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Central Processing Unit:
The central unit is the basic part of the computer and includes all the main computer parts. It is the heart of the computer system. It is responsible for executing, or running the software. The software programs are translated into a series of codes made up of 1s to 0s that the CPU can understand. Every code means a certain operation should take place.
A CPU has various discrete units to help it in these tasks for example there is an arithmetic and logic unit(ALU) that takes care of all the math and logical data comparisons that need to performed. A control register makes sure everything happens in the right sequence. The motherboard is the main circuit board inside the PC. All other components are either slotted into or soldered to this board.
Microprocessors are different to one another according to the manufacturer and technical specifications. The most important technical specifications of microprocessor are the type and processing speed. The type of microprocessor is defined by the internal structure and basic features .The microprocessors communicate with the rest of the system by means of buses. Buses are sets of parallel electronic conductors set of wires or tracks on the circuit board.
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• Information about exact locations of where data is stored travels along address bus
• Signals to synchronize access to the various devices, such as whether to read or write data travel along the control bus.
• Actual data travels along the data bus.
The type of micro processor installed greatly affects the performance. It is rare that a system will have more than one processor installed; a file server is perhaps a good example of a system that may have two processors.
Originally, the first IBM personal computers had 8080 microprocessors that was quickly superseded by 8086 and so on. Today we have moved from microprocessors to Pentium, Pentium II, Pentium III, Pentium IV processors. All microprocessors are not made equal. The speed at which microprocessor executes its instructions is governed by the speed of a internal clock. The number clock pulses per second is measured in hertz(Hz), with one pulse per second referred to as one Hertz. The higher the value of MHz or MIPS, the higher the speed and power of computer. For example:
Intel Pentium II / 166 MHz - microprocessor of type Pentium II and speed 166 MHz
Intel Pentium II / 300 MHz - the same microprocessor with higher speed (300 MHz)
The next major element of a computer system is memory which refers to specific bits of hardware. Memory is divided into 2 parts: ROM(Read Only Memory) and RAM(Random Access Memory).
RAM is the main memory. can be read and altered at random by the computer. It is empty when the computer is switched on and is used to store the information required by the CPU while the computer is being operated. It is working memory but once the computer is switched off, its contents disappear. The more RAM a computer has, the more programs can be open at once and the quicker the computer runs. Most modern computers have from 32MB of RAM fitted. It is quite easy to add more RAM if needed.
ROM contains programs and data written into it at the time of manufacture. The data and programs can be read and used by the computer but cannot be altered. They are read only. It checks the computers won components to make sure that they are working properly. It loads programs referred to as BOOTING UP.
Cache memory is a form of RAM that is very fast and expensive as compared to RAM. It is situated between the processor and main memory and is used to store frequently used or recently used program instructions.
Keyboard-Keyboards are perhaps the most common input devices used with personal computers. Keyboards are set in QWERTY layout just as a typewriter. In addition to the letters, numbers, and special characters of the typewriter, the computer keyboard also contains function keys (F1, F2, etc.), special keys (Ctrl, Alt, Home, Page Up, Insert, cursor keys, etc.) and often a numeric keypad. Function keys let you perform an activity with one keystroke. For example, most programs use function key F1 for help.
Mouse-The mouse is used to control the position of the cursor on the screen and to make selections. It is easier with the mouse although you can do the same with a keyboard. The mouse is a small box with a ball built into the bottom and with two or three buttons on the top. The cursor can change shape depending on the task being performed. Nowadays mouse and keyboards do not have to be attached to the computers base unit. Some now use infrared, or radio waves to connect to the computer .They are termed as cordless or wireless. There are other devices similar to the mouse, for example, trackball, touch pad, joystick, light pen, and touch screen. They perform functions similar to the mouse. Trackball is an inverted is just an inverted mouse. Touch screens are screens sensitive to the finger touch. You put your finger on the screen, move it and the cursor tracks the position of your finger.
