The Three Main Components of a Computer System
A computer runs on three major systems; hardware, software, and humanware. Hardware and software exist together to make up the actual device. The humanware brings the whole computer into a functional existence.
Each of these components is necessary in order to enable meaningful productivity. If installed separately, they may be useful to an extent but only capable of repetitive actions rather than achieving complete computing potential. Hardware and software need the human input in order to trigger the execution of data processing.
1. Computer Hardware
This refers to any part that is tangible by the human touch. Examples include:
- Display monitor.
- Memory modules.
- Disk drive.
These parts are typically housed within the laptop or desktop unit itself, except for the desktop keyboard and mouse.
The most important piece of hardware is the microprocessor chip, known as the central processing unit (CPU). Newer and slimmer computers come embedded with a union of CPU and a graphics processing chip (GPU) called accelerated processing unit (APU). The CPU and APU are responsible for all kinds of data manipulation.
A component just as important in a system unit is the disk drive. This is where data and information is stored locally on the computer. It is classified as secondary storage. There are two popular types of disk drives.
Hard disk: HDDs are mechanical by design and store data on magnetic and metallic platters, which are read by read/write heads. This makes this type of drive rather erratic and prone to failure if used improperly.
Solid state disk: The newer SDDs store data on flash memory chips and are less prone to erratic behavior. They are much faster and more reliable compared to HDDs.
Another vital part within a system is the motherboard. It provides communication and direct connectivity to devices throughout the computer.
Connectivity to a motherboard can be internal or external.
Internal devices that connect to the motherboard include:
- Microprocessor (CPU).
- Disk drive.
- Random access memory (memory modules).
- Power supply unit (PSU).
External peripherals that connect to the motherboard include:
Which one of the following is your preferred personal computer setup?
2. Computer Software
Software refers to the instructions, programs, data, and protocols which run on top of hardware. It is also retained temporarily and persistently in primary and secondary hardware media. The random access memory chip is an example of primary hardware while the hard disk drive is an example of secondary hardware.
Software can be divided into system, application, malicious and programming categories.
The system manages other software and devices inside the computer. The foremost example of system software is the operating system (OS).
In a typical setup, the operating system is like the motherboard for software. It is the first thing that is installed, followed by applications and other software. Three popular operating systems for traditional computers include Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.
Popular mobile operating systems include Android OS, iPhone OS, Windows Phone OS, and Firefox OS.
What computer platform do you find easy to use?
What operating system platform would you prefer to use MOST in future?
This is designed for end users to perform a specialized assignment in order to output useful information.
An example would be a word processing application used to compose letters or brochures, such as Microsoft Word.
Other popular examples include Adobe Photoshop, Corel Draw, and AutoCAD.
A collection of application software is bundled in a package that is commonly known as a software suite. A typical suite includes software for word processing, presentation, graphic design, and spreadsheet.
Examples include Microsoft Office, OpenOffice, and iWork.
Software is written in computer languages such as Visual Basic, C, and Java.
Malware, is short for malicious software, which is a generic term that refers to exploitative code designed by criminals and black hat hackers to maim normal operations of a computer. Malware attack will result in data loss and hacker access to private information.
Affected computers can also be converted into zombies and used in a bigger mission of criminal activities like launching denial of service attack and spreading spam.
Malware scripts are delivered to the computer as viruses, trojans, rootkits, keyloggers, worms, or through email and websites as adware, spyware, ransomware and scareware.
These are tools used by developers to create all kinds of software like Windows OS and Word processing. Also called languages, they are used to write source codes, debug errors, maintain and create new software for computers and write malicious scripts like viruses and trojans.
Humanware refers to the person that uses the computer. More specifically, it is about the individual that brings together the hardware and software components to make them productive.
Typically, a great deal of testing is done on software packages and hardware parts to ensure they enhance the end-user experience to aid in creating documents, musical and video recordings, and all forms of raw and finished data.
Computer System Analogy
In a nutshell, a working computer system can be compared to a functioning kitchen.
- Food and cooking utensils are hardware.
- The recipe is software.
- The chef is humanware.
Even after purchasing the freshest ingredients and the finest pots and pans, there will not be a good meal without a chef. He/she will make good use of listed recipes to make good of the ingredients and utensils.
Both hardware and software are complemented by the works of a human to produce a fully functional computer system.
© 2012 Alfred Amuno