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Hardware Overview

Objective   3/1/2016

To provide resource information on the most popular Computer Hardware.

Computer hardware   1/29/2016

Wikipedia

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.


Central Processing Unit (CPU)   1/29/2016

Wikipedia

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 term has been used in the computer industry 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 fetches instructions from memory and "executes" them 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, single chips are sometimes referred to as "sockets".

Array processors or vector processors have multiple processors that operate in parallel, with no unit considered central.

Computer Data Storage   1/29/2016

Wikipedia

Computer data storage, often called storage or memory, is a technology consisting of computer components and recording media used to retain digital data.

It is a core function and fundamental component of computers.

The central processing unit (CPU) of a computer is what manipulates data by performing computations. In practice, almost all computers use a storage hierarchy, which puts fast but expensive and small storage options close to the CPU and slower but larger and cheaper options farther away.

Often the fast volatile technologies (which lose data when powered off) are referred to as "memory", while slower persistent technologies are referred to as "storage"; however, "memory" is sometimes also used when referring to ersistent storage.

In the Von Neumann architecture, the CPU consists of two main parts: control unit and 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.

First General-Purpose Computing Device   12/15/2015

Charles Babbage, an English mechanical engineer and polymath, originated the concept of a programmable computer.

Considered the "father of the computer", he conceptualized and invented the first mechanical computer in the early 19th century.

After working on his revolutionary difference engine, designed to aid in navigational calculations, in 1833 he realized that a much more general design, an Analytical Engine, was possible.

The input of programs and data was to be provided to the machine via punched cards, a method being used at the time to direct mechanical looms such as the Jacquard loom.

For output, the machine would have a printer, a curve plotter and a bell.

The machine would also be able to punch numbers onto cards to be read in later.

The Engine incorporated an arithmetic logic unit, control flow in the form of conditional branching and loops, and integrated memory, making it the first design for a general-purpose computer that could be described in modern terms as Turing-complete.

The machine was about a century ahead of its time.

All the parts for his machine had to be made by hand — this was a major problem for a device with thousands of parts.

Eventually, the project was dissolved with the decision of the British Government to cease funding.

Babbage's failure to complete the analytical engine can be chiefly attributed to difficulties not only of politics and financing, but also to his desire to develop an increasingly sophisticated computer and to move ahead faster than anyone else could follow.

Nevertheless, his son, Henry Babbage, completed a simplified version of the analytical engine's computing unit (the mill) in 1888.

He gave a successful demonstration of its use in computing tables in 1906.

Graphics processing unit (GPU)   3/22/2016

Wikipedia

A graphics processing unit (GPU), also occasionally called visual processing unit (VPU), 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.

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 effective than general-purpose CPUs for algorithms where the processing of large blocks of visual 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 that are capable of processing a minimum of 10 million polygons per second".

Rival ATI Technologies coined the term visual processing unit or VPU with the release of the Radeon 9700 in 2002.

Integrated circuit   3/16/2016

Wikipedia

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 plate ("chip") of semiconductor material, normally silicon.

This can be made much smaller than a discrete circuit made from independent electronic components.

ICs can be made very compact, having up to several billion transistors and other electronic components in an area the size of a human fingernail.

The width of each conducting line in a circuit can be made smaller and smaller as the technology advances; in 2008 it dropped below 100 nanometers, and has now been reduced to tens of nanometers.

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.

The integration of large numbers of tiny transistors into a small chip was an enormous improvement over the manual assembly of circuits using discrete electronic components.

The integrated circuit's mass production capability, reliability and building-block approach to circuit design ensured the rapid adoption of standardized integrated circuits in place of designs using discrete transistors.

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 little power (compared to their discrete counterparts) as a result of the small size and close proximity of the components.

As of 2012, typical chip areas range from a few square millimeters to around 450 mm2, with up to 9 million transistors per mm2.

Integrated circuits are used in virtually all electronic equipment today 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 low cost of ICs.

Stepped reckoner   3/1/2016

Wikipedia

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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