A computer is an electronic machine that receives data as an input, manipulates it and provides an output for it in a useful format readable by the user. It is now an important part in the lives of human beings and many scientific advances are due to computers in today’s world. Early computers were less in processing speed and memory when compared to modern computers. According to Dumas (2006), computers can be classified into five generations. The first generation of computers came into existence approximately in late 1930’s to early 1950’s. The second generation of computers came into existence between the mid 1950’s to early 1960’s. The third generation of computers was developed between mid 1960’s to early 1970’s. The fourth generation of computers was invented in the mid 1970’s to early 1990’s. Modern day computers belong to fifth generation of computers. Computer architecture explains about the design and integration of several devices into a single unit. There are three elements in computer architecture. These elements are input/output devices, internal devices and how computer works.
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The first element of computer architecture is input/output devices. According to Morley and Parker (2006), an input device means an electronic device used to enter data into the computer. An output device means an electronic device which provides the processed result to the user. In the first generation of computers, input devices were paper punch cards and paper tape and the output was printed on paper. In the second generation of computers, input devices were paper punch cards and magnetic tape whereas the output was printed on punch cards and paper printouts. In the third generation of computers, punched cards were replaced by keyboards as input device and paper printouts were replaced by monitors as output device. In the fourth generation of computers, input devices were keyboard and mouse and the output devices were monitor and printer. The modern computer input devices are keyboard, mouse, microphone, scanner, digital camera, touchpad and fingerprint reader. The output devices are monitor, printer, speaker and data projector. According to Anfinson and Quamme (2008), the mouse and keyboard are the most common input devices in the modern computers. The mouse is used as a human computer interface and keyboard is used for entering the text into the computer and the most important output devices are monitor and projectors. Larry and Long (2004) describes that some of the input and output devices are attractive; for instance, there is an electronic nose which detects odors and this is used in food industries to detect the pungent odor in prepared foods. Special input/output devices are called assistive technology and it’s used for disabled people. These people can work and live independently, for example, a set of rings, two bracelets, a pair of shoes and a glove work as input/output devices for them.
The second element of computer architecture is internal components. According to Morley and Parker (2006), the first generation of computers was huge and enormous, often occupying an entire room. They were powered by constantly replaced vacuum tubes or glass tubes identical to a large cylindrical light bulb. These vacuum tubes required a large amount of electricity to work and generated a lot of heat as a result. In the second generation of computers, heat producing vacuum tubes were replaced with transistors. The transistors are a small device made of semiconductor. The transistors with integrated circuit used in the third generation of computers. In the fourth generation of computers, the advanced technology of microprocessors replaced the integrated circuit. Anfinson and Quamme (2008) described the fifth generation or modern computer’s internal components are tiny when compared with the first generation of computers. These components are motherboard, central processing unit (CPU), Read only memory (ROM), Random access memory (RAM), power supply unit and storage devices. Firstly, the motherboard is the main printed circuit board; furthermore, an important component on the motherboard is the chipset. Secondly, the central processing unit is the most important element of a computer system and it is considered as the computer’s brain. The central processing unit is sometimes called as a processor. Most calculations take place in the central processing unit. Thirdly, Read only memory is located on the mother board. Read Only Memory (ROM) chips contain instructions accessed directly by the central processing unit. Then, Random Access Memory (RAM) is the temporary storage unit for data and programs that are being accessed by the central processing unit. RAM is a volatile memory, which means that the contents are erased when the computer is powered off. According to White (2008), the electricity enters to shielded metal box called power supply unit. It supplies power to the other components in a computer. These units control the main power into the voltage required to run the machine. Finally, Patterson and Hennessy (2005) explained the three primary technologies used in building memory hierarchies. Main memory is implemented from dynamic random memory, the second one is static random access memory and the last one is magnetic disk.
The third element of computer architecture is how the computers work. The central processing unit takes an important role in the working process of the computers. According to Morley and Parker (2006), the central processing unit is basically a collection of electronic circuits and components and it may have variety of registers for string intermediary calculation, temporary storage and the final result of processed data. Arithmetic logic unit is the part of the central processing unit and it performs arithmetic operations and logical operations; for example, arithmetic operations are addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and logical operations are comparisons and conditions checking. Larry and Nancy (2004) describe that the computers deal with everything as electronic signals; besides, electronic signals are classified into analog and digital signals. The analog and digital convertor converts analog data into digital data, for example analog signals such as letters, sound, images, colors, shapes are converted into digital data as 0s and 1s. 0’s and 1’s are known as binary numbers and they are classified as digital signals; furthermore, computer can operate only with the digital signals. ASCII (American standard code for information interchange) is the most popular coding system for computers and data communications. This coding system equates a unique series of 0s and 1s, for example, the English character B is 01000010. According to White (2008), software is an important tool compiled by different set of programs. Programs are defined as set of instructions and it can be a single file or recorded data. Operating system is one of the important software in computer and it is used to run the whole system or computer. It establishes rules by which the computer can then load other programs and work with hardware.
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