Discovery Science: Computer Technology – Computer Components

Computer Technology – Computer Components

The hardware of a computer consists primarily of the processor, a control module, the bus, the memory and input and output units. In modern computers, the central processor is both the processor and control module.

Personal computers are now used mostly for office applications and personal activities, whereas large computers, such as mainframes, are used by corporations, government agencies, universities, and the military as high-performance central computers that can be simultaneously accessed by many users.

Both types of computer are made up of the same key components.

Elementary components

A central element of most computers is a circuit board called the motherboard, which enables almost all of the computer’s components to communicate with each other. The BIOS (Basic Input Output System) is found in a small chip in the mother- board. This program provides access to the computer’s hardware components. The central functional unit, the processor chip, is also attached to the motherboard.

The motherboard can generate substantial heat, so it must be cooled by a fan. The processor carries out most of the computing operations, and is therefore the most important factor in determining the speed of the system. When data must be made available to the processor quickly, it is loaded in the main memory. If the main memory is small, programs that need to process large volumes of data quickly (such as video programs or games) will run slowly.

This problem can now be solved with high-end graphics cards. When paired with a high-performance three-dimensional microchip, they provide even real-time games with realistic, high-resolution images. Within the computer, data is ex- changed through the bus, a connecting device with multiple conductors. The transfer rate within the system is heavily influenced by the amount of information that the bus can transfer per unit of time.

With universal serial bus (USB) connections, many different devices can be connected to the computer and supplied with power. Modems and network cards are attached to the bus in order to connect the computer to the Internet or to other computers in a local area network (LAN).


Many computer manufacturers from the 1970s and 1980s, such as Atari, Commodore, or Schneider, have since disappeared from the market. Alongside Micro- soft Windows-compatible PCs, the company Apple Computers, founded by Steve Jobs (also founder of Pixar and a leading Disney shareholder), has survived.

Initially sold in 1998, the iMac was the first personal computer to combine all components in the monitor housing, and was designed for inbuilt, easy Internet access. The newest generation of iMacs has an improved performance and lost none of its style.