Information Systems/Hardware

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Hardware refers to the physical parts or components of a computer. System hardware includes components such as the CPU, hard disk drive, graphic cards, sound cards, RAM, power supply unit, motherboard, etc.[1] This lesson covers internal system components. Peripherals, such as keyboards, displays, pointing devices, and printers, are covered in the next lesson.

Objectives and Skills[edit]

Objectives and skills for the hardware portion of CLEP Information Systems include:[2]

  • Concepts of computer architectures (mainframe, client/server, operating systems)
  • Devices (processing, storage, input and output, telecommunications, networking)
  • Functions (computer, telecommunications, network hardware)

Readings[edit]

  1. Wikibooks: Introduction to Computer Information Systems/The System Unit
  2. Wikipedia: Personal computer
  3. Wikipedia: Computer hardware
  4. Wikipedia: Computer architecture
  5. Wikipedia: Server (computing)

Multimedia[edit]

  1. See HowStuffWorks: Computer Hardware Pictures
  2. YouTube: Hardware Resources [which?]
  3. Youtube: Computer Basics: Hardware [which?]
  4. YouTube: Inside Your Computer
  5. YouTube: How a CPU Works
  6. YouTube: Binary Numbers
  7. YouTube: Conversion of Decimal Number to Binary/Hexadecimal/Octal Number and Vice Versa Using a Calculator
  8. YouTube: What Kind of Computer Should I Get?
  9. Youtube: How to swap hard drives
  10. Youtube: Input, Processing, Output & Feedback Information System Components
  11. Youtube: How to build a PC
  12. Youtube Air vs Liquid Cooling

Activities[edit]

  1. Use Quia: Computer Basics to play an interactive game where you match key computer hardware terms with definitions.
  2. Complete the Online-Passport.info: Hardware Identification Activity.
  3. Run the System Information or List Hardware utility for your operating system:
  4. Create an inventory list of all internal hardware components in your system. Using your preferred hardware vendor, check the hardware specifications for a new system. How recent is your hardware? Is the same technology still in use on current systems?
  5. Review the Consumer Reports "Computer Buying Guide". Visit your favorite computer retailer's website and go "shopping" for a new computer or familiarize yourself with the hardware of a computer at PCPartPicker and build your own system.
  6. To understand how a CPU works, review MathsIsFun: Binary, Decimal and Hexadecimal Numbers and MathsIsFun: Binary to Decimal to Hexadecimal Converter. Experiment with converting decimal values to hexadecimal and binary, and then back to decimal again. Then use your operating system's calculator and change the view to programmer mode. Perform simple math calculations in binary and hexadecimal. Convert the values to decimal to check your work.
  7. Try the Cisco: IT Essentials Virtual Desktop This interactive guide walks you through installing hardware into a virtual desktop.

Research and Discussion[edit]

  1. Research computer hardware market share. Which companies are the top three vendors for business computers, personal computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones? Are hardware companies successful in all markets, or do they specialize and target specific opportunities?
  2. Research the average lifespan of computer hardware. Compare performance and costs for current high-end, middle-of-the-pack, and entry-level systems. Which systems provide the best return on investment when considering performance and expected lifespan?
  3. Moore's law theory has suggested that the speed of computer processors would double every two years. How do you predict the future of computer processors?
  4. After you created an inventory list of the internal hardware components in your system, what components would you upgrade on your computer? Research, identify and support your reasons for upgrading these different hardware components.

Lesson Summary[edit]

