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Chapter 1. Computer Basics. What is a Computer?. Functional definitions (45%) Humorous definitions (5%) Academic definitions (45%) Other (5%). Functional Definitions. “A computer is a machine that facilitates many tasks, like word processing, web searching, etc. It is a tool.”

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chapter 1

Chapter 1

Computer Basics

what is a computer
What is a Computer?
  • Functional definitions (45%)
  • Humorous definitions (5%)
  • Academic definitions (45%)
  • Other (5%)
functional definitions
Functional Definitions
  • “A computer is a machine that facilitates many tasks, like word processing, web searching, etc. It is a tool.”
  • “A computer is a machine used for many different things; multimedia, word-processing, & research.”
  • “A computer is a machine that’s purpose is to make the work of humans easier, and more time efficient.”
humorous definitions
Humorous Definitions
  • “A computer is a machine that does what the operator tells it to do.”
  • “A computer is a thing that always crashes right when you’re in the middle of an important assignment.”
  • “A porn box.”
humorous definitions5
Humorous? Definitions
  • “A machine we, as society, have come to base our lives upon. It confuses many, and frustrates more. It can do more than man, yet men built it. They suck, though I learn to live with them.”
academic definitions
Academic Definitions
  • “A computer is something that receives and processes information and then puts out responses.”
  • A computer is an electronic device that stores information and/or processes that information.”
  • “A computer is a piece of machinery used to perform some type of calculation or task through a series of inputs and outputs.”
academic definitions7
Academic Definitions
  • Classical academic definition:
    • “A computer is any device that receives input, processes that input, and produces output.”
  • In everyday life, this is too broad
    • Computers are electronic devices that primarily use binary logic and integrated circuitry
    • They carry out a given task by executing a certain series of steps, according to programming, either in hardware or software
    • They have a clearly distinguishable central processing unit which handles the computation
  • For most of what we talk about in this course, we’ll assume we’re talking about desktops
  • The primary division in a desktop computer is hardware vs. software
  • Hardware: The physical (tangible) devices or components that make up a computer system.
  • Software: The programs (intangible sequences of instructions) that a computer system runs.
  • The easiest way to tell the difference between hardware and software is to kick it.  If it hurts your toe, it's hardware.

-- Carl Farrell

the system unit
The System Unit
  • Houses the following:
    • CPU (Central Processing Unit)
    • RAM (main memory),
    • hard disk drives (e.g. C: drive)
    • floppy drives (e.g. A: drive)
    • other drives (e.g. CD-ROM, DVD)
    • also holds slots for various cards (e.g. network card, sound card, video card).

Do not call it a “system cabinet”

  • A peripheral is any part of the computer external to the system unit
  • Peripherals allow communication between external sources (e.g. you) and your computer.
  • Examples:
    • mouse, keyboard, monitor, speakers, digital camera, printer, scanner, etc.
types of computers
Types of Computers
  • Supercomputers
    • can cost millions of dollars
    • perform trillions of operations per second
    • may have hundreds of thousands of CPUs
  • Mainframes
    • Central computing units used by organizations (e.g. banks, airlines, insurance companies).
    • Can support 100s of users connected via terminals.
  • Workstations
    • Scientific, engineering, mathematical workhorses.
    • Targeted toward a special-purpose task (e.g. numerical analysis, graphics design).
  • Microcomputers
    • PCs (Personal Computers) = desktop computers, PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants), Laptops & Notebooks, Tablet PCs.
  • Microcontrollers (Embedded Systems)
    • Computers embedded in "ordinary" systems.
    • Control your TV, telephone, microwave, CD-Player, car airbags, ....
what is computing
What is Computing?
  • Computing is a 4-step sequence that turns raw data into useful information:
    • Input
    • Processing
    • Storage (sometimes omitted)
    • Output
  • Input is when information is received from an outside source, such as:
      • A device: keyboard, mouse, modem, network card.
      • Memory: DVD movie, file on hard drive, CD
  • Done in the CPU (Central Processing Unit)
  • The computer executes millions (or billions) of very simple instructions per second. Examples include:
    • FETCH a memory element.
    • FETCH another memory element.
    • ADD these memory elements together.
    • STORE the result to memory.
    • These instructions form the computer’s program.
  • Firmware: unchangeable instructions that are executed when computer first boots up. These instructions are located in ROM (read-only memory), and contain basic hardware sequences which cannot be altered because they are permanently etched into a physical chip
  • Software:
    • Applications (e.g. Word, Excel, Internet Explorer)
    • System Software / Operating Systems (e.g. Any version of Windows)
processing pt 2
Processing pt 2
  • The processor follows this basic cycle:
    • FETCH
    • DECODE
    • STORE
  • The cycle starts again when the next command is fetched.
  • Information can be stored in volatile or non-volatile memory.
    • Volatile memory (basically RAM) is fast but if the power goes, all the data is lost.
    • Non-volatile memory is slower, but the data persists even after you power down your computer. Examples: DVD disks, CDs, floppy disks, hard drives
  • Output occurs any time information is passed from the computer to an external device
  • Examples:
    • A file prints on the printer
    • A page is displayed on the monitor
    • A signal is sent over a modem or network card
the book vs me
The Book vs. Me
  • System Cabinet???
  • 10.8 Gig = $120 in 2001
  • 120 GB = $120 in 2002
  • 120 GB = $75 in 2004
  • 120 GB = $59 in 2005
  • Building your own computer IS cheaper…
    • Until you factor in bad parts, repairs, system conflicts, your time, and frustration