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How does a computer work?
Question Date: 2003-06-03
Answer 1:

To accomplish a task using a computer, you need a combination of hardware, software, and input.

Hardware consists of devices, like the computer itself, the monitor, keyboard, printer, mouse and speakers. Inside your computer there are more bits of hardware, including the motherboard, where you would find the main processing chips that make up the central processing unit (CPU).

The hardware processes the commands it receives from the software, and performs tasks or calculations.

Software is the name given to the programs that you install on the computer to perform certain types of activities. There is operating system software, such as the Apple OS for a Macintosh, or Windows 98 for a PC. There is also application software, like the games we play or the tools we use to compose letters or do math problems.

You provide the input. When you type a command or click on an icon, you are telling the computer what to do. That is called input. An input device lets you communicate with a computer. You can use input devices to enter information and issue commands. A keyboard, mouse and joystick are input devices.

So, a computer collects processes, stores and outputs information. A storage device holds information. The computer uses information stored on these devices to perform tasks. The hard drive, the tape drive, the floppy disk and the CD Rom drive are storage devices.

The Central Processing Unit (CPU) is the main chip in a computer. The CPU processes instructions, performs calculations and manages the flow of information through a computer system. The CPU communicates with input, output and storage devices to perform tasks.

An output device lets a computer communicate with you. These devices display information on a screen, create printed copies or generate sound. Monitor, printers and speakers are output devices. First, you provide input when you turn on the computer. Then the system software tells the CPU to start up certain programs and to turn on some hardware devices so that they are ready for more input from you. This whole process is called booting up. The next step happens when you choose a program you want to use. You click on the icon or enter a command to start the program. If you decide you want to print the page, you click on the printer icon. Again, you have provided input to tell the computer what to do.

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