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Demonstrate a Sound Understanding of the Essential Characteristics of Computer Architecture and Operating Systems
A ‘micro computer' system is the usual term given to a computer which uses a micro processor as its CPU or its central processing unit. The main attribute common of these systems is that they use a minimal amount of space when you compare them to larger structures such as mainframe computers. A micro computer is simply a personal desktop computer.
A microcomputer is composed as a basic structure of a set of key components which reside on a motherboard which is the base for all these components. The typical elements of a computer system comprise of: computer memory in RAM form, and one other non-volatile memory e.g. ROM, together with the CPU sat on the system bus, the CPU being the main processing unit within the system. Batteries and a mains supply provide the power to the computer and its I/O devices such as keyboard and mice providing the option of human to computer interaction and the monitor to convey data to the user, and microcomputers are primarily serving as single user interfaces.
Core System Components:
The CPU or Central Processing Unit is a key functioning feature incorporated within a microprocessor; a standard microprocessor serves primarily as the main processing unit of a computer system and it are these microprocessors which gave raise to the microcomputer. There exists a number of various CPU's each with their own specific functions of control within such a system, these come in variations;
ALU: Arithmetic Logic Unit, which main function is to perform quantities of a range of calculations and comparisons concerning data and data change.
CU: Control Unit, performs various fetch and execute cycles which affects the movement of data to and from the CPU registers and other hardware and components where there is no data change and to also access program Instructions, sending various issues and commands to the ALU. The CU is also responsible for memory management and watches over the receiving and fetching of specific instructions and data, sometimes parts of the CU are involved with input/output interfaces, coupled with memory management units as small time burst interface units.
Registers: Within a CPU have a number of special purpose registers which work as minor permanent storage points for specific purposes and are each controlled by the CU. Registers such as MAR and MDR (Memory Address and Memory Data Registers) act as a mode of storing data like certain addresses and specific instructions which is relevant to Instruction Registers (IS) which works for the storage of instructions fetched from the actual memory storage. A Status Register (SR) observes the proceeds and functions of the CPU and any currently active programs and/or applications as well as monitoring the condition of arithmetic flow internal computer faults and power failures.
Information within a computer system is transferred and travels along pathways known as ‘buses'. A bus system has the ability to transfer data between specific hardware components as well as between several computers. There are two forms of data bus, a parallel bus which transfers data words along a parallel of multiple wires and a serial bus, which mainly deal in transferring data in bit-serial form. A good example of a parallel bus would be the interface for connecting devices for storage such as hard disks, CD's and DVD ROM drives, and USB devices (Universal Serial Bus) are good examples of serial buses.
Since micro processors have existed for quite some time now, manufactures saw the need to increase the overall processing power of their micro processors currently on the market and so in response began producing a number of multi-core processors as a solution in order to maintain a constant momentum within the market. A general description of a multi-core processors is basically a single chip which contains more than one micro processing core which opened new doors in effectively improving overall performance through just simply multiplying performance between the specific number of micro processing cores. Multi- core processors boasts superior advantages over single processors due to the fact that components such as bus interfaces and memory could be shared between one another which is one of the reasons as to why multi-cores boast far quicker clock speeds. To date there are currently a small number of multi-core processors available, Duo Core and Quad Core processors.
RAM, or Random Access Memory, is the main application of data storage for any micro computer system and is commonly found in modern computers in the form of memory modules or DRAM modules, (Dynamic RAM). DRAM is the most common form of RAM and is the cheapest form of RAM. DRAM is volatile and requires to be refreshed several times a second with power. Another type of RAM is SRAM (Static RAM) it is faster than DRAM but also more expensive. SRAM is also volatile and small amount of SRAM is used in cache memory for high speed access and smaller amounts of SRAM are integrated within the CPU and other IC's on the mother board.