  • System hardware is a general term for various physical components of a computer system. It includes all the parts inside the computer case such as the CPU, hard disk drive, graphic cards, sound cards, RAM, power supply unit, motherboard, etc. Computer hardware is what you can physically touch.[1]
  • The central processing unit, or CPU, is that part of a computer which executes software program instructions.[3]
  • The power supply unit, or PSU, converts general purpose electric current from the mains to direct current for the other components of the computer. Appropriate PSU capacity is dependent on power required to run system hardware [4]
  • A PC's main memory is a fast storage area that is directly accessible by the CPU, and is used to store the currently executing program and immediately needed data. PCs use semiconductor random access memory (RAM) of various kinds such as DRAM, SDRAM or SRAM as their main memory.[5]
  • Mass storage devices such as hard drives store programs and data even when the power is off; they do require power to perform read and write functions during usage.[6]
  • Optical drives, including CD, DVD, and Blu-ray Disc, are data storage devices using rapidly rotating discs coated with reflective material and read using a laser diode.[7][8]
  • Hard disk drives (HDD) are data storage devices used for storing and retrieving digital information using rapidly rotating disks (platters) coated with magnetic material.[9]
  • Solid state drives (SSD) are data storage devices using integrated circuit assemblies as memory to store data persistently.[10]
  • Video cards—otherwise called graphics cards, graphics adapters or video adapters—process the graphics output from the motherboard and transmit it to the display. Dedicated video cards are components that are entirely separate from the CPU, while integrated graphics are graphics processes that are handled within the CPU[11]
  • A network interface controller (NIC, also known as a network interface card, network adapter, LAN adapter, and by similar terms) is a computer hardware component that connects a computer to a computer network.[12]
  • The motherboard, also referred to as system board or main board, is the primary circuit board within a personal computer, and other major system components plug directly onto or cable into the motherboard.[13]
  • Computer architecture consists of different computer designs used for specific tasks, including, but not limited to: smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktop computers, super computers, and mainframe computers.[14]
  • The Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) is the latest successor to the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) to build on and address any technical shortcomings.[15]
  • The cooling systems help dissipate the heat generated by the hardware to provide optimal operating temperatures and therefore performance.[16]

Key Terms[edit]

architecture
A set of rules and methods that describe the functionality, organization and implementation of computer systems.[17]
ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange)
An eight-bit character encoding scheme used on personal computing devices.[18]
backward compatible
Products designed for a new standard that can also receive, read, view or play older standards or formats.[19]
bay
A standard-sized area for adding hardware to a computer.[20]
binary
A system of representing letters, numbers or other characters using the digits 0 and 1.[21]
bit
The basic unit of information in computing and digital communications which can have only one of two values, most commonly represented as either a 0 or 1.[22]
bus
A communication system that transfers data between components inside a computer, or between computers.[23]
byte
A unit of digital information in computing and telecommunications that consists of eight bits, permitting the values 0 through 255 and used to encode a single character of text.[24]
cache
A component that stores data so future requests for that data can be served faster.[25]
cluster
A set of loosely or tightly connected computers that work together so that, in many respects, they may be viewed as a single system.[26]
cooling system
A passive or active system in a computer that helps regulate and dissipate the heat generated to maintain optimal temperature and thereby performance.[27]
computer
A general-purpose device that can be programmed to carry out a set of arithmetic or logical operations automatically.[28]
CPU (Central Processing Unit)
The electronic circuitry within a computer that carries out the instructions of a computer program by performing the basic arithmetic, logical, control and input/output (I/O) operations specified by the instructions.[29]
data
A set of values of qualitative or quantitative variables identified as individual pieces of information.[30]
digital
Data that is represented using discrete (discontinuous) values.[31]
EB (Exabyte)
A unit of digital information equal to 1018 (1 quintillion) bytes.[32]
EBCDIC (Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code)
An 8-bit character encoding scheme used mainly on IBM mainframe and IBM midrange computer operating systems.[33]
expansion card
A printed circuit board that can be inserted into an electrical connector, or expansion slot on a computer motherboard, backplane or riser card to add functionality to a computer system.[34]
file
A resource for storing information, which is available to a computer program and is usually based on some kind of durable storage.[35]
FireWire
An interface standard for a serial bus for high-speed communications and isochronous real-time data transfer developed by Apple and replaced with Thunderbolt.[36]
firmware
The combination of a hardware device, e.g. an integrated circuit, and computer instructions and data that reside as read-only software on that device.[37]
GB (Gigabyte)
A unit of digital information equal to 109 (1 billion) bytes.[38]
GHz (Gigahertz)
A unit of frequency defined as 109 (1 billion) cycles per second.[39]
GPU (Graphics Processor Unit)
A specialized electronic circuit designed to rapidly manipulate and alter memory to accelerate the creation of images in a frame buffer intended for output to a display.[40]
hardware
The collection of physical elements that constitutes a computer system.[41]
heat sink
A passive heat exchanger that transfers the heat generated by an electronic or a mechanical device to a fluid medium, often air or a liquid coolant, where it is dissipated away from the device, thereby allowing regulation of the device's temperature at optimal levels.[42]
Hertz (Hz)
A unit of frequency defined as one cycle per second.[43]
information
That which may be derived from data and knowledge.[44]
input
Signals or data received by a computing system.[45]
KB (Kilobyte)
A unit of digital information equal to 103 (1 thousand) bytes.[46]
MB (Megabyte)
A unit of digital information equal to 106 (1 million) bytes.[47]
memory
Primary storage devices used to store information for immediate use in a computer.[48]
MHz (Megahertz)
A unit of frequency defined as 106 (1 million) cycles per second.[49]
microprocessor
A multipurpose, programmable device that accepts digital data as input, processes it according to instructions stored in its memory, and provides results as output[50]
motherboard
The main printed circuit board (PCB) found in computers and other expandable systems.[51]
multicore processor
A single computing component with two or more independent processing units.[52]
multiprocessing
The use of two or more central processing units (CPUs) within a single computer system.[53]
multitasking
A concept of performing multiple processes by executing them concurrently.[54]
nanotechnology
The manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale.[55]
optical computer
A computing device that uses photons rather than electrons for computation.[56]
output
Signals or data sent from a computing system.[57]
parallel processing
The simultaneous use of more than one CPU or processor core to execute a program or multiple computational threads.[58]
PB (Petabyte)
A unit of digital information equal to 1015 (1 quadrillion) bytes.[59]
PC Card
A parallel communication peripheral interface designed for laptop computers in 1990.[60]
port
An interface between the computer and other computers or peripheral devices.[61]
power supply unit (PSU)
Converts main AC to low-voltage regulated DC power for the internal components of a computer.[62]
quantum computer
A computing device that uses subatomic particles rather than electrons for computation.[63]
RAM (Random-Access Memory)
Volatile data storage directly accessible by the processor.[64]
ROM (Read-Only Memory)
A class of non-volatile computer data storage which cannot be modified.[65]
secondary storage (auxiliary memory)
Non-volatile data storage not directly accessible by the processor.[66]
sound card
an internal expansion card that provides input and output of audio signals to and from a computer under program controls.[67]
TB (Terabyte)
A unit of digital information equal to 1012 (1 trillion) bytes.[68]
Unicode
An encoding scheme that uses 8, 16, or 32 bits to represent text expressed in most of the world's writing systems.[69]
video card (display card, graphics card, display adapter, or graphics adapter)
An expansion card which generates a feed of output images to a display (such as a computer monitor).[70]

