Many years ago I bought my first car for
$100. It didnít make it home. Just my luck I bought it from a friend who knew
how a car works. He knew it probably needed a carburetor and he showed me how
to install it. The car actually cost me closer to $200 (still a great deal) but
the knowledge I got was more valuable. My friend got me started down the path
to learning about and repairing my own car. Over the years itís saved me
thousands of dollars.
Not so many years ago my
brother-in-law gave me an old computer for free. Well, he claimed the box of
parts contained everything necessary for a computer. And he was pretty much
correct. When I assembled the computer it became apparent this wasnít so
different from my first car. The parts were easily identifiable; they fit one
spot or another; the manufacturer provided enough information for me to get them
to work properly; and there were enough manufacturers that prices were starting
to come down. During the following years the willingness to care for my
computers has also saved me thousands of dollars.
In each case I could have gotten
someone else to do the job. People are around that will service cars or
computers. But the time and effort I put into learning has stretched my budget
enough to build computers for three people here at home. And the personal
computer industry has gotten simpler for do-it-yourselfers. Yes, there are
things I donít know how to do and probably never will. But it makes sense to
size up each job and tackle those that I can handle.
Here are the basic parts that make up a computer.
1. CPU or
Central Processing Unit: This is the ďchipĒ that everyone talks about. There
are other kinds of chips but the CPU does the work in the computer. I have a
450 Mh Pentium II CPU and pwnkle has a 733 Mh Celeron. Both are just different
kinds of CPUs. Mh, or megahertz, is a measure of speed and faster is better.
or mainboard: The CPU needs lots of help talking to other parts of the
computer. The motherboard fills this role. It takes care of supplying power,
providing a place to plug in other parts as well as the CPU. It provides
connectors to the little lights on the outside of your computer box, connectors
for hard-drives and CD-ROMs, and connectors for temporary memory. And the
motherboard and CPU must be designed to go together.
3. Hard drive:
This is where a computer stores all the stuff that shows up in your computer
after itís been turned off and turned back on again. Think of it as a big file
cabinet. The computer is designed to save stuff there for you automatically.
In fact, the hard drive can be removed and install in an identical computer and
all your software and files will still be there.
4. Memory: You
may have heard of RAM, or random access memory, which is a general term. You
may have heard of some other acronym that a specific design uses like SDRAM. As
CPUs get faster and need faster memory new designs with new names will appear on
the market. But, in the end they are all just different types of random access
memory. This is a scratch pad area for the CPU that is only active when the
computer is on. When you type a letter without pressing the save option, the
letter is stored in RAM. When you press the save option a copy is then put on
the hard drive.
cards: This is just a circuit board that plugs into one of the standard
connectors in the motherboard. There are lots of different cards being
manufactured such as sound cards, video cards, modems, network cards, and more.
The tremendous flexibility of our computers is built around this
interoperability. Many different companies can come up with their own idea and
manufacturer a card that fits one of the motherboard connectors.
Thatís a brief description of the
parts of a personal computer. Oh there are variations that I havenít covered
yet, but I have to leave something for next time.
Email questions to Carl (pc_carl) at firstname.lastname@example.org