The main issues concerning gaming rigs, and for that matter all computers is storage and the speed in which the storage device can transfer the data. This can have a massive impact upon game play effecting loading times, reaction times and can make gaming on a computer extremely frustrating. The gamer is always looking for ways to reduce latency within a computer rig to gain the highest output performance from the mass storage device. In all it is believed that in a gaming situation the speed is far greater basically due to the fact that in the modern day we have huge capacities to select from with varying speeds and cache sizes and games are minute in size compared. Today still without spending copious amounts of money mass storage devices will remain the single most impacting bottleneck on computer performance.
ROM, known as Read Only Memory is a non volatile form of memory and is a permanent form of storage that is able to hold and contain software that is tied closely to specific hardware as well as memory that is not expected to change or alter over the entire life span of the system. Since this is the case, ROM is unlikely to require any frequent updates as it cannot be modified or altered at a later date, in other words it's a single solid state storage that holds software capable of making specific hardware parts function, found on motherboards, mobile phones, any specific piece of equipment that has a specialized standalone function.
As well as internal storage there are also other options to utilize externally including optical disks, cassette tapes and magnetic tapes used for network backup more commonly nowadays if that, generally faded out as better more efficient and reliable forms of storage came along. Secondary storage differs from primary in that it cannot be accessed directly by the CPU; secondary storage is accessed via optical drives using the I/O channels. Magnetic tapes where commonly used during the late 70-80's, on reels that where fixed inside of a cartridge known as compact cassettes. Tapes recorded data through parallel recording where the tape, coated with magnetized material ran across a head. Tapes remain a variable alternative to disks due to the lower cost bit. The magnetic disk which become later known as Hard Disks back in the 1950's, are the most common form of secondary storage. Hard disks are again a form of non volatile storage which digitally stores and saves data on a platter which spins rapidly beneath a head at speeds of up to 3,000 inches per second 170mph. Hard disks have a distinct advantage over devices such as cassette and magnetic tapes for hard disks are capable of storing data without being touched as the head files over the disk as cassette tapes are actually touched by the read/write head. Tape desk are also a lot slower than hard disks for the head runs at a slower rate roughly 2inches per second.
A more recent form of secondary storage comes in the medium of Contemporary Disks in which data is accurately stored and organized along specific centric rings known as tracks. Each of these tracks is individually broken down into sectors with each capable of storing a capacity of up to 512 bytes. The next step up from contemporary disks are Optical Disks such as CD which are more commonly used today and appear in a range of different types from, CD,CD-R,CD-ROM,DVD,DVD-R and DVD-RW, each possessing its own capabilities for specific purposes. Optical disks are far superior method of secondary storage for the surface is not organized into centric tracks and contains a spiral structure from the centre, out. Also each sector of the disk on both the out and is side of the surface are similar in length, ultimately increase the overall storage capacity.
Modularization of Gaming PC's
As apposed to the typical household family computer system as well as standard business computer systems there are those however who require a far more demanding performance, ‘Gamers' and their gaming PC's and/or gaming computers, titles which specifically refers to purposely modified computers, built to play and run computer games at a far higher resolution and frame rate than the typical domestic home PC. Gaming PC's commonly feature rather extravagant, visually appealing casing containing within them the latest in high end components such as graphics/video cards, sound cards, memory and CPU, all which are commonly run on Microsoft Windows branch of operating systems. Despite the fact that gaming PC's will run PC games at a far higher rate and speed than household computers that isn't to say that household computers cannot provide for a comfortable gaming experience, its more to the fact that a solid gaming PC is specifically built and modified in order to process the necessary instructions and requirements for the accelerated processing of 3D graphics, unified pixel shading technology, dynamic geometry rendering, physics modeling as well as advanced sound processing and effects engines. Gaming PC's also require, in same cases, readily available external connection ports used for a large range of accessories, typically head phones and mic's, additional gaming controllers and joysticks as well as a whole range of USB formatted devices and Firewire connection parts. Although most typically gaming PC's or ‘gaming-rigs' are custom built to suit the specific requirements of either the gamer whether its built purely for a single player experience or online experience or to gain the best possible performance and graphics to gain advantage during competition or for a particular selection of games released on the market, a decent, high spec gaming desktop or lap top are easily available at most good specialist retailers.
