Term Paper: PC and Machine's World

Pages: 5 (1836 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Education - Computers  ·  Buy This Paper

PC and machine's world computer is a mere data processor. It is designed to accept input i.e. data and instructions, remember the data by holding it in memory cells, process the stored information by doing various calculations and by making logical comparisons, and it can output information through devices known as interfaces.

To put is simply, computers are machines designed to carry out instructions. The set of instructions, which are inputted in order to make the computer to execute a series of specific tasks, is called a program. Although the term "computer" is often used, it is more accurate to refer to it as a computer system, because it consists of hardware, (physical components), and software, (the programs that control the hardware).

The technologies used in computers have suffered dramatic changes since the introduction of the first electronic, general-purpose, computers of the 1940s. Despite that fact, most computers still use the von Neumann architecture.

The von Neumann architecture identifies the computer as a system with four main sections: the Arithmetic and Logic Unit (ALU), the control circuitry, the memory, and the input and output devices (known as I/O). These parts are interconnected by wires (a which make up "buses") and are usually set into motion by a timer or clock, although there are cases when other types of events drive the control circuitry).

Computer hardware is a heterogeneous ensemble of input devices, output devices, circuitry, memory etc.; the most important component is the central processing unit (CPU), which is designed to process information and perform specific operations. Input devices, usually under the form of keyboards or mice, are the means people use to get the computer to record symbolic data and instructions. Symbolic results are sent out by the computer by way of output devices such as the monitor or printer.

The CPU is the equivalent of the human brain; it controls the rest of the hardware. It is normally made up of three different parts: the processor, arithmetic logic unit (ALU) and internal memory. The first part, the processing unit or processor is the "master control" behind all the other parts of the computer. It is designed to accept input and stores it in the memory; after that, it interprets the instructions in a computer program. The arithmetic logic unit (ALU) has the function of performing various operations; addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are the most common example. The processor and the ALU are responsible for a limited use of the internal memory; the bulk of the data is stored in external memory devices, such as hard or floppy disk drives that are attached to the processor, via a motherboard.

Another important component of the system is the memory, which is a sequence of numbered cells, each containing a piece of information. A good example of such information would be an instruction to tell the computer what operations to perform. The cell may also contain data that the computer needs to perform the instruction, that is data that needs to be processed. Cells are not specific for a certain type of information. Any cell may contain either; during processing what is at one time data may become an instruction.

The rule is that the content of a memory cell is changeable at any time; memory is similar to a scratchpad rather than a stone tablet.

The dimension of each cell and the total number of cells characterize a computer and may vary significantly from type to type. Technologies that have been used to implement memory have also varied: first there were electromechanical relays, then mercury-filled tubes (and later springs) in which acoustic pulses were formed, matrices of permanent magnets, individual transistors and integrated circuits with millions of capacitors on a single chip.

As far as software is concerned, it can safely be said that a computer will always need at least one program running at all times to operate. Under what is supposed to be a normal operation, referring to the typical general-purpose computer, the program described above is the operating system (OS). The operating system has the job to decide which programs are run, when that particular event happens, and has to allocate resources, such as memory or input/output - I/O to these programs. Hardware and other programs would not function without an operating system, which actually provides a layer of abstraction over the hardware, thereby facilitating the access of other programs to the resources of the computer, such as code ("drivers") which enable programmers to write programs for a machine without being obligated to know the intimate details of all electronic devices attached to the computer

Besides providing a hardware abstraction layer, most operating systems also have a specific standardized user interface. Besides the operation system, there are many types of programs. Software includes system utilities, computer languages, and computer applications.

I wish to become an electromechanical engineer. Because of that fact, the way computers are designed is very interesting for me. Computer design is based on devices with two states i.e. open or closed circuits, on or off switches. The fundamental units of the computer memory, the storage cells, are actually groups of electronic circuits; these circuits are either turned on (current flowing through it) or turned off (no current flowing through it). All the data and instructions stored in the computer are transformed into electrical signals and are represented by strings of "on" and "off" switches. Consequently, the computer understands a language (machine language) that is very similar to its structure: a bit, which represents the smallest unit of storage in a computer, corresponds to each "on" or "off" circuit. Bits are grouped into groups; the smallest group commonly addressed by present day CPU's is made up of eight bits, and is known as a byte. Having to deal with this type of two state technology, computer engineers have thought of a machine language that uses two symbols, usually the digits 0 and 1. "Bi- " means two, so machine language is also referred to as a binary language.

It is also impossible for a human to decipher these strings of binary digits; a more compact form has been devised, enabling each group of three binary digits to be replaced by a single number in the range 0-7 (octal digits). Machine language is not even the same for all computer types. The low level binary or base 2 language can be replaced by the octal (base 8) language.

Another significant development is the possibility to introduce names to identify memory locations. This is the case of assembly languages. A program referred to as an "assembler" performs the task of translating the assembly language program into the machine language. The language is however extremely difficult to comprehend and the fact that it is specific to particular computers makes it even more troublesome: for instance, the same assembly language program can not be run on different types of computers.

Some other examples of computer software include software tools (editors, word processors, spreadsheet programs, and database management programs) or games. However, the most important component of the software system remains the operating system.

Resuming, it can be said that computer programs are large lists of instructions for the computer to execute, accompanied by tables of data. Most computer programs contain millions of instructions, and a large proportion of those instructions are executed repeatedly. A typical PC is able to execute a few billion instructions per second. Most people tend to think that computers have extraordinary capabilities because of their ability to execute complex instructions. On the contrary, they are able to perform millions of simple instructions arranged by programmers. These people develop sets of instructions to do common tasks, for instance, print the letter "a" on the screen; one remarkable thing is that they make these sets of instructions available to other programmers around the world.

Currently, most computers have the capacity to execute several programs at the same time. This ability is commonly referred to as multitasking. The reality behind the scene is quite different. Actually, the CPU executes instructions from one program; then it switches to a second program after a short period of time, and executes a small part of its instructions. This small interval of time is known as a time slice. To the computer user, this process creates the illusion of multiple programs being run at the same time; the reality is that the CPU's time is shared between the programs. The process is similar to the way a movie is made: it is simply a rapid succession of still frames. The most important operation is the proper division of time between programs, which is usually performed by the operating system.

The Input / output system gives the computer the ability to obtain information from the outside world, and send the results requested from it back that world. A very broad range of I/O devices exists, from familiar items such as the keyboards, monitors and floppy disk drives, CD/DVD Drives, to the more… [END OF PREVIEW]

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