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Over the years, a number of technological advancements have occurred in various fields, thereby making man’s work easier. In the field of Information Technology, one of the most stunning developments has been the invention of computers (PCs). A computer refers “to a device that can receive some input and process it in order to produce an output” (Microsoft, 2013). For instance, a human brain also functions like a computer.
However, the focus of this paper will be on computers as electronic devices, which contain a microprocessor. A microprocessor refers to “a small electronic device that carries out complex calculations in the blink of an eye”. A number of electronic gadgets such as calculators, television sets, mobile phones among others that people use everyday contain microprocessors.
Nevertheless, a computer (PC) is the most commonly known gadget with a microprocessor. In1970s Ed Roberts came up with the first marketable computer, which used a microprocessor designed by Intel. Roberts’ computer came to be known as the Altair 8800, thereby ushering in the era of personal computers. Therefore, this paper examines how computers work.
Major Components of a Computer
A computer is made up of several components, which are usually assembled in order for it to function. Some of the most common components of a computer include a case, motherboard, power supply, Central Processing Unit (CPU), random access memory, drives, cooling devices, and cables. All these parts make up a computer’s central processing power.
The case of a computer includes a keyboard and a screen in case of a laptop. On the other hand, a desktop has a separate monitor (screen), keyboard, and CPU as shown in figure 1in the appendix. The various parts of a desktop are often connected using cables.
The motherboard of a computer refers to the circuit board inside a computer. The various components of a computer connect in one way or another with the motherboard. For instance, the complementary metal-oxide semiconductor is directly attached to the motherboard. The complementary metal-oxide semiconductor “stores some information, such as the system clock”.
In order for a computer to function, it must have a power supply. “Power supply is that component of a computer that connects it to a power source such as a battery in case of a laptop or an outside power outlet in case of a desktop”. The component of a computer that contains a microprocessor is the Central Processing Unit.
The CPU of the computer determines the ultimate performance of a computer because it is the core-processing unit of a computer as shown in figure 2 in the appendix. On the other hand, the Random Access Memory acts as a buffer to the CPU, whereby it stores information while the CPU process it.
Additionally, computers have drives, which stores information. For example, the hard drive stores the operating system and software. Computers also use cooling devices like fans in order to control the amount of heat generated. Apart from the major components, computers also have ports, peripherals and expansion slots, which allows for interaction between the computer and its user, as well as, other computers.
How to Power a Computer
When a computer user presses the power button, the computer will first undergo a number of internal processes referred to as the boot process. The Basic Input-Output System (BIOS) perform the booting process. The BIOS “is software stored on a flash memory chip and embedded on the motherboard”. The BIOS also links the different hardware in a computer.
When the power button is pressed, it activates the computer’s power supply, which in turn powers the motherboard and other computer’s components. The computer then undergoes power-on self-test (POST), whereby the POST checks any failures in the computer hardware by giving signals through beeping.
A single beep indicates that everything in the hardware is functioning appropriately whereas a series of beeps signals a failure. Afterwards the computer will display information regarding the boot process on the screen/ monitor.
Some of the information usually displayed includes the size of RAM, drives detected, specifications of the processor, and the manufacturer of the BIOS. However, in most computers this kind of data has been replaced with a splash screen that only shows the logo of the producer
The BIOS will then access the boot disk that is the hard disk containing a computer’s operating system. After accessing the boot disk, the BIOS feed the boot loader into the computer’s short-term memory (RAM). The boot loader will then search for the operating system and launches it into the RAM. Once the operating system has been launched, the computer user can be able to interact with the PC.
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The type of operating system that a computer has determines how the computer works hence the user can control the PC via the operating system. There are different types of operating systems. For instance, the most commonly used OS is the Microsoft Windows and Linux version. However, Apple computers mostly use Mac OS X.
The operating system performs a number of tasks as follows. First, the OS manage a computer’s processing task whereby it determines the data for processing by breaking it down into controllable amounts for the CPU to process. Second, the OS control a computer’s Random Access Memory by ensuring that the RAM contains considerable data at a given time.
Third, the OS performs device management whereby it acts as a link between the internal components of a computer and other external devices that are connected to the computer. For example, the OS interprets inputs via the key board or the mouse into a form that the user can understand. Additionally, the operating system directs how information should be stored within a computer.
A PC can store data in hard disk or external devices. Last but most important, the operating system performs application interface. The OS enables “the exchange of data between the software programs and the PC” (Microsoft, 2013). Every application program is usually designed for a certain version of an OS.
From the above discussion, it can be concluded that computers have made man’s work easier because the PCs can process information within the shortest time possible. A PC must undergo a boot process before the user can interact with it.
Additionally, in order for a PC to function, it must have all the major components like the CPU, motherboard, and power supply among others plus software systems such as the operating system and application programmes.
Microsoft. (2013). Introduction to computers. Web.
Walters, G. (2001). The essential guide to computing. New York: Prentice Hall Professional.
Young, R. (2009). How Computers Work: Processor and Main Memory. New York: Springer.