Computer Architecture 101

I’d thought I’d write about something familiar and computers caught my fancy. I’ve had an interest in computers for a long time and understand their inner workings better than most people. Understanding computers will make you a better informed buyer of a new computer and will help you use the computer you got better. So let’s dive in!

The CPU controls the rest of the computer and the program controls the CPU. The program is a series of instructions that tell the computer what to do. The computer is really dumb. It doesn’t know what to do unless you tell it what to do. The instructions are in the form of binary bits that make up numbers that make up instruction words that tell the computer what to do. Programmers write these instructions for people so you can use your computer. Programmers are ordinary people who have a knack for writing code. This profession is responsible for all of the programs that you see today.

Another part of the computer is the RAM which is the short term memory for the computer and runs in the gigabytes (billions of bytes, and a byte is eight bits). This is where data is kept while it’s being worked on. It’s called RAM for short but it stands for Random Access Memory and is exactly what it sounds like it is: memory that can be randomly accessed anywhere in the data space without being read from a long string of data like it does with the Hard Disk (HD).

The HDD reads data in long sequences and can’t read data from anywhere at once. The HDD is just what it sounds like and is a machine that reads data from magnetically activated regions on a disk that can contain terabytes of data (trillions of bytes). I have a hard disk that contains two terabytes of data on it. This is quite a bit of space. HDDs are the way that data is stored on computers as RAM turns off when it is not needed and doesn’t keep its data.

The next part of the computer that I’d like to look at is the GPU or Graphics Processing Unit. This is the part of the computer that processes graphics for you. It’s basically a little computer of its own that is a little different in that it has many processing units or cores instead of one and is massively parallel rather than sequential. It can process many millions of instructions at a time and can create 3D worlds which you can walk through. Graphics cards can be as expensive as in the thousand dollar or pound range.

Connecting the rest of the computer together is the motherboard. This part of the computer connects the RAM, the HDD, and the GPU to the CPU and provides data transport between all the parts of the computer. It is the backbone of the computer and all the parts plug into it.

The next part of the computer I’d like to highlight is the PSU which stands Power Source Unit and provides steady and continuous power in all the right voltages to the other parts of the computer. It’s a critical component that the rest of the computer could not do without.

I hope you have enjoyed this foray into computer architecture and will remember all that you have learned. It’s important to have a good working understanding of how the computer works and will not serve you wrong in your use of the computer.

Timothy Grindall is a computer Geek and a dabbler in programming. If you liked what you read then hit that little green heart down there so I know you liked it!

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