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COMPUTER CONCEPTS

FOR BEGINNERS
How many uses of computers can you think of? They proliferate our everyday
lives and permeate almost all aspects of society in the United States. They are
used for work, entertainment, medicine, traffic enforcement, stock exchanges,
education, navigation, sports, banking...ad infinitum.

What is a computer? It is an electronic machine that follows instructions, gets


data from an input device, directs processing of the data and directs
information to an output device. To do this successfully requires a variety of
hardware and software.
Select a link at the left to learn about some basic hardware a computer might
use.
What happens when input is received by a computer system? What hardware
might be involved and where does the input go? Computer systems have a
SYSTEM UNIT which includes one or more processing chips such as an Intel
Pentium 4, an Intel Celeron, or an AMD Athlon among others. It also includes
drive bays or spaces for hard, floppy, and CD drives as well as slots or spaces for
electronic cards such as video cards, sound cards, modem cards, etc. In addition,
the system unit houses a power supply and a fan which keeps the system from
overheating.
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iny piece of silicon containing transistors and


bove on the chips.
ta, instructions and information travel on the chip.
inserted into the

chips as well, known as


he temporary storage area for data, instructions and
used by the processor chip or other devices.
or the Basic Input and Output System
formation about the type of input and output devices
ch as the maximum size of
It actually contains permanently stored software
the power-on test when a computer is turned on
operating system which then takes over control of

computer.howstuffworks.com
processors and chips can be found at
and at the

An input device is a device which provides the computer with data, which it
then uses to process and give out information. Input can be auditory
(microphone), visual (scanners, smart card readers), and tactile (pressure
sensitive pens, touch pads, touch screens, keyboard, mouse, trackball).
mouse keyboard & trackball

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Audio input is any data entered into the computer via sounds. Sounds can be entered into a computer via a
microphone or other devices such as electrical piano keyboards and digital music devices. These devices connect to the
computer via the sound card or special MIDI card. They allow you to change the speed of sounds, add sounds, and rearrange
sounds as well.

USB Microphone Plug

One of today's common video input devices is the digital camera and digital VHS recorder. Images instead of being stored on
regular film are stored in the camera's PC card ( memory card ), floppy disk, flash card, memory stick, CD (a mini) or microdrive.
The more expensive the camera, the more storage. Images can be seen and edited while still in the camera or downloaded to a
computer for work in PhotoShop, for example. Cameras can be attached to computers by means of USB or serial ports or even
the parallel port which use special reading devices.

Digital Camera
An output device is a device which the computer uses to "put out" or display
information whether it be visual (a printer, monitor, or plotter), auditory
(speakers), or even tactile (pagers or beepers which vibrate). It is possible
that taste and smells may come from computers in the future.

Monitor Printer

A monitor is a display device that consists of a screen housed in a plastic or


metal case. The quality of the display depends on a monitor's resolution, dot
pitch, and refresh rate. Resolution, or sharpness, is related to the number of
pixels a monitor can display. Dot pitch, which is a measure of image clarity, is
the distance between each pixel. Refresh rate is the speed with which a
monitor redraws images on the screen. Refresh rate should be fast enough to
maintain a constant, flicker-free image. A video card converts digital output
into an analog video signal that is sent through a cable to the monitor. How
the picture is produced is determined by the display device. Several
standards define resolution, the number of colors, and other monitor
properties. Today, most monitors and video cards support the super video
graphics array (SVGA) standard.

Printers produce printed information, called hardcopy. Generally, printers are


grouped into two categories: impact and non-impact. An impact printer forms
characters and graphics by striking a mechanism against an inked ribbon
that physically contacts the paper. A dot-matrix printer is an impact printer that prints
images when tiny wire pins on a print head mechanism strike an inked ribbon. A line printer is a high-speed impact
printer that prints an entire line at one time. A non-impact printer creates characters and graphics without actually
striking the paper. An ink-jet printer is a high-speed, high-quality non-impact printer that sprays drops of ink onto a
piece of paper. A laser printer is a non-impact printer that operates in a manner similar to a copy machine. A thermal
printer generates images by pushing electrically heated pins against heat-sensitive paper. A printer capable of
Internet printing receives print instructions from an Internet service, allowing it to print documents from desktop and
wireless devices. Other types of printers include photo printers, label printers, portable printers, and plotters.

