103a-aj PC Lab

From CSclasswiki
Jump to: navigation, search

103a-aj Open it Up! Lab

The main part inside a computer and how they work

  • Processor
103a-aj processor1.jpg

A processor is a chip that takes instructions from a program and performs their tasks in assembly language and thus their value is based on their speed and memory capabilities. They work based on Boolean logic with semiconductor transistors that act as switches for electric signals that changes the amplitude of the current to either fully on, off or many in-between amplitudes [[1].

The first processor available in a home computer was made by Intel, a company that specializes in making processor and processor technologies [[2]]. “Intel is developing small, fast, and energy-efficient technologies”, and a more current version of Intel processors are called pentium (micro)processors whose 2004 version (Pentium 4 “Prescott") runs at 3600MHz (3.6GHz) [[3]]. As processor speed is measured in MHz, to appreciate the speed of the newest processors, we must know that each MHz is one million cycles per second [[4]] and that the original home computer processor (Intel 8080) ran at 2MHz[[5]].

  • Memory
103a-aj memory.jpg

Memory is stored in a string of bits with a binary unit system of 0s and 1s. Bits are stored in clusters of 8 called a byte. Bytes are stored in amounts such as megabytes (2^10 bytes) or gigabytes (2^10 bytes) [[6]].

Memory works with operating systems to increase their speed with which they run. When programs are used in the operating system, their information is stored in the memory so it does not have to be constantly retrieved from the hard drive [[7]].

  • Disk Drive
103a-aj processor.jpg

The hard drive has rotating magnetic disks with information stored in bits on the surface. The read-write head is able to store and read data on the hard drive with magnetized polarity that relates to 0s and 1s [[8]]. The magnetized areas follow tracks that circle around the disks [[9]].

  • CD-ROM
103a-aj DVD-Rom.jpg

The CD-Rom is a disk that hold text, audio and other digital information in small separated pieces kept on the surface so it can be easily scanned and retrieved. An optical laser is used at 780nm on the disk as it spins [[10]]. When the laser hits depressions in the disk, called pits, it causes a drop in the laser's signal and each drop is called a bit. The information is actually stored according to the length of the bit [[11]]. The bits, versus land (non-depressed disk section), create an on/off pattern that translates into 1 and 0 respectively [[12]].

  • Power Supply
103a-aj power-supply.jpg

Power is converted from AC to a more stable lower-voltage DC power inside the computer. Many electronics, including computers, convert 110 volts of AC power to 12 volts of DC power. 12 Volts is used by the disk drive and fan, but it is diluted to 3.3 or 5 volts for digital circuits [[13]].

  • Battery
103a-at pic61.jpg

Battery provides power to all parts of the computer. A special, smaller battery attached to the motherboard that powers a clock called a Real Time Clock [[14]]. This clock keeps the accurate time and date via a quartz watch.

  • Crystal
103a-at pic60.jpg

The crystal is located on the motherboard and sends ticks to the CPU, at each tick the CPU does something and so the speed in conveyed in ticks per second. The frequency of the crystal’s vibrations is measured in Megahertz, originally at 4.77 MHz, the frequencies can now reach up to 200MHz [[15]]!

  • Motherboard
103a-aj motherboard.jpg

The motherboard connects different parts of the computer and lets them communicate with one another. The bus is a circuit of multiple wires in the motherboard whose capacity to handle bi-lateral information is 66-800MHz[[16]]. This is usually measured with the front-side bus that connects the CPU to the northbridge [[17]].

  • Cables
103a-aj IDE.jpg

Cables connect and give power to all parts of the computer. In terms of information, cables such as the serial bus cable communicate between various parts of the computer with bits (Morgan [[18]].


"Transistors." Electronics Tutorials. Williamson Lab. <http://www.williamson-labs.com/480_xtor.htm>.

Intel. <http://www.intel.com/>.

Brian, Marchall. "How Microprocessors Work ." How Stuff Works. <http://computer.howstuffworks.com/microprocessor1.htm>.

"MHz." Webopedia. <http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/M/MHz.html>.

"What is a Kilobyte? Megabyte? Gigabyte? Terabyte?." Malektips. <http://malektips.com/computer_memory_definitions_0003.html>.

Bucaro, Stephen . "Anatomy of a Hard Drive." Bucaro TecHelp. <http://www.bucarotechelp.com/computers/anatomy/95110301.asp>.

"Computer - CD, CD audio and CD-ROM." Kioskea. <http://en.kioskea.net/pc/cdrom.php3>.

Kayne, R. "What is an Optical Disk?." WiseGeek. <http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-an-optical-disk.htm>.

"Why does my computer need a battery?." How Stuff Works. <http://computer.howstuffworks.com/question319.htm>.

Johnson, Joanna. "Battery." Picture. 103a-at PC Lab. <http://tango.csc.smith.edu/classwiki/index.php/103a-at_PC_Lab#Crystal>.

Brown, Gary. "How PC Power Supplies Work." How Stuff Works. 8 Oct. 2008 <http://computer.howstuffworks.com/power-supply.htm/printable>.

Karbo, Michael . "The CPU – developments and improvements." Karbosguide. <http://www.karbosguide.com/hardware/module3b1.htm>.

Johnson, Joanna. "Crystal." Picture. 103a-at PC Lab. <http://tango.csc.smith.edu/classwiki/index.php/103a-at_PC_Lab#Crystal>.

Wilson, Tracy, and Ryan Johnson. "How Motherboards Work ." How Stuff Works. <http://computer.howstuffworks.com/motherboard4.htm>.

Morgan, Elizabeth . "Computer Cables." Ezine @rticles. <http://ezinearticles.com/?Computer-Cables&id=252371>.

Lab Report: Computer Dissasembly

103a-aj me-with-computer.jpg by Anna Lorenz

As a Bio major, I have gotten used to dissection as a method of effectively looking inside a functioning structure and understanding how it works. Nothing could prepare me for what I was about to undertake next though, and as my lab partner and I have documented the trials and joys of this experience, I hope that you will share with us the experience of ... computer dissasembly.

Start to Finish

How to get from this 103a-aj initial.jpg to this 103a-aj art.jpg

After opening up the DELL computer, there was so much to dissasemble, it was hard to know where to start. Fortunatly, there were green tabs on whatever piece was easily removable. Memory was easily removed, however, items like the hard disk had to have their connections untangled and unplugged from the labyrinth of internal wires. Then the motherboard and CD/DVD ROM had to be unscrewed to remove. Finally, some of the items like the processor could be more exposed further by continual dissasembly.


  • Parts On the Table

103a-aj parts-on-table.jpg

  • Hard Disk

103a-aj processor.jpg 103a-aj processor2.jpg 103a-aj processor3.jpg

  • RAM Memory

103a-aj memory.jpg

  • Power Supply

103a-aj power-supply.jpg 103a-aj power-supply fishing-style.jpg

  • Processor

103a-aj processor1.jpg

  • CD/DVD Rom

103a-aj DVD-Rom.jpg

  • Motherboard

103a-aj motherboard.jpg

  • Heat Sink

103a-aj heat-sink.jpg

  • IDE cable

103a-aj IDE.jpg

  • Video Card

103a-aj video-card.jpg

Last Notes

The hardest part of this project was unscrewing the hard disk and convincing all the cables to loosen and disconnect. I was surprised that the entirety of the computer tower was actually comparably simplistic and could be dissasembled in under an hour and an half....with a few breaks.  :)

Thanks to my awesome lab partner!!! 103a-aj lab-partner.jpg