Computer Hardware Equipment Guide
Teaches you how to choose
your best computer, and
how its various devices work.


Computer hardware equipment - The Nuts & Bolts of What's In Your Computer

Many people never bother to think about what is actually inside their computer.  The nuts and bolts of what's in a computer could baffle them, but it really isn't that complicated when you look at it.  That little box on your desk isn't magic, it is technology and technology can always be explained.

The brain of your computer is the CPU or central processing unit.  The CPU sits on the motherboard and is the most important part of the computer because it is literally the brain and without the CPU your computer would make an adequate boat anchor or a large paperweight, but it would not be a computer.  The motherboard connects to other boards and outside devices with special functions.  These include the graphics card which processes graphic video, and the sound card which process and translates audio.  The motherboard is also where the data storage devices are connected.  These commonly include a hard drive, a 3.5 inch floppy drive, a CD drive (for compact disk) and a DVD drive, though most DVD drives will also handle CD’s, and many computer makes are phasing out 3.5 inch floppy disk drives.  The mother board also contains the RAM or random access memory, the memory the CPU needs to make the computer function.

The computer will probably also contain a network card and a modem.  The modem allows dial up Internet access, and often includes a fax.  The network card allows the computer to network with other computers and with high speed Internet access the network connection is usually used to connect to a T1, DSL or a cable modem.

The motherboard will also contain connectors to the keyboard and the mouse for data input and to the monitor to allow the user to see data on a screen.  The monitor may be a traditional type using a CRT, or one of the newer flat screen monitors that are either LCD or plasma based.  Some monitors are touch screen capable and also serve as input devices, or even replace the mouse and keyboard. 

Your computer will also contain a variety of ports, or connecting points of various types.  These include the parallel, or printer cable port, the USB port, the USB2 port in some newer computers, the Fire wire port in some, and even the serial port in some older computers.  All of these ports allow peripherals to be connected to the computer to get full use out of it.  The peripherals include printers, fax machines, scanners, digital cameras, light pens, plotters, video cameras, and many other devices.

In this way you can see that when a computer is discussed we are really talking about many devices all working together to create one machine, a whole greater than the sum of it's parts, because all of the parts are worthless without the other parts to connect to and make a whole computer.

All of these parts are the hardware part of your computer. The nuts and bolts of your computer includes a softer side also, the world of software.  If your computer is to be more than an expensive desk ornament it needs an operating system.  Modern home computers usually use a version of Microsoft Windows, which could be version XP, ME, NT, 2000, 98, 95, or in a really old computer perhaps 3.1.  Some computers use alternative operating systems like Linex.  All of these operating systems use a graphical user interface, which makes them easy to use and operation – some would say intuitive.  Before the new operating systems came along most home computers used MS-DOS, the first operating system to set a standard for home computers.  MS-DOS was text based and most people considered it harder to learn.  It was also limited in the amount of memory it could address, limiting applications.

Other types of software in your computer are varied, but probably include a web browser, and an office suite with word processing, database management and financial spreadsheet applications.  Other software in your computer will probably be chosen by you for your personal needs, whether it be video editing, game playing, music, genealogy or any other interests you might have.  Your computer is personal, and while many of the nuts and bolts remain the same from computer to computer, many are chosen by the user according to individual lifestyles.

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