We explain what are the components of a computer, the internal and external hardware, the types of computer software and also the types of computers.
Software is the “non-physical” part of the computer, which exists in the form of codes that contain instructions so that the hardware knows what to do. Without these programs, most hardware devices would not be useful. There are two kinds:
- System software . They are the programs pre-installed on the computer, which allow supporting other programs installed by the user. Some examples are operating systems (Windows, Mac OS, Linux, BIOS, etc.), disk cleaners, disk defragmenters, antivirus , graphic drivers, encryption software, among others.
- Application software . They are the programs that do not have to do with the operation of the equipment, but are installed by the user to perform certain functions. For example, spreadsheets (Excel), word processing (Word), programs database (Access), graphics programs (Illustrator), browsers of Internet (Chrome), among others.
The components of a computer
A computer is a computer system made up of two basic aspects: hardware , which means “physical support”, and software , which refers to the intangible or the “program”. Physical media are electronic elements that work connected to provide data , and that data is processed thanks to the instructions provided by the programs.
Hardware is like a box in which a series of devices that process input and output information are connected. The software is the set of instructions to execute that input and output information. Without the software’s instructions, the computer would be a box of no use, just as the human body would be without a brain.
Hardware refers to the different tangible elements of a computer , and can be internal or external.
The internal hardware is mainly made up of:
- Motherboard (or motherboard). It is the main board of any computer system to which all other devices connect, both directly (such as interconnected electrical circuits) and indirectly (through USB portsor other types of connectors). It has a basic software called BIOS that enables and synchronize their basic functions (such as data transmission, management of power and recognition of the physical connection of other external components).
- Processor . It is the Central Processing Unit ( CPU ), that is, the brain of the computer that controls everything the computer runs and is responsible for calculating and understanding data. There are several types of CPUs that differ, among other things, by their speed to process information. That speed is measured in a frequency unit called Hertz (or Hertz in Spanish) and, the faster the speed reached by the processor, the faster the performance of the computer will be. Currently, the two main CPU brands are AMD and Intel.
- Internal RAM memory . It is the memory that stores information, temporarily and quickly, for the computer to use at the moment. Its storage capacity is measured in units called gigabytes (GB). The greater the amount of RAM, the faster the computer can operate, for example, to open and use several programs at the same time. The content of the RAM memory is deleted as soon as the computer is turned off because it does not store data ( files , videos, programs, etc.), but it keeps information about the actions that are being carried out with that data. It does not store the file or the program itself, but the information to execute it.
- Internal ROM memory . It is the memory that stores information permanently and is called “read only”, that is, the user cannot alter the content once that information has been stored, they can only install or uninstall it. ROM memory stores everything related to instructions or what is also called BIOS (basic system or boot program) and which includes instructions on how to start the machine or how programs work, among others.
- Video card. Also known as a “graphics card,” it is an internal hardware device that connects to the motherboard and allows the computer to display images on the monitor. It requires the installation of software to tell the computer how to use that video card. The user can modify the settings of the image projected on the monitor, for example, quality (greater or lesser definition), size, among others.
- Soundboard. It is an internal hardware device that connects to the motherboard and is classified according to the channels it uses, for example, stereo, quadraphonic (surround sound), MIDI (connector for professional use), among others. The main function of the board is to allow the computer to reproduce sounds (music, voice or any audio signal) through speakers or headphones. It also receives user sounds through the connection of a microphone.
- Secondary storage device. It is the memory that stores data permanently (or until the user deletes it), such as documents, spreadsheets, images, videos, audios, backup copies of files, among others. It is stored data that the computer does not need immediately or quickly for its operation, but it is the user who uses it directly. There are two types of secondary storage devices: internal (the hard drive) and external (external hard drive, memory card, USB stick, CD ROM, etc.).
The external hardware of a computer is mainly made up of:
- Input devices . They are pieces that receive raw data and that the computer can process through the corresponding software. They are divided into two categories: manual input devices, which must be operated by the user (keyboard, mouse, touch screen, microphone, etc.) and automatic input devices, which activate the input of information on their own, independently of the user (magnetic stripe reader, magnetic ink character recognition, PIN and chip reader, barcode reader, etc.).
- Output devices . They are pieces that send out the data processed by the computer. There are two types: temporary output (such as the monitor, which constantly updates the output image on the screen) and permanent output (such as the printer, which reproduces information on paper that lasts as a hard copy).
- Peripheral devices. These are most of the input and output devices that are considered “nonessential” external hardware components because the computer can function without them. For example, speakers, webcam, keyboard, microphone, printer, scanner, mouse, joystick, among others.
There are different types of computers that vary according to their size, design and complexity of functions capable of performing. However, they are all based on the components detailed above. Among the main types of computers are:
- Personal computer. Its name comes from the English personal computer (PC), also called “desktop”. It is in common use at home or office.
- Laptop. Also called a notebook , it is a smaller and lighter machine than the PC, designed to be easily transported. It is for personal or work use.
- Netbook. It is similar to the notebook , except that it is smaller in size and weight, so its screen and keyboard are much smaller. It is designed to transport and use anywhere.
- Central unit. Also called the mainframe, it is a very large, powerful and expensive computer for business or industrial use that allows processing data on a large scale.