If we think of the computer as an information manipulation device the basic components of a microcomputer are :
- Input devices allow us to enter information into the computer. They include keyboards, mice, scanners, and microphones.
- Processing components manipulate the information once it is "in" the computer. In the microcomputer there is a set of common components consisting of the central processing unit (CPU), interface components, and memory (RAM). The Intel 486 chip and the Motorola 68040 chip are common CPUs.
- Storage devices store the entered information and programs for future use. Common storage devices include hard disks, floppy disks, and CD-ROMs.
- Output devices are how the manipulated information is returned to us. They commonly include video monitors, printers, and speakers.
- Communication and network devices allow the computer to communicate with other devices. Common communication devices are modems, and ethernet cards.
- Other hardware components include ports and plugs, cables and connectors, expansion cards and slots.
- The context of computers is as interesting as their components. Where do we put them? What do we keep next to them?
Microcomputers are the type of computers that we are most likely to notice and use in our everyday life. Infact there are other types of computers that you may use directly or indirectly:
- Embedded computers are found in all sorts of commonly used devices like cars, televisions, and VCRs. These computers are embedded in other appliances to provide them with "intelligence".
- Mainframe computers are used when you access your bank account from a automated teller. The bank's mainframes handle all the transactions.
- Workstations are computers that are bigger than micros and have the power of mainframes. They are typically UNIX computers and are used by engineers for more computationally difficult tasks.
- Laptop computers are increasingly popular because they are portable and can run on batteries. To distinguish traditional computers we can therefore call them "desktop" computers because they reside on desks and are too heavy to move off.
- A PDA (personal digital assistant) is a type of information appliance that is designed for communication and organizing personal information like addresses and dates. A PDA is typically small enough to carry around in a pocket.
Introduction to Computers (Top of the page!)
IHC - 2E03
Humanities Computing Centre
Faculty of Humanities
Created by: Suzanne A. Acharya, 15 June 1995.
Copyright: Geoffrey Rockwell, McMaster University.
Last Updated: Oct. 1995