Review Questions[edit]

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Click on a question to see the answer.
  1. Computer hardware is _____.
    Computer hardware is a collection of physical elements that make up a computer system.
  2. System hardware consists of _____.
    System hardware consists of the physical parts of a computer such as the CPU, hard disk drive, graphic cards, sound cards, RAM, power supply unit, motherboard, etc.
  3. The central processing unit, or CPU, is that part of a computer which _____.
    The central processing unit, or CPU, is that part of a computer which executes software program instructions.
  4. The power supply unit, or PSU, converts _____ to _____.
    The power supply unit, or PSU, converts general purpose mains Alternating Current to low voltage regulated Direct Current for the internal components of the computer.
  5. A PC's main memory is _____, and is used to _____.
    A PC's main memory is a fast storage area that is directly accessible by the CPU, and is used to store the currently executing program and immediately needed data.
  6. Mass storage devices such as _____ store _____.
    Mass storage devices such as hard drives store programs and data even when the power is off; they do require power to perform read and write functions during usage.
  7. Optical drives, including _____, are _____.
    Optical drives, including CD, DVD, and Blu-ray Disc, are data storage devices using rapidly rotating discs coated with reflective material and read using a laser diode.
  8. Hard disk drives (HDD) are _____.
    Hard disk drives (HDD) are data storage devices used for storing and retrieving digital information using rapidly rotating disks (platters) coated with magnetic material.
  9. Solid state drives (SSD) are _____.
    Solid state drives (SSD) are data storage devices using integrated circuit assemblies as memory to store data persistently.
  10. Video cards—otherwise called _____—process _____ and transmit it to _____.
    Video cards—otherwise called graphics cards, graphics adapters or video adapters—process the graphics output from the motherboard and transmit it to the display.
  11. A network interface controller (NIC, also known as _____) is a _____.
    A network interface controller (NIC, also known as a network interface card, network adapter, LAN adapter, and by similar terms) is a computer hardware component that connects a computer to a computer network.
  12. The motherboard, also referred to as _____ is the _____.
    The motherboard, also referred to as the main printed circuit board (PCB), is the primary circuit board within a personal computer. Other major system components plug directly into the motherboard.
  13. What role does the Basic Input Output System (BIOS) play in the systems hardware?
    The BIOS is used to assist in configuring and identifying hardware such as hard drives, CPU, and memory in a computer.

