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http://edweb.tusd.k12.az.us/sandre/computers/index.htm Let's take a look at the main components of a typical desktop computer:
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Central processing unit (CPU) - The microprocessor "brain" of the computer system is called the central processing unit. It's a chip that holds a complete computational engine. It uses assembly language as its native language. Everything that a computer does is overseen by the CPU. Memory - This is very fast storage used to hold data. It has to be fast because it connects directly to the microprocessor. There are several specific types of memory in a computer: • Random-access memory (RAM) - Used to temporarily store information with which the computer is currently working • Read-only memory (ROM) - A permanent type of memory storage used by the computer for important data that doesn't change • Basic input/output system (BIOS) - A type of ROM that is used by the computer to establish basic communication when the computer is first powered on • Caching - The storing of frequently used data in extremely fast RAM that connects directly to the CPU • Virtual memory - Space on a hard disk used to temporarily store data and swap it in and out of RAM as needed • Flash memory - a solid state storage device, Flash memory requires no moving parts and retains data even after the computer powers off Motherboard - This is the main circuit board to which all of the other internal components connect. The CPU and memory are usually on the motherboard. Other systems may be found directly on the motherboard or connected to it through a secondary connection. For example, a sound card can be built into the motherboard or connected through an expansion slot. Power supply - An electrical transformer regulates the electricity used by the computer. Hard disk - This is large-capacity permanent storage used to hold information such as programs and documents. Traditional hard drives contain moving parts -- the drive has platters on which it stores data. The drive spins the platters to record and read data. But some newer hard drives are flash-based with no moving parts. These drives are called solid-state drives. Operating system - This is the basic software that allows the user to interface with the computer. Integrated Drive Electronics (IDE) Controller - This is the primary interface for the hard drive, CD-ROM and floppy disk drive. Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) - This is a very high-speed connection used by the graphics card to interface with the computer. Sound card - This is used by the computer to record and play audio by converting analog sound into digital information and back again. Graphics card - This translates image data from the computer into a format that can be displayed by the monitor. Some graphics cards have their own powerful processing units
read-only memory) is a popular form of distribution of commercial software.The monitor is the primary device for displaying information from the computer. permanent storage.Removable storage devices allow you to add new information to your computer very easily. which can also record. as well as save information that you want to carry to a different location.In computer hardware terms. PC Connections A typical computer connects to the world around it in three different ways: input/output devices. SmartMedia and PCMCIA cards are all types of Flash memory. Flash memory provides fast. Ports . No matter how powerful the components inside your computer are. By referring to this clock. The most common types of I/O in PCs are: • • • • Monitor .The CMOS and CMOS battery allow a computer to store information even when the computer powers down.CD-ROM (compact disc. There are several types of removable storage: o CD-ROM . The battery provides uninterrupted power.Based on a type of ROM called electrically erasable programmable read-only memory (EEPROM).The keyboard is the primary device for entering information into the computer. all the components in a computer can synchronize properly. o Flash memory .The components in a computer generate heat.The mouse is the primary device for navigating and interacting with the computer.Every PC has a clock containing a vibrating crystal. heat sinks and cooling systems . Fans. o DVD-ROM . CD-RW discs can be erased and rewritten many times. Keyboard . a port is an interface that allows a computer to communicate with peripheral equipment. ports and networking. read-only memory) is similar to CD-ROM but is capable of holding much more information. This interaction is called input/output (I/O). Many systems now offer CD-R (recordable) and CD-RW (rewritable). As heat rises. two are most commonly found on newer computers: . but many computers still have ports to help you connect to a wide selection of peripherals. The GPU can handle operations that normally would require the CPU. While there have been others. Cooling systems keep computers from overheating. CompactFlash.• • • (called a GPU -. Removable storage .DVD-ROM (digital versatile disc.graphics processing unit). You may use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to sync your music player or print driving directions. Mouse . you need a way to interact with them. Complementary Metal-oxide Semiconductor . Real-time clock . performance can suffer.