Speakers
Pager
Plotter
Two commonly used audio output devices are speakers and headsets. Most
personal computers have an internal speaker that outputs low-quality sound.
Many users add high-quality stereo speakers or purchase personal
computers with larger speakers built into the sides of the monitor. A woofer
can be added to boost low bass sounds. A headset plugged into a port on the
sound card or a speaker allows only the user to hear sound from the
computer.

Another device, called a modem, also serves to both input and output data. A
modem is a communication device allowing data and information to travel
along telephone lines, across special lines called DSL lines, across cable lines
and even through the air (known as wireless) to other computers and devices.
Modems can be found inside the system unit or outside connected to a port on
the system unit. Wireless modems are not physically connected at all.

Examples of US Robotics Company Modems


Another hardware term to know is port. Computer systems have ports into
which the input and output devices are plugged. See examples below. Ports
must be compatible with plugs or adaptors must be used.
So what is all the fuss about an 80 Gigabyte ( 80 million characters) hard disk
drive? Not too long ago a hard disk drive could only store 300 million
characters. Now they store upwards of 80 million characters. Hard disks,
floppy disks, CD's (compact disks) of various sorts, zip disks, and DVD's
(digital video disks) are all storage devices and serve to both input data to and
output information from a computer system. They may be found inside the
system box or external, plugging into a port at the back or side of the unit. Try
not to confuse a storage device with the computer system memory (RAM or
ROM) This issue has become a bit clouded. Memory cards for digital devices
such as digital cameras are actually storage devices. However, the RAM
internal to a computer system is temporary while the storage devices keep
data, instructions, and information permanently - until a user deletes them.

**USB Port **PS2 Port **AT Port**Parallel Port


FireWire External Hard Drive Western Digital
WD C

aviar®
Internal Hard Drive

True/False
Indicate whether the sentence or statement is true or false.

1.
A monitor, which looks like a television, produces text and graphics on a physical medium
such as paper or transparency film.

2.
Two main components of the motherboard are the central processing unit and memory.

3.
Storage differs from memory in that it holds items only temporarily while the processor
interprets and executes them.

4.
A hard disk provides much less storage capacity than a floppy disk.
5.
A variation of the standard CD-ROM is the rewriteable CD, or CD-RW.

6.
The operating system contains instructions that allow application software to be run.

Multiple Choice
Identify the letter of the choice that best completes the statement or answers the question.

7.
Computer hardware includes all of the following except __________.
a. input and output devices c. storage and communications
devices
b. a system unit d. application programs

8.
All of the following are commonly used output devices except __________.
a. a keyboard c. a monitor
b. a printer d. speakers

9.
The circuitry in the system unit usually is part of or is connected to a circuit board called the
__________.
a. billboard c. motherboard
b. soundboard d. snowboard

10.
A(n) __________ is an electronic device that contains many microscopic pathways that carry
electrical current.
a. icon c. kiosk
b. pointer d. chip
11.
__________ holds data, instructions, and information for future use.
a. Storage c. Input
b. Memory d. Output

12.
A modem is a(n) __________.
a. small, handheld input device that contains at least one button
b. communications device that enables computers to communicate via
telephone lines
c. storage device that stores data using microscopic pits created by laser
light
d. output device that looks like a television screen and displays text or
graphics

13.
On a personal computer, all of the processor’s functions typically reside on a single chip,
often called a __________.
a. megaprocessor c. maxiprocessor
b. miniprocessor d. microprocessor

Completion
Complete each sentence or statement.

14.
_________________________ is the electric, electronic, and mechanical equipment that
makes up a computer.

15.
_________________________ is the series of instructions that tells the computer hardware
how to perform tasks.

