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The Main Pieces of Hardware


Hardware refers to objects that you can actually touch, like disks, disk drives, display screens, keyboards, printers, boards, and chips. In contrast, software is untouchable. Software exists as ideas, concepts, and symbols, but it has no substance.

Books provide a useful analogy. The pages and the ink are the hardware, while the words, sentences, paragraphs, and the overall meaning are the software. A computer without software is like a book full of blank pages -- you need software to make the computer useful just as you need words to make a book meaningful.

The most important item of hardware is the CPU (Central Processing Unit). This is the electronic unit at the center of the computer system. It contains the processor and the main memory.

The processor is the brain of the computer. It does all the processing and controls all the other devices in the computer system.

The main memory is the part of the computer where programs and data being used by the processor can be stored. It refers to physical memory that is internal to the computer. The word main is used to distinguish it from external mass storage devices such as disk drives. Another term for main memory is RAM.

RAM (pronounced ramm, acronym for random access memory) is a type of computer memory that can be accessed randomly; that is, any byte of memory can be accessed without touching the preceding bytes. RAM is the most common type of memory found in computers and other devices, such as printers.

All the other devices in the computer system, which can be connected to the CPU, are known as peripherals. These include input devices, output devices and storage devices.

An output device is a peripheral, which enables information to be fed into the computer. The most commonly used input device is a keyboard, similar to a typewriter keyboard.

An output device is a peripheral, which enables information to be brought out of the computer, usually to display the processed data. The most commonly used output device is a monitor or VDU (Visual Display Unit). Another common output device is a printer. This prints the output of the CPU onto paper.

A mass storage device is a peripheral used for the permanent storage of information. It has a much greater capacity than the main memory. Mass storage is distinct from memory, which refers to temporary storage areas within the computer. Unlike main memory, mass storage devices retain data even when the computer is turned off. The main types of mass storage are various disks.

These are the main pieces of hardware of any computer system whether a small “micro” or a large mainframe system.



Match each piece of hardware on the left with its function on the right.

  1. Storage device
a. displays the processed data.
  1. Input device
b. holds the programs and data being used by the processor.
  1. Output device
c. does all the processing and controls the peripherals.
  1. Main memory
d. allows data to be entered.
  1. Processor
f. provides permanent storage for programs and data.


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