the speed of the PCI bus is 33 MHz.This is the standard method of connecting to the Internet. to your computer. like the kind you might use to subscribe to cable TV. The speed of the AGP bus is usually 66 MHz. VDSL requires that your phone line have fiber-optic cables. the faster it will operate -. Very high bit-rate DSL (VDSL) modem . Here are some of the other busses found on a motherboard: • • • • • The back side bus connects the CPU with the level 2 (L2) cache. The speed of the bus. FireWire (IEEE 1394) .to a point. Also compatible with PCI is PCI Express.This is a high-speed connection that works over a standard telephone line. The IDE or ATA bus connects the southbridge to the disk drives. Your computer can probably use one or more of these methods: • • • • • Modem . the faster it allows information to travel. The memory bus connects the northbridge to the memory. especially to the Internet.This type of modem uses the cable system in your home. such as camcorders or digital cameras. to connect to the Internet. . particularly those in an Ethernet office network. which connects the CPU to the northbridge. Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) modem . Networking.The most popular external connection. On most systems. The AGP bus connects the video card to the memory and the CPU. BUS A bus is simply a circuit that connects one part of the motherboard to another. The PCI bus connects PCI slots to the southbridge. Since the CPU reaches the memory controller though the northbridge. et al. USB ports offer power and versatility and are incredibly easy to use. also known as secondary or external cache.FireWire is a very popular method of connecting digital-video devices. PCI Express is likely to replace both PCI and AGP busses.]. The processor determines the speed of the back side bus. is very important to today's computer users. The faster a computer's bus speed. A fast bus speed cannot make up for a slow processor or chipset.This is used by many computers. The more data a bus can handle at one time.A newer variation of DSL. Cable modem . refers to how much data can move across the bus simultaneously. FSB speed can dramatically affect a computer's performance. measured in megahertz (MHz).• • Universal Serial Bus (USB) . to connect to one another. An even faster version called the gigabit per second DSL (GDSL) may follow [source: Cioffi. Bus speed usually refers to the speed of the front side bus (FSB). Local area network (LAN) card . FSB speeds can range from 66 MHz to over 800 MHz. which is much faster than PCI but is still compatible with current software and operating systems.
The transistor acts as a switch that lets the control circuitry on the memory chip read the capacitor or change its state. where the data is normally stored in the order in which it will be used (a good example is the texture buffer memory on a video card). This refresh operation is where dynamic RAM gets its name.184-pin DDR DIMM RAM Much of the memory available today is dual data rate (DDR) memory. To do this. which represents a single bit of data. either the CPU or the memory controller has to come along and recharge all of the capacitors holding a 1 before they discharge. RAM is considered "random access" because you can access any memory cell directly if you know the row and column that intersect at that cell. a memory chip is an integrated circuit (IC) made of millions of transistors and capacitors. can be accessed in any order. For dynamic memory to work. In the most common form of computer memory. Dynamic RAM has to be dynamically refreshed all of the time or it forgets what it is holding. and on newer motherboards. on the other hand. The capacitor holds the bit of information -. This means that the memory can transmit data twice per cycle instead of once. SAM works very well for memory buffers. most motherboards have space for multiple memory chips.a 0 or a 1 (see How Bits and Bytes Work for information on bits). Also. The downside of all of this refreshing is that it takes time and slows down the memory. what kind you should buy and how to install it. dynamic random access memory (DRAM). SAM stores data as a series of memory cells that can only be accessed sequentially (like a cassette tape). you'll learn all about what RAM is. If the data is not in the current location. a transistor and a capacitor are paired to create a memory cell. How RAM Works Random access memory (RAM) is the best known form of computer memory. This refresh operation happens automatically thousands of times per second. . The opposite of RAM is serial access memory (SAM). RAM data. the memory controller reads the memory and then writes it right back. In this article. This further reduces the amount of time it takes for the processor to get information from the memory. This refresh operation happens automatically thousands of times per second. which makes the memory faster. each memory cell is checked until the needed data is found. Similar to a microprocessor. See the next page to learn more about dynamic RAM and memory cells. they often connect to the northbridge via a dual bus instead of a single bus.
