video.
The central processing unit (CPU) or the processor is the portion of a computer system that carries out the instructions of a computer program, and is the primary element carrying out the computer's functions. It is the unit that reads and executes program instructions. The data in the instruction tells the processor what to do. The instructions are very basic things like reading data from memory or sending data to the user display, but they are processed so rapidly that we experience the results as the smooth operation of a program. This term has been in use in the computer industry at least since the early 1960s. The form, design and implementation of CPUs have changed dramatically since the earliest examples, but their fundamental operation remains much the same.
A graphics processing unit or GPU (also occasionally called visual processing unit or VPU) is a specialized microprocessor that offloads and accelerates 3D or 2D graphics rendering from the microprocessor. It is used in embedded systems, mobile phones, personal computers, workstations, and game consoles. Modern GPUs are very efficient at manipulating computer graphics, and their highly parallel structure makes them more effective than general-purpose CPUs for a range of complex algorithms. In a personal computer, a GPU can be present on a video card, or it can be on the motherboard. More than 90% of new desktop and notebook computers have integrated GPUs, which are usually far less powerful than those on a dedicated video card.
Let's look at a short You Tube clip on gaming to demonstrate the improvements in consumer oriented GPUs over the past 30 years
Random-access memory (RAM) is a form of computer data storage. Today, it takes the form of integrated circuits that allow stored data to be accessed in any order (i.e., at random). "Random" refers to the idea that any piece of data can be returned in a constant time, regardless of its physical location and whether or not it is related to the previous piece of data.

The word RAM is often associated with volatile types of memory (such as DRAM or SRAM memory modules), where the information is lost after the power is switched off. So this memory is primarily used for actively running applications.
Persistent Memory
A solid-state drive (SSD) is a data storage device that uses solid-state memory to store persistent data. SSDs use microchips, and contain no moving parts. Compared to traditional HDDs, SSDs are typically less susceptible to physical shock, quieter, and have lower access time and latency.
RAID, an acronym for redundant array of independent disks, is a technology that provides increased storage reliability through redundancy, combining multiple low-cost disk drive components into a logical unit where all drives in the array are interdependent.
A hard disk drive (hard disk, hard drive, HDD) is a non-volatile storage device for digital data. It features one or more rotating rigid platters on a motor-driven spindle within a metal case. Data is encoded magnetically by read/write heads that float on a cushion of air above the platters.
Conventional PCI (part of the PCI Local Bus standard and often shortened to PCI) is a computer bus for attaching hardware devices in a computer. These devices can take either the form of an integrated circuit fitted onto the motherboard itself, called a planar device in the PCI specification, or an expansion card that fits into a slot. The name PCI is an initialism formed from Peripheral Component Interconnect.
Expansions Cards
PCI Express (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express), officially abbreviated as PCIe (or PCI-E, as it is commonly called), is a computer expansion card standard designed to replace the older PCI, PCI-X, and AGP standards. PCIe 2.1 is the latest standard for expansion cards that is available on mainstream personal computers.
expansion cards (PCI/PCIe)
optical disc drives (CD, DVD, Blu-ray)
power supply
cooling options (heat sink, fans)
Motherboard
Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)
Optical Drives
In computing and optical recording, an optical disc is a flat, usually circular disc which encode binary data in the form of pits (binary value of 0 or off, due to lack of reflection when read) and lands (binary value of 1 or on, due to a reflection when read) on a special material (often aluminium) on one of its flat surfaces. The encoding material sits atop a thicker substrate (usually polycarbonate) which makes up the bulk of the disc and forms a dust defocusing layer. The encoding pattern follows a continuous, spiral path covering the entire disc surface and extending from the innermost track to the outermost track. The data is stored on the disc with a laser or stamping machine, and can be accessed when the data path is illuminated with a laser diode in an optical disc drive which spins the disc at speeds of about 200 RPM up to 4000 RPM or more depending on the drive type, disc format, and the distance of the read head from the center of the disc (inner tracks are read at a faster disc speed).
A Compact Disc (also known as a CD) is an optical disc used to store digital data. It was originally developed to store sound recordings exclusively, but later it also allowed the preservation of other types of data. Audio CDs have been commercially available since October 1982. In 2010, they remain the standard physical storage medium for audio.
Blu-ray Disc (official abbreviation BD) is an optical disc storage medium designed to supersede the standard DVD format. Its main uses are for storing high-definition video, PlayStation 3 video games, and other data, with up to 25 GB per single-layered, and 50 GB per dual-layered disc. Although these numbers represent the standard storage for Blu-ray Disc drives, the specification is open-ended, with the upper theoretical storage limit left unclear. The discs have the same physical dimensions as standard DVDs and CDs.

The name Blu-ray Disc derives from the "blue laser" used to read the disc. While a standard DVD uses a 650 nanometer red laser, Blu-ray Disc uses a shorter wavelength 405 nm laser, and allows for over five times more data storage on single-layer and over ten times on double-layer Blu-ray Disc than a standard DVD. The laser color is called "blue," but is violet to the eye, and is very close to ultraviolet ("blacklight").
Power Supply
A power supply unit (PSU) is the component that supplies power to the other components in a computer. More specifically, a power supply unit is typically designed to convert general-purpose alternating current (AC) electric power from the mains (100-127V in North America, parts of South America, Japan, and Taiwan; 220-240V in most of the rest of the world) to usable low-voltage DC power for the internal components of the computer. Some power supplies have a switch to change between 230 V and 115 V. Other models have automatic sensors that switch input voltage automatically, or are able to accept any voltage between those limits.
Cooling Options
A heat sink is a term for a component or assembly that transfers heat generated within a solid material to a fluid medium, such as air or a liquid. A heat sink uses its extended surfaces to increase the surface area in contact with the cooling fluid, the air for example. This kind of cooling is called passive cooling.
A computer fan is any fan inside a computer case used for cooling purposes, and may refer to fans that draw cooler air into the case from the outside, expel warm air from inside, or move air across a heatsink to cool a particular component. The use of fans to cool a computer is an example of active cooling.
DVD, also known as Digital Video Disc or Digital Versatile Disc, is an optical disc storage media format, and was invented and developed by Philips, Sony, Toshiba, and Time Warner in 1995. Its main uses are video and data storage. DVDs are of the same dimensions as compact discs (CDs), but are capable of storing just under seven times as much data.
Volatile Memory
Motherboard
Insert RAM here
Insert RAM here
Insert CPU here
Heat Sink on top of GPU
PCIe slot
PCI slot
PCI slot
SATA interfaces for HDD, SSD, & Optical Drives
EIDE interface for HDD & Optical Drives
Power connector for PSU
Let's explain how it all connects together.
Any questions?
Cloud storage is an increasingly popular concept as it allows companies and individuals to offload their data storage to other companies and it gives them the ability to access it anywhere from various web enabled devices.
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