Sunday, February 21, 2016

Fundamentals of Computing - Lesson 3 - What Is Around Your CPU?

In this lesson we will look at all the contents of what you know as your computer. Your CPU is surrounded by a multitude of units, all united by a motherboard. This is the first step into actually understanding the makeup of your cabinet.

An Example of Two Motherboards
First, I want to show you a motherboard from one of the first processors widely used. I have chosen to show you the 80286 right here:
Then, we can see a motherboard containing a CPU from the AMD A8 age:
As you can see, much has happened since the early days of motherboards. One thing you will quickly notice is that you have all the contacts for network, keyboard, graphics (for your screen) on the motherboard. In previous days, you had to spend one expansion slot for your graphics, one for serial cables, printer cables etc. Nowadays, you can still expand your graphics through the AGP-port, but for most activities, all the contacts will be sufficient for most normal tasks.

If you look at the bottom right, these are expansion slots for memory (RAM), and at the bottom you will also see the connection for power internally.

How This Works
When you press a key on your keyboard, it is moved through the bus on the motherboard to the CPU. The bus can be compared to a road. In the old days, you only had one lane in and one lane out. Now, you have multi-core processors that can handle several things simultaneously.

The information is processed in the CPU, and data is moved through the bus to your graphics card, and things start to show up on your screen.

As many of you will probably have guessed, we now work with sound simultaneously with graphics, and thus your podcast is run in one activity, while you can sit and write this in your blogging software as I am doing right now. All of this is controlled in real time, which takes up a certain amount of your CPU. When data 'flows over' what can be in your RAM-memory, it is transferred over on a swap file on your harddrive. A swap file is what you could call a temporary amount of extra random access memory.

As you can imagine, that is what takes up some time when you run big programs, and therefore the design of your motherboard is highly important. Oftentimes you need to Google the manufacturer of the motherboards to see which have the best performance.

A good way to illustrate this is this video I found on YouTube:

In the next lesson we will look at the BIOS, so you can understand what this is all about. Please remember as you move along these lessons, that every knot will be tied up. Don't worry if something seems confusing to begin with. I will explain it all. Even so, you are also welcome to add a comment if you need more information.

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