How Computers Work

History of Computers

How Computers Work

Types of Computers

Recent Development


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How computers work

After a brief look at computer and its history, we now move on to computer functioning. This chapter aims to educate you on basic computer parts and its operations. You must have wondered at some point as to how computer works. By the end of this chapter, you will be able to identify the basic parts and functions of computer and how it processes information. Following are the main parts of computers.


Computer memory is the most essential part of operations. It allows information to be stored and can be divided into long-term and short-term memory that is measured in bits and bytes, represented by ‘0 and 1’. With every keystroke and character, the computer uses one byte of memory.

    8 bits: 1 byte
    1000 bytes = 1 kilobyte
    1000 kilobytes = 1 megabyte
    1000 megabytes = 1 gigabyte
    1000 gigabytes = 1 terabyte

As mentioned above, the short term memory of the computer is known as RAM(Random Access Memory) and the long-term memory is called ROM(Read-only memory).


When you switch on the computer, you make use of the Random Access memory. It controls the instant memory operations vital for immediate processing. As you start your computer, it first loads an operating system. In short, RAM is erasable memory of the computer that is very essential for it’s functioning.


Read Only memory is the permanent non-volatile memory of the computer, also known as computer’s long-term memory. It cannot be erased or changed and it used to store basic input/output system that controls system start and boot-up process. ROM can be further divided in PROM, which means programmable read only memory, which can be reprogrammed.

Central Processing Unit: Brain of the computer

The brain of a computer, the CPU plays the most vital function in working of a computer. CPU is generally a microprocessor that is a tiny chip that controls how data is sorted, deciding how to direct the flow of data, an important processing function. Early Intel chip came in models called 286, 386, and 486. The series of Pentiums were given the following names: Pentium Pro, Pentium with MMX, and Pentium II. The newer processors are capable of more transistors and hence, more computing power on a single chip.


How do you enter information in a computer? Through a mouse, keyboard, joystick, scanner or perhaps a touch pad? All computer operations become functional owing to these input devices that feed the computer with vital information for processing. Very important to computer functioning, input devices trigger the information to be processed. More uncommon input devices include trackballs, touch screens, pens, bar code readers and microphones. Keyboard and mouse is the most common input device used widely.


Once you feed the computer with information using an input device like mouse and keyboard, it gets processed and requires an output device to display the result. The most common output device is a monitor screen, or a printer. As important the function of input device, so is the output device allowing you to see the processed information. Other output devices include disk drives and diskettes.

Each of the above parts together work to make a basic computer work. The memory stores temporary and permanent data, CPU processes information, input devices feed information and the output devices display the result.

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