16.
_________________________ is any data or instructions entered into a computer.
17.
_________________________ is data that a computer has processed into information.

18.
A(n) _________________________, such as the scanner, keyboard, microphone, mouse, PC
camera, and digital camera in the accompanying figure, is any hardware component that
allows a user to enter data and instructions into a computer.

19.
In the accompanying figure, the _________________________ is a box-like case made from
metal or plastic that protects the internal electronic components of the computer from
damage.

20.
The _________________________ is the electronic device that interprets and carries out the
basic instructions that operate a computer.

21.
_________________________ is a temporary holding place for data and instructions.
22.
A computer _________________________, or carries out, the instructions in a program by
first placing, or loading, the instructions into the memory of the computer.

23.
Power users typically work with _________________________, in which they combine text,
graphics, sound, video, and other media elements into one application.

True/False
Indicate whether the sentence or statement is true or false.

F
1.
A monitor, which looks like a television, produces text and graphics on a physical medium
such as paper or transparency film.

ANSWER: F

T
2.
Two main components of the motherboard are the central processing unit and memory.

ANSWER: T

F
3.
Storage differs from memory in that it holds items only temporarily while the processor
interprets and executes them.

ANSWER: F

F
4.
A hard disk provides much less storage capacity than a floppy disk.
ANSWER: F

T
5.
A variation of the standard CD-ROM is the rewriteable CD, or CD-RW.

ANSWER: T

T
6.
The operating system contains instructions that allow application software to be run.

ANSWER: T

Multiple Choice
Identify the letter of the choice that best completes the statement or answers the question.

D
7.
Computer hardware includes all of the following except __________.
a. input and output devices c. storage and communications
devices
b. a system unit d. application programs

ANSWER: D

A
8.
All of the following are commonly used output devices except __________.
a. a keyboard c. a monitor
b. a printer d. speakers

ANSWER: A

C
9.
The circuitry in the system unit usually is part of or is connected to a circuit board called the
__________.
a. billboard c. motherboard
b. soundboard d. snowboard

ANSWER: C

D
10.
A(n) __________ is an electronic device that contains many microscopic pathways that carry
electrical current.
a. icon c. kiosk
b. pointer d. chip

ANSWER: D

A
11.
__________ holds data, instructions, and information for future use.
a. Storage c. Input
b. Memory d. Output

ANSWER: A

B
12.
A modem is a(n) __________.
a. small, handheld input device that contains at least one button
b. communications device that enables computers to communicate via
telephone lines
c. storage device that stores data using microscopic pits created by laser
light
d. output device that looks like a television screen and displays text or
graphics

ANSWER: B

D
13.
On a personal computer, all of the processor’s functions typically reside on a single chip,
often called a __________.
a. megaprocessor c. maxiprocessor
b. miniprocessor d. microprocessor
ANSWER: D

Completion
Complete each sentence or statement.

14.
_________________________ is the electric, electronic, and mechanical equipment that
makes up a computer.

RESPONSE: Hardware
ANSWER: Hardware

15.
_________________________ is the series of instructions that tells the computer hardware
how to perform tasks.

RESPONSE: Software
ANSWER: Software

16.
_________________________ is any data or instructions entered into a computer.

RESPONSE: input
ANSWER: Input

17.
_________________________ is data that a computer has processed into information.

RESPONSE: output
ANSWER: Output
18.
A(n) _________________________, such as the scanner, keyboard, microphone, mouse, PC
camera, and digital camera in the accompanying figure, is any hardware component that
allows a user to enter data and instructions into a computer.

RESPONSE: Input Device


ANSWER: input device

19.
In the accompanying figure, the _________________________ is a box-like case made from
metal or plastic that protects the internal electronic components of the computer from
damage.

RESPONSE: System Cabinet or System Unit


ANSWER: system unit or
chassis

20.
The _________________________ is the electronic device that interprets and carries out the
basic instructions that operate a computer.

RESPONSE: CPU OR Central Processing Unit


ANSWER: central processing unit (CPU) or
central processing unit or
CPU or
processor
21.
_________________________ is a temporary holding place for data and instructions.

