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A computer is a machine which accepts data in the form of symbols such as numbers, characters and punctuation marks. The computer processes the data according to sets of instructions given to by the user of the machine. Computers fulfil many different roles in our lives today, for example a computer may be used to guide satellites which orbit the earth, monitor a production line to calculate and produce a company's monthly payroll, or store personal information such as medical records for health facilities.
Unlike the sophisticated computers we have today the earliest computing machines had fixed programs built for simplicity and enabled us to execute basic tasks such as simple calculations. These types of computers were unable to be used as word processors or even gaming consoles, systems we currently use today. Though these computers executed basic task in order for them to utilizing different features would require re-wiring, re-structuring, or re-designing the machine.
In order for us to run the applications we have today a computer would of have to be produced which had a simple, fixed structure, yet be able to execute any kind of calculation given properly programmed control without the need for hardware modification. The invention of the stored program computer changed all that, a computer that by design includes an instruction set and can store in memory a set of instructions that details the calculation.
This is different from non-volatile memory such as hard disks or flash memory, which do not require a power source to retain data. The primary memory is referred to as being random as any piece of information can be processed through the memory regardless of its location and its relation to any other information within the RAM. By storing frequently used or active files in random access memory, the computer system is able to access the data faster than if it to retrieve it from the secondary memory which is the hard drive.
The RAM is a component which improves the performance of a computer, the type and amount of RAM a motherboard will support becomes a major factor when considering a new computer. If there is a faster, better RAM you would have to consider installing a new motherboard capable of using it.
Though the primary memory is always faster its disadvantage is that it has lower capacity of memory storage compared to the secondary memory the hard drive.
Secondary - Hard drive
Input and Output Elements
In computing, input and output refers to the communication between a computer system and the user. We use computer for different types of tasks every day. In order for us to communicate and interact with these computers we need devices which send and receive information from the computers. Some devices are used to input information, while others are to output information from our computers.
If we want to give computers a set of instructions then we need devices which allow us to send information to the computer system in order to carry out tasks. Input devices are necessary to provide ways to communicate with the computer. Information and commands are issued to the computer by way of these devices.
A keyboard is the primary text input device allows the user to input characters into the system by pressing a set of keys. It contains certain standard function keys, such as the Escape key, tab and cursor movement keys, shift keys and control keys.
Another common input device is the mouse. With the mouse as an input device the users is able to navigate through the operating system browsing through applications and folders. The distance and direction the mouse has moved is worked out from differences in the pictures by a processor inside the mouse. Information about the movement of the mouse is then sent to the computer as a set of coordinates. The cursor on the screen mimics the devices movements giving the user an idea where their browsing.
A microphone is used to input sound into a computer system. Often used for voice recognition software packages which convert sounds made by a user into text on the screen or tasks the computer can carry out. Devices like this are very helpful for people who cannot use common input peripherals such as mouse and keyboard. As computers become more sophisticated, voice recognition will be a much more common input method for all computer users.
An output device is a peripheral device used to communicate the results of data processing carried out by the computer. Before an output can be produced by a computer it must have an output device connected to it. The output devices that we are most common with today are visual display units, printers and headphones which all receive data from the computer.
Monitor/Visual Display Unit
A visual Display Unit/monitor is an output device which can display graphics, text and video. Monitors allow us to view the information processed by the computer. With monitors users of the computer device are able to navigate through the operating system knowing where the cursor is located.
A printer is an output device that produces a printout copy of what is viewed on the monitor. Printer can print words, numbers or even pictures and come in various types and models.
The motherboard is the main circuit board of the computer system. It contains the CPU, BIOS, memory, storage, serial and parallel ports, expansion slots, and all the components essential to manage standard peripheral devices such as the visual display unit, keyboard, and disk drive. On most computer systems we have today, it is possible upgradable components directly to the motherboard. An upgrade to a computer system is possible by replacing the CPU chip which would allow the computer to process information faster. If you wish to further improve the core features of the computer system then you may need to replace the whole motherboard entirely.
A graphics card is a hardware device installed in a computer that is responsible for producing the image on the computers visual display unit. Graphics cards come in many varieties with many features depending on what type of computer user you are. For example TV, movie, and video game production companies are obvious examples of businesses which require high quality graphic cards to support their needs, while the average computer user who uses the computer for word processing would need only a low-level graphics card.
Why does the graphics card need its own CPU?
A graphics card must work exceptionally hard to render images to the visual display unit. Unlike text documents, graphic images are bigger files which hold great amounts of data that must be processed by the graphics card.
The graphics processing unit is a chip similar to the CPU. The GPU processes data in parallel lines called pipelines. The more pipelines a graphics card has, the faster it can process data.
A network card acts as the interface between a computer and a network. Its purpose is to arrange, transmit, and manage data over the network. Network cards are the components of the computer which utilizes software applications such as internet explorer which allow us to surf the internet.
The power supply unit is the component within the computer system that supplies power to the other components in a computer. The power supply is able to be seen at the back of the computer system, as it contains the power-cord container and the cooling fan.