The Heart of How a Computer Runs

Very few people understand how computers work even though they are built into nearly every device.  Knowing the logic behind a computer system is a good method to understand how these systems work and begin constructing some new knowledge bases.  There are a couple of core ideas that one must understand to know how computers work, but overall they are rather simple in their core design philosophy.

The mind of the computer system is called the central processing unit.  This is just like the brain of a human that retains memory and passively and actively performs calculations for every task in everyday life.  Many processors nowadays feature what are called multiple cores, which are actually just multiple processing units built into a single chip.  Even though it is not really associated, cache has multiple different layers and is somewhat associated with the function of system RAM.  The idea is that these levels of cache will store frequently requested processes and use that information rather than reprocessing it repeatedly.  The level 1 cache is the speediest but contains the least space, while the level 3 cache is the slowest but has a lot of storage.

Even though it is much like cache in ways, the system RAM serves a substantially different purpose.  To read the information, a system will load a program when launched into the system’s RAM rather than reading it all from the hard drive.  Without RAM, PCs would be significantly slower than they are now given that all of the reading for the programs would have to be done by the hard drive itself which can be very slow.  When the computer system is powered off all the information in the RAM is erased, and because of that a hard drive is needed to permanently store information.

A hard drive’s only job is to keep permanent information on the computer system for storage.  There are many other components that are not exactly essential but serve a really useful purpose.  The network card allows a computer to connect with a network of systems to share files or get to the Internet.  While the majority of home systems have a simple Ethernet interface, data centers have specialized interfaces such as a Cisco GLC-T and SFP transceiver modules to allow a system to do certain functions faster.  The video card and sound card do exactly what they seem like they do: make a picture to see and sound to hear.  In order to supply routing from one device to another, a motherboard provides the connectivity and minor processing needed to do the job.

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