Image Description: A computer with pixelated lights operating on the screen
A lot of us have computers, but what are they, and how do they work?
A computer is a machine that stores memory, processes information and computes output.
Computers are comprised of three main units: the central processing unit (CPU) aka the 'Motherboard,' memory storage and input/output ports.
Image Description: Computer wires lighting up in rainbow hue
THE CPU / MOTHERBOARD
Image Description: Electrons traveling on a computer chip
This is essentially the computer's brain or conductor. Its hardware is a circuit board that calculates instructions (called programs) retrieved from the random-access memory (RAM) using an arithmetic-logic unit (ALU), and then the CPU prompts other parts of the computer to execute additional functions.
What's hardware? Hardware is all the "hard" stuff that can't be easily changed like the CPU, RAM, mouse and keyboard. Hardware is the computer's structural design that does the main work. Software are programs (documents and data) that format hardware's function.
Since the CPU's work is very hot, there's a heatsink built in to keep things cool.
Computer programs are written in "machine language" using binary integers. Series of 1s and 2s are coded as "bits" and used to organize instructions. Program executions occur by clock rate. This is a timed spark that paces activity in the motherboard.
How does a computer remember things?
The most basic unit of memory is called a bit. A bit only has one of two values: 1s and 0s. These operate by being "on" or "off" like a switch. Sometimes bits are magnetic areas on hard disks, or they are petite dents on a CD or memory drive.
Compilations of 8-bits are called bytes. 4 bytes (32 bits) are known as a word. Data sets look something like:
00100101 01010000 01000100 01000110 00101101 00110001 00101110 00110100 00001010 00110101 00100000 00110000 00100000 01101111 01100010 01101010 00001010 00111100
Computer memory storage is limited. Scientists aren't sure if there's an infinite memory capacity even though the possibility's are theoretically limitless. For something to be true and existing, it must have implementation. Calculating possibilities is not the same as writing and implementing software.
Converting numbers to letters is known as encoding. This helps people communicate with computers.
Memory can be accessed by the CPU because each bit has its own address in circuit cells. "1s" are denoted by electrons. "0s" are denoted by removing electrons. This process happens according to the computer's clock rate which is thousands of electrical pulses occurring every second to either fill cells with electrons as "1s" or withdraw electrons from cells as "0s."
Image Description: RAM hardware
Some memory is for the hardware (long-term) while other memory storage is software (temporary). Hardware memory stays put when the computer is turned off. Software has to be refreshed as it can be lost.
Machine language can somewhat be compared to how brains learn languages and store information. Some memory is long-term while other areas are more malleable like software, and various parts execute different functions. Programs can be input to perform different assigned tasks. There's also the risk of viruses.
Image Description: Glowing computer case
Ports are portals between computers and external devices.
Input ports provide input for the computer. These include hard disks, CD drives, mouses, keyboards, etc.
Output ports allow the computer to export data. Examples of output devices are the screen monitor, speakers and printers.
Ports also utilize interface equipment. These are like bridges between the CPU, memory and input/output sources.
WHAT CAN COMPUTERS DO?
Using computational machine designs, we can implement functions that benefit our daily lives and understanding about existence.
Computers can be used to:
- Organize and store information
- Measure outcomes and make decisions
- Assist with customer support for businesses
- Recognize faces as security measures
- Host and play video games
- Improve medical and lab equipment
- Make art
As scientists and technologists innovate computer technology, humans may eventually encounter more complex machines akin to artificial general intelligence (AGI) that could have the capacity to perform tasks like colonizing the universe or making better sense of consciousness.
Image Description: Skeleton typing on a computer at a desk
Murrel, Paul. (2006). Intro to Data Technologies. Vienna University of Economics and Business. https://statmath.wu.ac.at/courses/data-analysis/itdtHTML/node6.html
Wikipedia contributors. (2022, July 21). Central processing unit. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 00:55, August 4, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Central_processing_unit&oldid=1099504504
Wikipedia contributors. (2022, July 15). Computer hardware. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 01:24, August 4, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Computer_hardware&oldid=1098360918
Wikipedia contributors. (2022, July 26). Software. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 01:28, August 4, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Software&oldid=1100559992