Since we live in and age where technology programmes and games all become increasingly more demanding each generation and release, which ultimately raises the bar of expectation for which computers will have to compete and perform. This forces Game developers to carefully and consciously code their particular software to be impressive and remain substantial for a reasonably good period of time, say a year or two into the future prior to release. This creates a problematic dilemma for both the developers and the consumers of the software, in that the existing hardware available when the game is released, available for retail, may struggle to comfortably run the software at its highest level of performance.
Typically it is for this factor why most mass marketed games and software which currently exist in retail stores contain two sets of required hardware listed on the bottom rear casing of the box. The first set highlighting the ‘minimum' hardware and component requirements and the second set highlights the ‘recommended' hardware requirements. The minimum requirements are the oldest and lowest performing hardware and components that the game developers intended successfully to operate their game or software on during the testing stages. Recommended hardware requirements however highlight which hardware components the game developers intend the consumer to run the game on in order to achieve a more satisfactory and the best experience from the game, which is the main reason as to way games will generally perform faster and graphically appeal far better, the higher the performance and up to date the hardware, thus resulting as to why very high end, high spec. gaming computers will be using the latest publicly available hardware which are available on the market. More importantly, it is wise to gain the highest quality of gaming and PC hardware and components at the cheapest possible price for most items can be highly expensive, it goes with out saying that its is better off not splashing out too much on just a single hardware component for it is possible to end up having parts of the system being to high spec. as appose to aging hardware, it is more comfortable for the rig to contain a balanced set of components, allowing for a smoother working system.
Most good solid gaming rigs to date use hardware accelerated graphic cards, which offer a much higher spec. rasterisation based rendering and image quality and performance. Typically a graphics card memory capacity is usually high in megabytes or low in gigabytes, which goes without saying that the larger the memory capacity the better, although most games currently on the market don't possess the need for too high a capacity, although having more than enough memory required will run the games visuals smoothly. A sufficient graphics card will also help to provide an increased visual performance for graphic development programmes and applications such as Auto Desk Maya and or Auto Desk 3D Studio Max.
In compliance to a high standard graphics card the need for viewing such visuals requires an equally as good monitor, preferably a monitor boasting a high resolution and aspect ratio. While the superiority between LCD screens and CRT monitors is still to be debated, it is clearly proved that a fast response time and high refresh rate is likely desired in order to display smooth motion, roughly around at least 30+ frames per second is the recommended minimum requirement for a smooth, lush motion in which to play a computer game, most LCD screens commonly boast HD providing for an increased visual experience. Achieving a higher standard than required in some cases can be used to boast how good a computer is. Apart from a primary monitor display, it is also common to choose to utilize a secondary monitor display; this may also be in the form of an LCD display itself or alternatively located on the keyboard.
Typical gaming rigs are equipped and installed with a dedicated sound card and more recently have included a surround sound system to enhance sound quality and again this has given developers the opportunity the enhance realism and immersive content. Speakers can include up to 5.1 to 7.1 surround sound configuration and/or headphones. A surround sound system is a crucial addition for a gamers rig and also with the addition of other accelerated technologies including EAX, it's possible to reduce load off the CPU even more by allowing the card to process the sound solely, and also by streaming audio directly again further reducing CPU load.
Originally the most common form of connectivity was of course dialup, but eventually gamers reach a point where online games have become so intense and the amount of players within a single game increases, the latency becomes extremely high and dialup is deemed unsuitable for online gaming. Nowadays we can comfortably game using wireless connectivity and still have solid online performance but the choice of gamers is always using Ethernet for stability and performance, wireless connectivity does have it's downfalls as opposed to using a cabled connection, signal problems and packet loss are more common over wireless connections.