SDRAM is about five percent faster than EDO RAM and is the most common form in desktops today. It does this by staying on the row containing the requested bit and moving rapidly through the columns. A flip-flop for a memory cell takes four or six transistors along with some wiring. DRAM: Dynamic random access memory has memory cells with a paired transistor and capacitor requiring constant refreshing. for each memory cell but doesn't have a capacitor in each cell. RDRAM: Rambus dynamic random access memory is a radical departure from the previous DRAM architecture. reading each bit as it goes. typically four to six. and dynamic RAM is less expensive and slower. So static RAM is used to create the CPU's speed-sensitive cache. meaning greater speed. SDRAM: Synchronous dynamic random access memory takes advantage of the burst mode concept to greatly improve performance. and that makes static RAM a lot more expensive. RDRAM uses a Rambus in-line . Maximum transfer rate to L2 cache is approximately 1. However. but never has to be refreshed.Memory Cells and DRAM Static RAM Static RAM uses a completely different technology. It is about five percent faster than FPM. you get less memory per chip. Maximum transfer rate to L2 cache is approximately 264 MBps. Static RAM is fast and expensive.064 MBps (for DDR SDRAM 133 MHZ). Maximum transfer rate to L2 cache is approximately 528 MBps. It is used primarily for cache. EDO DRAM begins looking for the next bit. The idea is that most of the time the data needed by the CPU will be in sequence. while dynamic RAM forms the larger system RAM space. In static RAM. EDO DRAM: Extended data-out dynamic random access memory does not wait for all of the processing of the first bit before continuing to the next one. DDR SDRAM: Double data rate synchronous dynamic RAM is just like SDRAM except that is has higher bandwidth. This makes static RAM significantly faster than dynamic RAM. Maximum transfer rate to L2 cache is approximately 176 MBps. It waits through the entire process of locating a bit of data by column and row and then reading the bit before it starts on the next bit. FPM DRAM: Fast page mode dynamic random access memory was the original form of DRAM. Therefore. Designed by Rambus. Types of RAM The following are some common types of RAM: • • • • • • • SRAM: Static random access memory uses multiple transistors. a static memory cell takes up a lot more space on a chip than a dynamic memory cell. a form of flip-flop holds each bit of memory (see How Boolean Logic Works for details on flip-flops). because it has more parts. As soon as the address of the first bit is located.
there are also SO-RIMMs. designed for notebook computers. Then came SIMM. Performance is nearly the same. you had to install SIMMs in pairs of equal capacity and speed. but SGRAM is cheaper. CMOS RAM: CMOS RAM is a term for the small amount of memory used by your computer and some other devices to remember things like hard disk settings -. so today. Memory Modules The type of board and connector used for RAM in desktop computers has evolved over the past few years. What makes RDRAM so different is its use of a special high-speed data bus called the Rambus channel. many of which are proprietary. while the system bus could handle 16 bits at a time. VRAM is located on the graphics card and comes in a variety of formats. The first types were proprietary. meaning that different computer manufacturers developed memory boards that would only work with their specific systems. Credit Card Memory: Credit card memory is a proprietary self-contained DRAM memory module that plugs into a special slot for use in notebook computers. In most computers. VRAM: VideoRAM.see Why does my computer need a battery? for details. cards of this type are not proprietary and should work with any notebook computer whose system bus matches the memory card's configuration. also known as multiport dynamic random access memory (MPDRAM). VRAM is also used to hold graphics-specific information such as 3-D geometry data and texture maps. which stands for single in-line memory module.• • • • memory module (RIMM). True multiport VRAM tends to be expensive. RDRAM memory chips work in parallel to achieve a data rate of 800 MHz. Since they operate at such high speeds. which looks like a long thin wafer. The amount of VRAM is a determining factor in the resolution and color depth of the display. allowing the CPU and graphics processor to access the RAM simultaneously.600 MBps. PCMCIA Memory Card: Another self-contained DRAM module for notebooks. To help dissipate the excess heat Rambus chips are fitted with a heat spreader. you would install two 8-megabyte (MB) SIMMs to get 16 megabytes total RAM. Just like there are smaller versions of DIMMs. For example. This memory uses a small battery to provide it with the power it needs to maintain the memory contents. This is because the width of the bus is more than a single SIMM. they generate much more heat than other types of chips. . or 1. many graphics cards use SGRAM (synchronous graphics RAM) instead. The "multiport" part comes from the fact that VRAM normally has two independent access ports instead of one. which is similar in size and pin configuration to a standard DIMM. is a type of RAM used specifically for video adapters or 3-D accelerators. Each SIMM could send 8 bits of data at one time.
5 volts. To conserve space. and have 144 or 200 pins. known as MicroDIMMs. which have either 144 pins or 172 pins.3 volts. while older Mac G4 systems typically use 3. Another standard. DIMMs range in capacity from 8 MB to 1 GB per module and can be installed singly instead of in pairs. . is comparable in size and pin configuration to DIMM but uses a special memory bus to greatly increase speed.5 cm).5 cm). the Apple iMac desktop computer uses SODIMMs instead of the traditional DIMMs. the industry adopted a new standard in dual in-line memory module (DIMM). but several manufacturers use RAM based on the small outline dual in-line memory module (SODIMM) configuration. Many brands of notebook computers use proprietary memory modules. about 2 x 1 inch (5 x 2. With a whopping 168-pin or 184-pin connector and a size of 5. Sub-notebook computers use even smaller DIMMs.4 x 1 inch (about 14 x 2.• As processors grew in speed and bandwidth capability. Rambus in-line memory module (RIMM). Capacity ranges from 16 MB to 1 GB per module. Most PC memory modules and the modules for the Mac G5 systems operate at 2. SODIMM cards are small.
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