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Computer hardware (usually simply called 'hardware' when a computing context is concerned) is the collection of physical elements that constitutes a computer system.
Computer hardware is the physical parts or components of a computer, such as the monitor, mouse, keyboard, computer data storage, hard disk drive (HDD), graphic cards, sound cards, memory (RAM), motherboard, and so on, all of which are physical objects that are tangible.
In contrast, software is instructions that can be stored and run by hardware. Software is any set of machine-readable instructions that directs a computer's processor to perform specific operations.
A combination of hardware and software forms a usable computing system.
A central processing unit (CPU) is the electronic circuitry within a computer that carries out the instructions of a computer program by performing the basic arithmetic, logical, control and input/output (I/O) operations specified by the instructions. The computer industry has used the term "central processing unit" at least since the early 1960s. Traditionally, the term "CPU" refers to a processor, more specifically to its processing unit and control unit (CU), distinguishing these core elements of a computer from external components such as main memory and I/O circuitry.
The form, design, and implementation of CPUs have changed over the course of their history, but their fundamental operation remains almost unchanged. Principal components of a CPU include the arithmetic logic unit (ALU) that performs arithmetic and logic operations, processor registers that supply operands to the ALU and store the results of ALU operations, and a control unit that orchestrates the fetching (from memory) and execution of instructions by directing the coordinated operations of the ALU, registers and other components.
Most modern CPUs are microprocessors, meaning they are contained on a single integrated circuit (IC) chip. An IC that contains a CPU may also contain memory, peripheral interfaces, and other components of a computer; such integrated devices are variously called microcontrollers or systems on a chip (SoC). Some computers employ a multi-core processor, which is a single chip containing two or more CPUs called "cores"; in that context, one can speak of such single chips as "sockets". Array processors or vector processors have multiple processors that operate in parallel, with no unit considered central. There also exists the concept of virtual CPUs which are an abstraction of dynamical aggregated computational resources.
Computer data storage, often called storage or memory, is a technology consisting of computer components and recording media that are used to retain digital data. It is a core function and fundamental component of computers.:15-16
The central processing unit (CPU) of a computer is what manipulates data by performing computations. In practice, almost all computers use a storage hierarchy,:468-473 which puts fast but expensive and small storage options close to the CPU and slower but larger and cheaper options farther away. Generally the fast volatile technologies (which lose data when off power) are referred to as "memory", while slower persistent technologies are referred to as "storage"; however, "memory" is sometimes also used when referring to persistent storage.
In the Von Neumann architecture, the CPU consists of two main parts: The control unit and the arithmetic logic unit (ALU). The former controls the flow of data between the CPU and memory, while the latter performs arithmetic and logical operations on data.
Charles Babbage KH FRS (26 December 1791 – 18 October 1871) was an English polymath. A mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer, Babbage originated the concept of a digital programmable computer.
Considered by some to be a "father of the computer", Babbage is credited with inventing the first mechanical computer that eventually led to more complex electronic designs, though all the essential ideas of modern computers are to be found in Babbage's analytical engine. His varied work in other fields has led him to be described as "pre-eminent" among the many polymaths of his century.
Parts of Babbage's incomplete mechanisms are on display in the Science Museum in London. In 1991, a functioning difference engine was constructed from Babbage's original plans. Built to tolerances achievable in the 19th century, the success of the finished engine indicated that Babbage's machine would have worked.
A graphics processing unit (GPU) is a specialized electronic circuit designed to rapidly manipulate and alter memory to accelerate the creation of images in a frame buffer intended for output to a display device. GPUs are used in embedded systems, mobile phones, personal computers, workstations, and game consoles. Modern GPUs are very efficient at manipulating computer graphics and image processing, and their highly parallel structure makes them more efficient than general-purpose CPUs for algorithms where the processing of large blocks of data is done in parallel. In a personal computer, a GPU can be present on a video card, or it can be embedded on the motherboard or—in certain CPUs—on the CPU die.
The term GPU was popularized by Nvidia in 1999, who marketed the GeForce 256 as "the world's first GPU", or Graphics Processing Unit. It was presented as a "single-chip processor with integrated transform, lighting, triangle setup/clipping, and rendering engines". Rival ATI Technologies coined the term "visual processing unit" or VPU with the release of the Radeon 9700 in 2002.
An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit (also referred to as an IC, a chip, or a microchip) is a set of electronic circuits on one small flat piece (or "chip") of semiconductor material, normally silicon. The integration of large numbers of tiny transistors into a small chip results in circuits that are orders of magnitude smaller, cheaper, and faster than those constructed of discrete electronic components. The IC's mass production capability, reliability and building-block approach to circuit design has ensured the rapid adoption of standardized ICs in place of designs using discrete transistors. ICs are now used in virtually all electronic equipment and have revolutionized the world of electronics. Computers, mobile phones, and other digital home appliances are now inextricable parts of the structure of modern societies, made possible by the small size and low cost of ICs.
ICs were made possible by experimental discoveries showing that semiconductor devices could perform the functions of vacuum tubes, and by mid-20th-century technology advancements in semiconductor device fabrication. Since their origins in the 1960s, the size, speed, and capacity of chips have progressed enormously, driven by technical advances that fit more and more transistors on chips of the same size - a modern chip may have several billion transistors in an area the size of a human fingernail. These advances, roughly following Moore's law, make a computer chip of today possess millions of times the capacity and thousands of times the speed of the computer chips of the early 1970s.
ICs have two main advantages over discrete circuits: cost and performance. Cost is low because the chips, with all their components, are printed as a unit by photolithography rather than being constructed one transistor at a time. Furthermore, packaged ICs use much less material than discrete circuits. Performance is high because the IC's components switch quickly and consume comparatively little power because of their small size and close proximity. The main disadvantage of ICs is the high cost to design them and fabricate the required photomasks. This high initial cost means ICs are only practical when high production volumes are anticipated.
The step reckoner (or stepped reckoner) was a digital mechanical calculator invented by the German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz around 1672 and completed in 1694. The name comes from the translation of the German term for its operating mechanism, Staffelwalze, meaning 'stepped drum'. It was the first calculator that could perform all four arithmetic operations.
Its intricate precision gearwork, however, was somewhat beyond the fabrication technology of the time; mechanical problems, in addition to a design flaw in the carry mechanism, prevented the machines from working reliably.
Two prototypes were built; today only one survives in the National Library of Lower Saxony (Niedersächsische Landesbibliothek) in Hanover, Germany. Several later replicas are on display, such as the one at the Deutsches Museum, Munich. Despite the mechanical flaws of the stepped reckoner, it suggested possibilities to future calculator builders. The operating mechanism, invented by Leibniz, called the stepped cylinder or Leibniz wheel, was used in many calculating machines for 200 years, and into the 1970s with the Curta hand calculator.
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