So, you want to learn about how computers work, huh? Well you’ve come to the right place. There is a lot to take in, so, let’s begin this journey by watching the following video….

A Deeper Look Inside: Basic Computer Architecture


Peripherals, or peripheral devices, are any pieces of equipment that connects to a computer that allows for a flow of information between you and the computer. Your keyboard, headphones, a mouse, microphone, projector, scanner, usb cable, and printer are all examples. Peripherals are essential to the idea of the “human computer interface”. They work with our human senses and allow us to easily feed and receive information from a computer. More specifically, there are two types of peripherals:
input devices: devices that let us feed information to the computer (a mouse)
output devices: devices that feed us information (ex. a monitor)
*Do note that peripherals are still relevant in modern computing, however they require less bulky equipment. The touchscreen on your smartphone is also a peripheral. Recent advances in technology have focused primarily on the senses of talk and touch. (Think Siri) 3D touch on the new iPhone6+, for example, is the latest new peripheral.


Input/Output (also known simply as, I/O):

I/O is the information processing system that works in tandem with peripherals. This system communicates the information that is transferred through the peripherals and breaks it down as specific instructions for your CPU to read. We won’t get too deep into how this system works, just know it is a buffer between you and the heart (or brain, however you want to conceptualize it) of your computer…the CPU. What the heck is a CPU? I’m glad you asked.

The Ultimate Multi-tasker: The CPU

The CPU stands for Central Processing Unit. This mini piece of hardware is what essentially computes all the necessary arithmetic and logical operations via the power of electronic circuits. Any program we tell the computer to do is processed by the CPU. The CPU does this by processing data that is taken from the memory on your computer.

The CPU’s Best Friend: RAM

RAM stands for Random Access Memory. Yes, like the latest Daft Punk album. This is where temporary data is stored on your computer. Note the key word, temporary. When you turn of your computer, the data that was stored on your RAM is erased. So you may ask, why do we need it in the first place if it won’t save our data? What saves our data then, if not RAM? Well, to answer this question, let’s think about the following analogy. I hope you like salad

Hard Disk Drive (HDD):

A hard disk drive is what stores the bulk of your long-term, saved data in your personal computer. It is also known as your hard drive. (lightbulb ding) It consists of a traditional spinning disk. You can also store your data on an external hard disk drive, which is what a lot of people do when they run out of storage space on their computers or to guard important information. Nowadays, there are different methods for storing data, but we’ll get to that next week. For now, here is a photo:


Looking Ahead: Modern Computing

We just went over the basics of what goes inside a computer. But we need to get real, computing nowadays no longer consists of bulky hardware devices like the ones discussed in this lesson. Quick raise of hands, how many of you use a desktop computer regularly? And how does that compare to the hours you spend on your laptop, cellphone, or tablet?

Nevertheless, it is still important to understand the way things used to be in order to understand the way computing has evolved. Understanding hardware is a necessary skill to have in order to understand modern computing. Next week we will be discussing software and how software has revolutionized both the capabilities and possibilities of computing.



Part 1

Read the introduction to Paul E. Ceruzzi’s, Computing, A Concise History. Pick the one of the four main “narratives” you find most interesting. Write a 10 sentence summary on why you find it interesting and how you can relate it to what you know about modern computing

Part 2

You will be assigned a vocabulary word and be required to give a brief oral presentation in class answering the following:

  • What does the term mean/stand for?
  • What does it do?
  • What does it look like? (for this part, you can use my laptop to pull up an image on the projection screen)

Part 3

Follow the link to the following article in order to prepare for the next class. Come ready to discuss what you read.


Email your summary to