The basic interface for a gaming PC is obvious the scroll mouse and keyboard combination, most commonly used for first person shooters (FPS), however, there is a large variety of other gaming input and output devices out there currently on the market available for the user to increase their gaming experience e.g. joy pads, racing wheel and pedals, joysticks. Each type of interface hardware can provide a more engaging and immersive experience in accordance with game type and genre. Apart from controller interfaces there is also USB audio headsets, USB displays, ornaments, lights etc the USB hub is the universal interface for peripherals today and is extremely versatile and expandable.
In order to store all the above mentioned hardware and components a computer tower or case is required. A tower is a means of protection for internal devices and hardware from damage as well as a method of enclosing all hardware together allowing for a more suitable wired tidy and ventilated computer system. A fan is commonly included with in most tower and case design to provide a method of cooling the internal hardware and ventilation for dust exclusion allowing components to work in a maintained fashion increasing hardware lifespan and most importantly a tower should allow room for expansion and customization. Tower design for gaming computers tend to be a lot more visually appealing compared to standard computers it is common for cases to have clear sides to reveal the internal components with LED lights to enhance the visual appeal.
Possible Components for a Gaming Rig:
Operating System: General Windows XP. (Despite the fact there is also Vista; XP still remains the appropriate OP for gaming, with out the restrictions of Vista, for most recent games aren't compatible with Vista.)
Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 6400 processor, Dual Core processor with NVIDIA nForce 590 SLI.
Graphic Cards/Video: 768MB NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTX1GB or 768MB NVIDIA GeForce 8800 Ultra.
Storage: Hard Drive options ranging from a capacity capable of storing anywhere between 250GB - 1TB per drive, preferably up to four hard drive max.
Network Capability: At least two high speed Ethernet Ports along with a gaming network card.
Audio: Good quality, high performance surrounds sound system, G51 Surround Sound System.
Peripherals: A PS2 Keyboard port, PS2 mouse port and at least 5 USB ports, 3 located at back and 2 at front. USB ports allowing for the connection of inputs such as analogue control pads joysticks.
Suitable Operating Systems:
The most important element of any personal computer is the OP (Operating System) and serves its purpose as a way of control, there to organize and control existing hardware and software installed on the system. All desktop and laptop computers have an operating system the more renowned being the Windows brand of OS as well as Apples Macintosh OS and Linux. Simply put and operating system offers a stable environment for software to run and to also to co-ordinate and make hardware function flawlessly.
A single-user/ mutli-tasking is a typical example of a common OP, allowing for a system to operate a number of applications and programmes to be run during the same time which is most desirable for a gaming rig for it allows for the chance of running both a current game application, internet and communication programmes open and running at similar times as well as operate several devices. The Windows brand and the Macintosh brand are both single user/ mutli tasking operating systems.
In order to hook up a suitable gaming rig to a gaming network internet access is required. A NIC or (network interface card) is a crucial item of hardware which allows computers to communicate over a specific computer network and allows for physical access and provides Mac addresses , connecting users to each other via Ethernet cables or alternatively wirelessly. There are several ways to access a network, either through LAN (local area network) or WAN (wide area networks). LAN networks are small networks covering a minute area such as homes or offices, a small LAN network can be easily setup by a group of users in order to connect several machines to one other in order to play certain LAN multiplayer games, this can either be via the internet or from being directly connect to a ‘hub'. WAN networks cover a much larger areas. In order to connect to certain networks a specific address known as IP address may be required, the IP (Internet Protocol) is used for communicating data via a network whether it for single personal internet use or for when connecting onto gaming servers and networks where they be social LAN networks or on line games, the IP address is required in order to access these networks.
The modem is another crucial device for internet and network access for it is the device that modulates a carrier signal which then encodes the digital information for received and transmitted signals. The more common modems used to date are typically cable modems along with the use of ADSL modems, which enable faster information transfer rates through telephone lines.
Most gaming rigs require a fast internet connection, dial up was commonly used as a means of internet access which lead to slower transmit ions and cause un wanted problems such as lag. Since broadband was pioneered, it enabled users to acquire faster and uninterrupted internet access, which is superior to dial up simply for its speed and performance and overall gives gamers online a definite edge with little or no latency during online game play.