103a-av PC Lab

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103a-av Open-it Up! Lab

The main parts inside a computer, and how they work

  • The Processor: The processor uses software to translate binary calculations into something humans can use, and then it communicates with the rest of the computer. Processors are made up of many transistors or on/off switches and the wires that link them together. The speed of the processor is measured in megahertz or gigahertz, and that speed is not unlimited. How quickly the transistors can switch between on state and off state, and heat produced when the transistors switch states, all limit the speed of the processor. Common processors include the Pentium processor created by Intel and the AMD, which is pictured below.

103a-av processor.jpg

  • The Memory: The Memory stores information for short term use by the computer. Memory is volatile, and when you turn off the power on the computer, it disappears. That's why computers need hard disks that can store memory permanently for future use. When you turn on your computer, the operating system is loaded into the memory from the Hard Drive. When you open an application, the stored information from your hard drive are also moved to the memory. Information that is transferred from the Hard Drive to the memory is stored in bits or binary numbers. A string of eight bits is called a byte, strings of 1,048,576 bytes are known as megabytes, and strings of 1,073,741,824 bytes are known as gigabytes. By transferring bytes, megabytes, and gigabytes to the memory while they are in immediate use, the computer speeds up the time it takes to retrieve those strings of bits from the Hard Drive. Below is a picture of RAM (random access memory).

103a-av ram.jpg

  • The Hard Disk: Hard disks store programs and data that the computer can retrieve when needed. Hard disks are magnetic memory, coated with the same magnetic material that is on cassette tapes, which works well for computers because magnets have two poles, North and South. When a hard disk is working, it spins at 10,000 RPM, and a read/write head floats above it, just close enough to read whether the bits on the hard disk are "North" or "South". The head reads bits that are within certain narrow bands on the Hard Disk known as tracks. Then it transmits that information to the memory, which is the temporary workspace, but the original file is left intact on the hard disk until you save the file. When you save a file, the changes are transmitted back to the hard disk via the head.

103a-av harddisk.jpg

  • The CD-ROM drive: The CD-ROM drive or optical drive contains a laser that is sent through a variety of prisms, then bounced off the CD or DVD surface, reading the disk's sequence of bits. Bits on a CD are coded by making a series of tiny pits on the surface of the disk. As the laser reads the sequence of pits and spaces between the pits, the laser transfers that sequence to a reader which then communicates them to the rest of the machine. Below is a picture of a Lite-On CD/DVD drive.

103a-av cddrive.jpg

  • The Power Supply: The power supply is what makes the whole computer run. It converts the 110 volt AC current from the wall socket into 5 volt or 12 volt DC current that the computer can use, and at voltages that the computer needs. The power supply has wires that connect to various ports in the motherboard and other parts of the computer. It also has a fan to keep the box cool, as 40% of the energy that goes into the power box is released in the form of heat.

103a-av powersupply.jpg

  • The Motherboard: Probably the most important piece of hardware in any computer is the motherboard. All the other parts inside the computer communicate with the computer through the motherboard. The motherboard houses the processor, and also a variety of buses or wires that allow different parts of the computer to communicate with each other. These include buses for power, and data, and buses or ports for external components like graphics cards or USB (Universal Serial Bus) devices. The picture below shows an AM2 motherboard, and you can see in the diagram some of the ports for memory, graphics, and so on. The website warns us that certain processors only work with certain motherboards. This motherboard is for the AMD 64 X2 processor.

103a-av motherboard.gif

  • Video and Sound Cards: If you want to play games or listen to music (or play games with music, or watch movies with sound) on your computer, it needs to have a video card and a sound card. Most motherboards have an AGP slot, or Advanced Graphics Port, which holds the graphics card for playing video, and a similar port for holding the sound card. Below you can see images of the sound card and video card

103a-av soundcard.jpg Sound card 103a-av videocard.jpg Video card

  • The Battery: Inside most PCs, there is a small battery like the one pictured below which runs the Real Time Clock chip, which is essentially a watch for your computer. It keeps track of time and date for your computer, but the RTC chip also holds the CMOS-RAM or complementary metal-oxide semiconductor random access memory. The CMOS-RAM stores all the programs that your computer needs when it boots up, such as how to configure your keyboard, how many CD-ROM drives you have. Below is a picture of the battery.

103a-av battery.jpg

  • The Crystal: The Crystal dictates the speed of the CPU. The crystal at a certain frequency of electrical input, the crystal begins to oscillate between conducting and non-conducting states, prompting the transistors on the processor to switch between on and off. The frequency of the oscillation, measured in megahertz, gigahertz, or sometimes even terahertz, dictates how quickly the logic gates in the processor can open and close and thus how quickly the computer can process information. Below is a picture of the crystal.

