In today’s society, we are completely dependent on computers. From our houses to businesses, utilities to phones, everything uses some form of a computer. In this series, I will be detailing details of the modern personal computer.
In order to understand computers, we must first define the major components of a computer.
Motherboard: The part of the computer everything connects to. This piece contains various capacitors, ICs (integrated circuits), and ports. Examples include the Intel DX79SI, ASUS Rampage IV Formula, etc.
CPU: the piece that performs the instructions of the program, whether the program is the OS, a web browser, etc. Examples include the Intel i7-3930k, AMD FX-6300, etc.
RAM: Random Access Memory – very fast flash memory which is volatile (loss of power to the circuit means loss of data). Used to store data for use by programs and the OS.
HDD: Hard Disk Drive – a mechanical storage device which is simply a disk spinning at high speeds, with magnetic heads reading and writing data on the surfaces. Examples include the Seagate Barracuda, WD Caviar Black, etc.
SSD: Solid State Drive – a drive made up of non-volatile flash memory. Examples include the OCZ Agility 3, Samsung 840 Pro, etc.
ODD: Optical Disc Drive – a drive that uses a laser to read and/or write data to and from an optical disc, such as CDs, Blu-Rays, and DVDs.
OS: Operating System – a program that is one of the first to run when a computer is started that is the foundation for all of the other programs. Examples include Microsoft Windows 8, Apple Mac OS X Mavericks, etc
CPU Cooler: The CPU is very hot: they are measured in GHz (gigahertz), meaning a billion operations per second. This obviously generates heat. A CPU cooler has many parts. First, there is the heatsink. A heatsink is a piece of metal that conducts heat very well. Between the heatsink and the CPU is thermal paste/compound. Neither the surface of the CPU nor the heatsink are perfectly smooth. Therefore, there are some gaps where there is no contact. Because there needs to be the most amount of contact available for optimum heat transfer, we use thermal paste. Thermal paste is a viscous (slow moving liquid) paste with stuff in suspension (usually silver). This fills in the gaps, and allows for better heat transfer. Finally, on the top of the heat sink there is the fan. The fan blows air from the hot surface away and replaces it with cooler air (Water cooling is for another day).
Case: the case is what everything goes in. The case can range from full sized towers (like the CoolerMaster Storm Sniper) to mini boxes (like the Bitfenix Prodigy) to custom build desks.
GPU: Graphics Processing Unit/Graphics Card – a type of processor suited for running graphical computations. These computations tend to be parallelly processes, so GPUs have many cores. There can be discrete as well as onboard graphics Examples include the NVIDIA Titan, AMD Radeon HD 7990, Intel HD 5000, etc.
Monitor: The screen, which outputs the information given by the computer and rendered by the GPU.
There are obviously more parts to this, but these are some of the essentials. An analogy is this:
You are the CPU. You run everything. Your life is the OS. Your life is the basis for everything that happens. Your experiences and trainings are the programs. What you know, you do. Your office desk is the motherboard. Everything is based off of it. Your short term memory is like the RAM. Things can go in and out quickly, but you can only remember so much at once. The hard drive is like pieces of paper you write stuff down on and then file. It’s cheap, but it’s slow, and you could drop a stack of papers and lose all organization. The SSD is like a typing into your phone. It’s quick, but costs some money. The optical drive is like the scanner and printer. It takes time, but it’s reliable. The GPU is like your eyes. Everything that you see is what you made happen. The monitor is like the world. It shows you what is out there. The case is like your room, and the cooler is like the air conditioner.
See you next time.