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What is a computer?

Computers are not really that mysterious. There’s no shadowy gremlin cycling his way around a treadmill to make it run. Although sometimes one feels there is a gremlin at work pulling the operating system or data apart.

Computers have evolved immensely since I started building them, moving from measly Kilobytes of RAM to Gigabytes. Floppy Drives made way for DVD Drives and now DVD Drives are virtually obsolete, Hard drives have also changed, from mechanical, hybrids, then Solid State and have increased in size, speed, and reliability.

I will discuss individual components, operating systems, networking, and driver/software programming later.


What is a computer?

Well, it is several devices put together to make an electronic device that can manipulate and store data. They come in various formats, but the main are:

  • Desktop

  • Laptop

  • Tablets and Smart Phones

  • Servers

Using the correct software, computers have the capability to process, store and retrieve data. Whether it be, a document, mathematical problem, spreadsheet, presentation, image, or video. They can be used to browse the Internet, send emails, video conferencing, play games, write computer language, and used to access online shops.

A computer is made up of several parts:

Motherboard or Mainboard – The motherboard is the device that ties the computer’s components together and allows each component to communicate with each other using software and device drivers. Without the motherboard, none of the attached devices, such as the CPU, GPU, or HDD could interact.

Central Processing Unit (CPU) A central processing unit (CPU), also known as a processor, is located on the motherboard.

Memory (RAM) – RAM is short for ‘Random Access Memory’ and while it may sound enigmatic, RAM is one of the most important elements of computing. It is the super-fast and temporary data storage space that a computer needs to access right now or in the next few moments.


Hard Drive (HDD) – come in numerous speeds and sizes. These days, they are rated in Gigabytes or Terabytes and increasingly are now Solid State Drives as opposed to the older mechanical drives.


Power Supply Unit (PSU) – A PSU converts mains alternating current AC into a low-voltage regulated direct current power supply that power the internal components of a computer. Modern personal computers universally use switched-mode power supplies. Some power supplies have a manual switch for selecting input voltage, while others automatically adapt to the mains voltage. Modern desktop personal computer PSUs conform to the ATX specification and often come with removable leads.


Video Graphics Card (GPU) – A video graphics card (also known as display card, graphics adapter, or display adapter) is an expansion card that generates a feed of output images to a display device (monitor). Frequently, these are advertised as discrete or dedicated graphics, emphasizing the distinction between these and integrated graphics. At the core of both is the graphics processing unit (GPU), which is the main part that does the actual computations.

Computer Case Most people skimp on the case because they do not see it as an important commodity. My last case, lasted five years and is now a Linux server. It was a great case but lacked 200mm fan mountings and not large enough for the new generation graphics cards and did not facilitate water cooling. My advice is when purchasing a computer case buy a well-known dedicated gaming case that is suitable for expansion and water cooling options. 

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