Computer hardware has four parts: the central processing unit (CPU) and memory, storage
hardware, input hardware, and output hardware.
The part of the computer that runs the program is known as the processor or central processing
unit (CPU). In a microcomputer, the CPU is on a single electronic component, the microprocessor
chip, within the system unit or system cabinet. The CPU itself has two parts: the control unit and
the arithmetic-logic unit. In a microcomputer, these are both on the microcomputer chip.
The Control Unit The control unit tells the rest of the computer system how to carry out a
program's instructions. It directs the movement of electronic signals between memory and the
arithmetic-logic unit. It also directs these control signals between the CPU and input and output
The Arithmetic-Logic Unit The arithmetic-logic unit, usually called the ALU, performs
two types of operations—arithmetic and logical. Arithmetic operations are, as you might expect,
the fundamental math operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Logical
operations consist of comparisons. That is , two pieces of data are compared to see whether one is
equal to, less than, or greater than the other.
Memory Memory is also known as primary storage, internal storage, it temporarily holds
data, program instructions, and information. One of the most important facts to know about
memory is that part of its content is held only temporarily. In other words, it is stored only as
long as the computer is turned on. When you turn the machine off, the content immediately
vanish. The stored contents in memory are volatile and can vanish very quickly.
Storage Hardware The purpose of storage hardware is to provide a means of storing
computer instructions and data in a form that is relatively permanent, that is, the data is not lost
when the power is turned off—and easy to retrieve when needed for processing.There are four
kinds of storage hardware: floppy disks, hard disks,optical disk,andmagnetic tape.
Floppy Disks Floppy disks are also called diskettes, flexible disks, floppies, or simply
disks. The plastic disk inside the diskette cover is flexible, not rigid. They are flat, circular pieces
of mylar plastic that rotate within a jacket. Data and programs are stored as electromagnetic
charges on a metal oxide film coating the mylar plastic.
Hard Disks Hard disks consist of metallic rather than plastic platters. They are tightly
sealed to prevent any foreign matter from getting inside. Hard disks are extremely sensitive
instruments. The read-write head rides on a cushion of air about 0.000001 inch thick. It is so thin
that a smoke particle, fingerprint, dust, or human hair could cause what is known as a head crash.
A head crash happens when the surface of the read-write head or particles on its surface contact
the magnetic disk surface. A head crash is a disaster for a hard disk. It means that some or all of
the data on the disk is destroyed. Hard disks are assembled under sterile conditions and sealed
from impurities within their permanent containers.
Optical Disks Optical disks are used for storing great quantities of data. An optical disk can
hold 650 megabytes of data—the equivalent of hundreds of floppy disks. Moreover, an optical disk
makes an immense amount of information available on a microcomputer. In optical-disk technology,
a laser beamalters the surface of a plastic or metallic disk to represent data. To read the data, a laser
scans these areas and sends the data to a computer chip for conversion.
Magnetic Tape Magnetic tape is an effective way of making a backup, or duplicate, copy of
your programs and data. We mentioned the alarming consequences that can happen if a hard disk
suffers a head crash. You will lose some or all of your data or programs. Of course, you can always
make copies of your hard-disk files on floppy disks. However, this can be time-consuming and may
require many floppy disks. Magnetic tape is sequential access storage and can solve the problem
Input Hardware Input devices take data and programs people can read or understand and
convert them to a form the computer can process. This is the machine-readable electronic signals
of 0s and 1s. Input hardware is of two kinds: keyboard entry and direct entry.
Keyboard Entry Data is input to the computer through a keyboard that looks like a
typewriter keyboard but has additional keys. In this method, the user typically reads from an
original document called the source document. The user enters that document by typing on the
Direct Entry :Data is made into machine-readable form as it is entered into the computer,
no keyboard is used. Direct entry devices may be categorized into three areas: pointing devices
(for example, mouse, touch screen, light pen, digitizer are all pointing devices), scanning devices
(for example, image scanner, fax machine, bar-code reader are all scanning devices), and
Output Hardware Output devices convert machine-readable information into people-readable
form. Common output devices are monitors, printers, plotters, and voice output.
Monitors Monitors are also called display screen or video display terminals. Most monitors that
sit on desks are built in the same way as television sets, these are called cathode-ray tubes. Another type
of monitor is flat-panel display, including liquid-crystal display (LCD), electroluminescent (EL) display
and gas-plasma display. An LCD does not emit light of its own. Rather, it consists of crystal molecules.
An electric field causes the molecules to line up in a way that alters their optical properties.
Unfortunately, many LCDs are difficult to read in sunlight or other strong light. A gas-plasma display is
the best type of flat screen. Like a neon light bulb, the plasma display uses a gas that emits light in the
presence of an electric current.
Printers There are four popular kinds of printers: dot-matrix, laser, ink-jet, and thermal.
Dot-Matrix Printer Dot-matrix printers can produce a page of text in less than 10 seconds
and are highly reliable. They form characters or images using a series of small pins on a print
head. The pins strike an inked ribbon and create an image on paper. Printers are available with
print heads of 9, 18, or 24 pins. One disadvantage of this type of printer is noise.
Laser Printer The laser printer creates dotlike images on a drum, using a laser beam light
source. The characters are treated with a magnetically charged inklike toner and then are
transferred from drum to paper. A heat process is used to make the characters adhere. The laser
printer produces images with excellent letter and graphics quality.
Ink-Jet Printer An ink-jet printer sprays small droplets of ink at high speed onto the
surface of the paper. This process not only produces a letter-quality image but also permits
printing to be done in a variety of colors.
Thermal Printer A thermal printer uses heat elements to produce images on heat-sensitive
paper. Color thermal printers are not as popular because of their cost and the requirement of
specifically treated paper. They are a more special use printer that produces near photographic
output. They are widely used in professional art and design work where very high quality color is
Plotters Plotters are special-purpose output devices for producing bar charts, maps, architectural
drawings, and even three-dimensional illustrations. Plotters can produce high-quality multicolor
documents and also documents that are larger in size than most printers can handle. There are four types
of plotters: pen, ink-jet, electrostatic, and direct imaging.
Voice-Output Devices Voice-output devices make sounds that resemble human speech but
actually are pre-recorded vocalized sounds. Voice output is used as a reinforcement tool for
learning, such as to help students study a foreign language. It is used in many supermarkets at the
checkout counter to confirm purchases. Of course, one of the most powerful capabilities is to
assist the physically challenged.