RESPONSE: RAM
ANSWER: Memory

22.
A computer _________________________, or carries out, the instructions in a program by
first placing, or loading, the instructions into the memory of the computer.

RESPONSE:
ANSWER: executes

23.
Power users typically work with _________________________, in which they combine text,
graphics, sound, video, and other media elements into one application.

RESPONSE: Multimedia
ANSWER: multimedia
What is a Computer?

Computers are not very intelligent devices, but they handle instructions flawlessly and fast.
They must follow explicit directions from both the user and computer programmer.
Computers are really nothing more than a very powerful calculator with some great
accessories. Applications like word processing and games are just a very complex math
problem.

Software and Hardware

If you use a player piano as an analogy, the piano can be thought of as the hardware and the
roll of music as the software.

The software a series of very simple computer instructions carefully organized to complete
complex tasks. These instructions are written in programming languages (like BASIC,
PASCAL, C...) to help simplify the development of applications.

The hardware is what sits on your desk and executes the software instructions. The player
piano is useless unless the roll of music has been written correctly.

Hardware Components

Input Devices -- "How to tell it what to do"

- A keyboard and mouse are the standard way to interact with the computer. Other devices
include joysticks and game pads used primarly for games.

Output Devices -- "How it shows you what it is doing"

- The monitor (the screen) is how the computer sends information back to you, whether it be
surfing the web or writing a memo. A printer is also an output device.

Storage Devices -- "How it saves data and programs"

- Hard disk drives are an internal, higher capacity drive which also stores the operating
system which runs when you power on the computer.

- "Floppy" disk drives allow you to save work on small disks and take the data with you.

Memory -- "How the processor stores and uses immediate data"


- When you use a program, the computer loads a portion of the program from the hard drive
to the much faster memory (RAM). When you "save" your work or quit the program, the data
gets written back to the hard drive.

Microprocessors -- "The brain of the computer"

- PCs primarily use microprocessors (sometimes called the chip) manufactured by Intel. The
older Intel versions include the 386, 486 and now the Pentium line.
- Macintoshes use PowerPC processors by Motorola.
- Megahertz (MHz) is the internal processor speed in which computer instructions are
performed. The MHz speed does not always indicate the power of the microprocessor. Newer
processors can execute more instructions at the same or slower MHz. For example, an Intel
486 @100MHz is less powerful than a Pentium @75 MHz (but the MHz is "faster").

Hardware Accessories

Modems

- Modems allow you to communicate with other computers using a phone line. Modem
speeds are in bits per second (14.4, 28.8 and 56 thousand bits per second are standard).

CD-ROM Drives

- A CD-ROM drive is a high capacity storage device which lets you read data from the disk,
but not write data back. The speed of the drive (how fast the CD platter spins) is measured in
multiples from the first generation drives. New drives are up to 24X (or 24 times the first
drives), but while the CD spins faster, it is not really 24 times faster in actual output.

Printers

- There are different types of printers (laser, ink jet, dot matrix) with differing quality of
output. They are measured in dpi (dots per inch) and ppm (pages per minute), the higher the
better.

Scanners

- Scanners "digitize" printed material (like photos and graphics) and save it to a graphic file
format (like .GIF or .JPG) for display on the computer.

Operating System Software

Operating system software provides a "user interface" for users to manage files, start
programs, customize computer settings, and other tasks. The operating system also provides
the fundamental core computer functionality for programmers.

Intel based PCs use Microsoft Windows version 3.1 (older) or Windows 95 as the operating
system. Macintoshes use the Macintosh operating system.

Software Applications

Application software uses the operating system software and provides the real functionality
of a computer. Applications include:
- Word Processing (MS Word, WordPerfect, Ami...)
- Spreadsheets (Lotus 123, MS Excel...)
- Database (DBase, Fox Pro, Oracle...)
- Presentation (MS PowerPoint, Persuasion.. .)
- Internet Browsers (Netscape Navigator, MS Internet Explorer)
- Games