Computer Basics

  • The motherboard is the main board in your computer that contains the BIOS chips, RAM, I/O ports, and CPU. This board maintains the electrical path- ways that enable all other components to communicate with each other.

  • The power supply does exactly what its name suggests: supplies power to the rest of the components in the computer. The power supply takes 120 volts or 240 volts (depending on the country you are in) from your building and converts it to output ranging from 5 volts down to 1.5 volts.

  • The processor is the brains of the organization so to speak. It has been designed to do very few things, but do them extremely fast. The processor performs a limited set of calculations based on requests from the operating system and controls access to system memory.

    Processor speed is measured in several different ways, including clock cycles, Megahertz (MHz), or millions of instructions per second (MIPS). I know you have have heard of 3.0GHZ, 2.0GHZ, this is the processor speed. It is the speed at which the processor executes its instructions or commands. Although processor speed is not the only factor affecting performance, in general, the larger the MHz the faster the system.

  • RAM (Random Access Memory) is the computer's primary working memory. The OS (Operating System e.g. Windows XP) controls the computer's functions. When the OS loads, it loads into RAM; when applications load, they load into RAM; when you open documents, they load into RAM; and when you need to send output to your monitor, the output is loaded into RAM before it hits your monitor.

  • Firmware is programming code (software) that is contained in or stored on the IC (Integrated Circuit) chips (hardware) on your computer. This combination of hardware and software makes up the BIOS on several different devices, with potential settings stored in CMOS.

  • BIOS is short for Basic Input Output System. The BIOS is actually software that is stored in a ROM (Read Only Memory) chip on your motherboard. Most systems today use a Flash EPROM (Erasable Programmable ROM) so that the user can update them.

    The BIOS is responsible for controlling or managing the POST (Power On Self Test), the boot process, and the interaction of components on the motherboard. These are all low-level processes that the BIOS is responsible for, but still extremely important to your system.

  • Storage devices on your computer are responsible for storing data, such as the operating system, applications, and actual output of applications or user data. Depending on the amount and type of data, there are three basic types of devices to work with: Floppy drives, including some of the high-capacity formats such as 120MB Superdisks Hard drives, including some of the removable cartridge drives such as Flash drives, including CD-ROM and DVD drives

    When dealing with hard drives, there are two major attachment interfaces: IDE (Integrated Device Electronics) or ATA (AT Attachment), and SCSI (Small Computer System Interface). ATA opens up the IDE interface to accept a wider variety of devices. There has been a long ongoing battle for speed and performance between IDE and SCSI, but in general, SCSI provides faster and more reliable transportation.

  • Modem is short for Modulator Demodulator. Modulation refers to the conversion of a digital signal to an analog signal, and demodulation reverses this process.

    Your computer is digital, while the phone lines that you want to communicate over are analog. In order to allow the digital signal to be passed over the analog lines, you must use a modem.