It is time to dig a little deeper into how computers function. This is going to be a brief explanation as to how the hardware actually works. This article will hopefully give you a little more understanding of what’s going on behind the scenes (screens). It is a truly amazing process.
It would take forever to cover it all but I can cover the basics here. These PC parts are useless alone but limitless together. When I first began to study computers, I was mesmerized. I couldn’t stop researching. Though the processes are quite simple, the actual amount of calculations is mind boggling.
When someone says to me that anything is possible, I would usually laugh. But when they add in the factor of the computer I must agree. The computer has given us the opportunity to exponential compound our ability to think. Through them we have uncovered many secrets and have created new realities.
There is no problem that cannot be solved. There is nothing that can compare to the impact that these little boxes have had and more important, will have on our lives.
Basic components – The foundation
I will start this off with the most basic components in a computer. Each has a vital role to play but there is not much to say about them. These are, the case, the motherboard and the power supply.
The case is a plastic or metal container that houses the internal components. Within this case are slots to house drives, a place to mount the power supply and holes to attach the motherboard. The case is very basic, but it provides protection to sensitive components and allows them to be secured.
The motherboard is a circuit board that allows a union between all the other RAM CPU, GPU, network adapters, disk drives and hard drives are all connected directly to the motherboard. The motherboard has two “bridges” on it, the north and south bridge.
The Central Processing Unit has a built in socket on the motherboard. You will also find DIMMS (dual inline memory) slots for the RAM cards. The BIOS (basic input/output system) mentioned above are input/output ports found on the outside of your computer. These are used to connect your peripherals.
CPU – The Brain
The CPU controls the actions of all other hardware. It holds millions of circuits inside of it which handle logic and math and to send and receive data. Commands are sent to the CPU which then are relayed to the other components. All data must travel, at some point through this.
Without the central processing unit nothing would be able to function. They would still be operational but would lack the necessary commands. They do not act without being told to do so. I feel that this is the most important piece of hardware, (though PC gamer would say that it was the Graphics card).
I know that this is a very light explanation of the CPU. It is actually very intriguing how they work and their role in the system. I went into further detail on this in “How do computers work” if you are interested in learning more about this component.
Hard drive – Large capacity/slow
A hard drives main function is to store data. The modern hard drives contain a ferromagnetic material which means can be charged magnetically. There are an unimaginable amount of areas upon these disks called regions. Their polarity can be changed through tiny electric charges. Each region is represented as a binary digit. The disks spin around on a spindle with an actuator bar both above and below the disk.
These arms send magnetic charge to the disk leaving behind a sequence of binary code (writing). It also can interpret code which is already on the disks (reading). There are two ways that the hard drive can reference the location to which it has written a specific code sequence.
These are called, a file allocation table (FAT) and a cache. There are rings around the disks called tracks which are divided into sections called sectors. Groups of sectors are called clusters. When data is written on the disk, a file allocation table is also written to reference exactly where it is located.
Cache is memory can be found in the mother board (external) or in the CPU (internal). It holds copies of files to be easily accessed at a later date. This make the startup time of the cached program quicker.
Ram – Small capacity/fast
Ram or, random access memory, temporarily stores programs to be accessed by the CPU. When all the data cannot fit on the ram, it must be pulled from the hard drive which greatly reduces speed. If you run into this problem you can either buy more ram or you can try to limit the programs that are loaded to the existing ram. The more ram you have the faster the computer can have access to your files.
Ram must have electric current to store data. This is why it takes a while to load after the PC has been off. Each time you turn your computer on many programs are directed to the ram for quick access. These are called startup programs. DRAM (dynamic ram) has capacitors that store data as long as they have a constant flow of electricity. If they lose power, the data is erased from the ram. SDRAM (synchronous dynamic ram) is synchronized with the system clock allow it to run faster than dram.
The number of bits transferred in one clock cycle is called a bit data path (32 bit or 64 bit). This means that the DIMMS can transfer 64 bits (8 bytes) at a time. DDR lives up to its name. It has a “Double data rate”. DDR2 doubles that and takes less power. DDR3 doubles the rate of DDR2 and uses less power. DDR4 is quicker that DDR3. These are not interchangeable. Motherboards are designed to hold a specific type of ram.
Graphics card – What you see
A graphics processing card is also referred to as a parallel processor. They harness thousands of cores that are highly efficient at computing calculations. They essentially create mathematical shapes using triangles known as vertex then render those shapes into pixels on your screen.
These components execute their jobs very effectively. They work by using coordinates at the x, y and z axis of each point on the vertex. Translation is the process of moving these vertices. These can also be scaled (made larger or smaller) or rotated. 3d scaling matrix will multiply a vertex by a 4×4 matrix, rendering it another size. There are predefined matrix for scaling, rotating and translation. A GPU executes floating-point operations, vector operations and matrix multiplication.
If you look at the CAD application, it can calculate up to 2 billion operations per second delivering 17 million polygons per second. This can only be done using the matrix and vertex features. The GPU an incredible piece of hardware. They are the window into the virtual world. They allow us to freely walk around on 3d landscapes and actually enter the minds of creators.
Limitless possibility – You are the only factor missing….
I would like to state that this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many things going on each time you turn your computer on. Millions of calculations are being made right now as I type these letters. Each one represented by a number, a code. The world of the computer is quite impressive but if you really break it down each component has specific tasks which they are very good at.
Computers and technology should not be scary. You should be really exited because with these little machines anything is possible. There is nothing that cannot be accomplished with access to such brilliant machines. The only thing holding them back is you. They are designed to think for you. But they can only do that if you tell them to.
We are the ones who have the dream. Computers have the ability to bring that dream to life. This is a beautiful world and with computers we can make it even better. Every time you sit at your computer, try to imagine it as an extension to your creativity, your understanding and even your reality. The computer is there waiting for input. Are you going to give it?
I really hope that this has helpful and enlightening. You are an amazing person and greatness is at your fingertips. Each keystroke has the potential to change the world as you know it. The things we can do today were impossible yesterday and yet, they pale into comparison of what we will be capable of tomorrow.
If there is anything that you would like to talk about please feel free to comment below or you can reach me at the email posted below. I am always looking forward to hearing from you. I’ll be waiting.
Best of luck,
Founder of tonypcmd.com