103a-av crystal.jpg

  • The Cables: The cables transfer bits of information from the computers component parts to other parts of the computer. Cables can be connected to many areas of the computer, including the CD/Drive and input/output system. Below you can see some images of cables.

103a-av cables.jpg


References

Processor: Howstuffworks.com
Memory: beesky.com
Battery: Howstuffworks.com
Crystal: InetDaemon

Photographs were courtesy of myfastpc.com, techiwarehouse.com, Gaming Today, howstuffworks.com, the class wiki page, and gizmowatch.com

All other information provided from PC Lab Report and in-class lectures.

Julia's PC "Lab Report"

Prologue

  • On Monday, I woke up feeling very much like the guy in this picture.

103a-av sick.jpg

  • So rather than spread my germs to everyone else, I decided it was a good idea to stay in bed.

103a-av germs.jpg

  • Which unfortunately means that I missed the PC Lab! However, I have been able to use the internet to try and simulate what the lab would have been like.

Opening the Computer

  • First, to look at a computer's hardware, you need to open up the computer itself. Since I wasn't at the lab to take a picture of myself doing this, I found this video of a youtuber taking apart his own computer. According to this person, most computer casings use basic screws that can either be taken out with a screwdriver, or by hand. Before removing the screws, make sure that your computer is not plugged in. Once you get the casing off, you can take out the power supply, which usually has four screws holding it in place. Then you can unplug the power unit from the other parts of the hardware, and get a good look inside. Take a look for yourself by watching this video.

Opening up your computer

  • Once you've got the computer open, and you've removed the connections for the power supply, you can really start to get a good look at the parts.

Key Hardware Components in a Computer

  • Power Supply: The power supply is what makes the whole computer run. It converts the AC current from the wall socket into DC current that the computer can use, and at voltages that the computer needs. The power supply has wires that connect to various ports in the motherboard and other parts of the computer. It also has a fan to keep the box cool, as 40% of the energy that goes into the power box is released in the form of heat.

103a-av powersupply.jpg

  • Motherboard: Probably the most important piece of hardware in any computer is the motherboard. All the other parts inside the computer communicate with the computer through the motherboard. Its surface is covered with millions of transistors, which are packaged into interpretative circuits. Motherboards also have ports and gold contacts that allow you to plug in a variety of daughter boards such as audio, video, and memory.

103a-av motherboard.gif This picture shows an AM2 motherboard, and you can see in the diagram some of the ports and slots for memory, graphics, and so on. The website warns us that certain processors only work with certain motherboards. This motherboard is for the AMD 64 X2 processor.

  • Processor: The processor does all of your computer's "thinking". By that I mean that the CPU uses software to translate binary calculations into something we humans can use, and then it communicates with the rest of the computer. Common processors include the Pentium 4 and the AMD. Pictured below is an AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ processor.

103a-av processor.jpg

  • Memory: Memory or RAM (random access memory) stores information for short term use by the computer. RAM slots directly into the motherboard, as you can see in the motherboard diagram above. This is volatile memory, and when you turn off the power on the computer, it disappears. That's why computers need hard disks that can store memory permanently for future use. Below is a picture of some RAM.

103a-av ram.jpg

  • Hard Disk: Hard disks store programs and data that the computer can retrieve when needed. Hard disks are magnetic memory, coated with the same magnetic material that is on cassette tapes, which works well for computers because magnets have two poles, North and South. When a hard disk is working, it spins at 10,000 RPM, and a head floats above it, just close enough to read whether the bits on the hard disk are "North" or "South". Then it transmits that information to the memory, which is the temporary workspace, but the original file is left intact on the hard disk until you save the file. When you save a file, the changes are transmitted back to the hard disk via the head. Below you can see an image of a hard disk made by Fujitsu in 2006. It was the first 300 GB 2.5" hard disk.

103a-av harddisk.jpg

  • Video and Sound Cards: If you want to play games or listen to music (or play games with music, or watch movies with sound) on your computer, it needs to have a video card and a sound card. Most motherboards have an AGP slot, or Advanced Graphics Port, which holds the graphics card for playing video, and a similar port for holding the sound card. Below you can see images of the sound card and video card

103a-av soundcard.jpg Sound card 103a-av videocard.jpg Video card

  • Optical Drive: This is what most people call the CD/DVD drive. It contains a laser that is sent through a variety of prisms, then bounced off the CD or DVD surface, reading the disk's sequence of bits and transferring that sequence to a reader which then communicates them to the rest of the machine. Below is a picture of a Lite-On CD/DVD drive.

103a-av cddrive.jpg

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed my unorthodox lab report. For more information about computer hardware, I highly recommend this video from video jug, which gives a simple explanation of all the parts. It helped guide me in concocting this report.


Photographs were courtesy of myfastpc.com, techiwarehouse.com, Gaming Today, howstuffworks.com and gizmowatch.com

Information came from class notes and lectures, the videojug video (see above), and Windows Reinstall