A computer is an electronic device that is used to perform arithmetic and logical functions automatically. It helps in retrieving, storing, and manipulating data and makes work easier for the user.
This is the basic definition of the computer. But have you ever wondered, how does this compact box works, what components does it constitute of making our work easier and faster? Let us look at the main components of the computer that make it truly functional.
A monitor is one of the output devices of the computer. The monitor is like a digital screen that reflects the output or results. The images or text displayed on the monitor are with the help of a video card inside it. Earlier the monitors used to have CRT inside for display but now new LED and LCD based monitors are available which have better display quality and take a lot less space.
A keyboard is an input device consisting of mechanical buttons called the ‘keys’. Below these keys, hidden from the user is an electrical circuit. Each time a key is pressed the circuit is complete, and an electrical signal is sent to the CPU. The CPU then detects the key pressed and shows the output on the display.
Keyboards can be connected to the computer either by a connecting cable or there are wireless keyboards which are connected using the Bluetooth technology.
There are 5 different types of keys on the keyboard-
1. Alphabetical keys
2. Numerical keys
3. There are 12 function keys
4. Control keys, these include 4 direction keys, home, end, delete, page-up, page-down, control(ctrl), alternate(alt), escape(esc).
5. Then there are special keys used for special tasks i.e print screen(PrtScr), Spacebar, Tab, Num Lock, shift, enter, and caps lock.
The mouse is a peripheral used as an input device of a computer. The mouse has two purposes-
1. To direct the pointer present on the display of the monitor.
2. It is used to select or move files.
In addition to these, then right-click in the mouse is used to display a drop-down menu. There are two types of mouse, mechanical and optical. The mechanical mouse is not much prevalent nowadays. They used to consist of a mechanical trackball beneath them to track the pointer.
The optical mouse is much more advanced and uses LED light to assist the direction of the pointer. The mouse is not now limited to two buttons. There has been a new mouse in the market called the gaming mouse which has one too many buttons solely made for gaming.
A printer is an output device, helpful in representing the output on a sheet. Whatever is displayed on the monitor’s screen can be printed through a printer. The contains a barrel filled with colors which are used to imprint the data on the paper. With the technology growing there are now various print technologies. The better the speed, quality, permanence of the print, the higher the price.
Some of the different types of printers are: Laser printers, home/business inkjet printers, LED printers, 3D printers, etc.
Different sounds produced by the computer can be heard through the speakers. Speakers can be used to listen to songs or any kind of audio coming out of the computer.
Speakers are the intermediate device between the computer and the user. They have a transducer that converts the electromagnetic waves of the computer into sound waves. The speakers always come in pairs to create a stereo sound. The speakers are connected to a computer through cables. Another good option is using headphones. These are also an output device and perform the same work but are portable and can be used without creating a disturbance.
The scanner is used to scan documents, pictures or texts and feed as it is to the computer. It is an input device, that works similarly to a photocopy machine does. It consists of a flat-bed over which the document is placed, and under it, series of lights are swept across. This helps in scanning the document and producing its soft copy on the computer.
Just as the speakers are used to listen to audio, the microphones are used to feed audio in the computer. The working remains the same, but here the sound wave is converted into an electromagnetic wave to make the computer understand it.
The central processing unit or the CPU is the main processor of the computer. That means it is the mastermind behind all the processes done by the computer. Just how a human brain controls all the tasks done by a human body similarly the CPU acts as a brain of the computer.
It controls the processes taking place inside the computer, manages I/O operations, and does all the logical and arithmetic operations. The CPU constitutes 2 major parts ALU(Arithmetic Logical Unit and CU(Control Unit).
The memory unit of the computer stores all the data, information, and instruction to be processed. The memory is used for fast access to the data. Therefore, more the memory faster would be the thinking ability of the computer.
There are two types of memories, Primary and Secondary
The Primary memory consists of RAM(Random access memory). The RAM is used used to store the recent data. This is used for faster access to recent files or instructions. The primary memory is volatile, which means it gets erased once the power is switched off. The Secondary memory is the permanent memory. It is used to store data for a longer period for future use purposes. The Secondary memory includes a hard disk. It is non-volatile, which means the data does not get erased even in a power failure.
The main function of the computer is to store and manipulate data. This makes it clear that a computer constitutes a large storage space. This storage space can be of two types
The HDD or hard disk drive is a moving disk used to store data in the computer and is a non-volatile type of memory. This means the data dos not get erased even in a power failure. The hard disk contains moving platters and a magnetic arm to read and write data on the platters. This whole arrangement is stored inside an airtight case.
The SSD or solid-state drive is an immovable type of storage space and uses flash memory to store data. This is also the secondary memory in the computer and is non-volatile. The SSDs are now replacing HDDs because
- They require less power to boot up
- They are faster
- They don’t have movable parts, thus making them more reliable and sturdy.
- They have a longer battery life
However, SSDs are much more expensive than HDDs, therefore, are less preferable when it comes to cost-cutting.
The motherboard is the main circuit board inside the computer. It helps all the components of the computer communicate with each other. Such as between the CPU and the storage unit, or the CPU and the output devices. The motherboard consists of a microprocessor chip, which does the job of interfacing peripheral devices, CPU, and other peripheral buses.
GPU stands for Graphics Processing Unit. It can process thousands of threads simultaneously. This makes the GPU ideal for purposes like high definition image processing, gaming, or any task that involves graphics.
A GPU can handle multiple tasks parallel, and that is how it is helpful in image processing because it can handle contrast, shape, lighting, etc. together and can display it on the screen altogether really fast. A GPU can be embedded on the CPU die, on the motherboard, or on a video card.
Kuldeep is the founder and lead author of ArtOfTesting. He is skilled in test automation, performance testing, big data, and CI-CD. He brings his decade of experience to his current role where he is dedicated to educating the QA professionals. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.