Assessments[edit]

See Also[edit]

Additional Resources[edit]

  • Crucial: How to install an SSD in your desktop
  • Gookin, Dan. (2011). Troubleshooting and Maintaining Your PC All-in-One For Dummies. ISBN 9780470878675
  • HowStuffWorks.com: What's inside my computer?
  • PC World: How to Build a PC
  • White, Ron. (2014). How Computers Work: The Evolution of Technology, 10th Edition. ISBN 9780789749840

References[edit]

Nuvola apps edu miscellaneous.svg Type classification: this is a lesson resource.
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  1. 1.0 1.1 Wikipedia: Computer hardware
  2. CLEP: Information Systems
  3. Wikipedia: Personal computer
  4. Wikipedia: Personal computer
  5. Wikipedia: Personal computer
  6. Wikipedia: Personal computer
  7. Wikipedia: Personal computer
  8. Wikipedia: Optical disc
  9. Wikipedia: Hard disk drive
  10. Wikipedia: Solid-state drive
  11. Wikipedia: Personal computer
  12. Wikipedia: Personal computer
  13. Wikipedia: Personal computer
  14. Wikipedia: Computer architecture
  15. Wikipedia: Unified_Extensible_Firmware_Interface
  16. Computer cooling system
  17. Wikipedia: Computer architecture
  18. Wikipedia: ASCII
  19. Wikipedia: Backward compatibility
  20. Wikipedia: Drive bay
  21. Wikipedia: Computer hardware
  22. Wikipedia: Bit
  23. Wikipedia: Bus(computing)
  24. Wikipedia: Byte
  25. Wikipedia: Cache (computing)
  26. Wikipedia: Computer cluster
  27. Computer cooling system
  28. Wikipedia: Computer
  29. Wikipedia: Central processing unit
  30. Wikipedia: Data
  31. Wikipedia: Digital
  32. Wikipedia: Exabyte
  33. Wikipedia: EBCDIC
  34. Wikipedia: Expansion card
  35. Wikipedia: Computer file
  36. Wikipedia: Firewire
  37. Wikipedia:Firmware
  38. Wikipedia: Gigabyte
  39. Wikipedia: Hertz
  40. Wikipedia: Graphics processing unit
  41. Wikipedia: Computer hardware
  42. Wikipedia: Heat Sink
  43. Wikipedia: Hertz
  44. Wikipedia: Information
  45. Wikipedia: Input/output
  46. Wikipedia: Kilobyte
  47. Wikipedia: Megabyte
  48. Wikipedia: Computer memory
  49. Wikipedia: Hertz
  50. Wikipedia: Microprocessor
  51. Wikipedia: Motherboard
  52. Wikipedia:Multi-core processor
  53. Wikipedia:Multiprocessing
  54. Wikipedia: Computer multitasking
  55. Wikipedia: Nanotechnology
  56. Wikipedia: Optical computing
  57. Wikipedia: Input/output
  58. Wikipedia: Parallel processing
  59. Wikipedia: Petabyte
  60. Wikipedia: PC Card
  61. Wikipedia: Computer port (hardware)
  62. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_supply_unit_(computer)
  63. Wikipedia: Quantum computing
  64. Wikipedia: Random-access memory
  65. Wikipedia: Read-only memory
  66. Wikipedia: Computer data storage
  67. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound_card
  68. Wikipedia: Terabyte
  69. Wikipedia: Unicode
  70. Wikipedia: Video card