Scanners-Scanners enable you to input graphics, photographs and text into the computer. If text is scanned it is merely a picture and cannot be edited, OCR(optical character recognition) software is then used. Handheld scanner - you hold in your hand and move it across the picture for example, in the shops where they are used for reading the bar code at the cash desk .
Visual Display Unit(VDUs)-This tern is used to describe any output unit that displays the result of processing in a visual form on an electronic output unit. for example Cathode Ray Tube(CRT)Monitors and Liquid Crystal Displays(LCD).CRTs are referred to as monitors A CRT contains an electron gun that fires electrons as phosphor dots on the back of the screen. These dots glow when the electrons hit them. There needs to be certain distance between the gun and screen that increases as the size of the screen increases. This is why large screen monitors are so deep. They can be colour or monochrome.
LCDs rely on the fact that certain liquids alter the ability to reflect light as voltage is applied to them. LCD screens are slimmer than CRT monitors and therefore take less space on the desktop.
Printers-A printer is an output device to put your work on to paper. Printers are able to print both text and graphics (pictures, photos), and to print them in black only, in greyscale or in colours. They are of two types Impact in which characters are hammered onto the paper and non-Impact use electro statically charged paper to create a printed character. There are three basic types of printer: dot matrix printers have the lowest printing quality, but also the lowest purchasing/operating costs; inkjet printers are the mid range, and laser printers have the best printing quality and the highest operational costs, but still with a reasonable ratio of quality-to-costs.
There are other devices for example plotters which produce large drawings.
Computers memory is referred to as the primary storage whereas there is also a secondary storage which is with us even when the computer is switched off. A Diskette drive is an internal peripheral for reading and writing data to and from a diskette. A diskette (also called a floppy disk) is a magnetic medium for data storage: you can store data, remove the diskette and move it (and data) to another computer. Storage devices include
Hard Disks-Hard disks are usually placed within the base unit and are used to store the operating system and the application programs. Hard drives are also built in when computers are new. Additional hard drives can be loaded to enhance the storage of the computer, supplementing the original drive.
Floppy Disk-These are used to store work and data files on. They have a capacity of 1.44megabytes.They are much slower to access than hard drives. They are portable easily which is their greatest advantage.
Compact Discs (CDs)-As floppy disks have small storage capacities CDs have become common especially for distributing software. CDs are made using optical (laser) methods for data recording/playing. There are three types of optical disks for computers: CD-ROM stands for compact disk-read-only memory. They can be read, but not changed. WORM stands for write once, read many times. They can be written to once, read repeatedly, but not rewritten. Erasable CDs are the newest type, which can be rewritten repeatedly. There are also now Digital Versatile Disks (DVDs)These are high capacity CD-ROM disks that can store up to 17GB of data
Zip drives-These are another example of high-capacity yet portable storage medium. They are almost or a little larger than 3.5”They are mainly used for backup and archive functions, not something one would constantly run programs from.
The Basic Computer Software
System software is the name given to a set of instructions or programs that can be run on a computer. There are 2 main types of software’s
This is concerned with controlling the operation of the computers hardware. The operating system is a program that conducts the communication between the various pieces of hardware like the video card, sound card, printer, the motherboard and the applications. The first screen you see when you turn your computer on will be about the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) of your computer. The BIOS is a set of instructions on a ROM chip (Read-Only Memory) that controls how the hardware and the operating system communicate. It's a very limited set of instructions.
Examples are Windows XP, Windows 2003 Microsoft Vista etc.
This is software that has been written down to perform a particular job example calculate a company’s payroll, manipulate text and so. These applications include
• Word Processing packages example Microsoft Word
• Presentation Packages example Microsoft PowerPoint
• Spreadsheet Packages example Microsoft Excel
• Database Packages
• Web Browsing Packages like Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer
• Integrated Packages like Microsoft Office, Lotus SmartSuite, and ClarisWorks.